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New SSE Dissertation

Kajsa Asplund - Putting on the Talent Hat: An Identification Perspective on Employee Differentiation

This thesis investigates the effects of employee differentiation practices, specifically talent management and performance appraisal, on employees. More precisely, it examines how employees’ self-images are affected by, and shape the influence of, differentiation. While especially talent management has gained increasing spread in organizations over the last decade, research on how it affects employees has been scarce. Existing studies have tended to adopt a social exchange perspective, focusing on the concrete resources allotted to employees through differentiation. This dissertation contributes to the literature by focusing instead on the symbolic effects of these practices.

The thesis reports findings from four empirical articles, comprising a qualitative interview study and a quantitative survey study. The findings indicate that differentiation influences identification with the organization and management function, and that this in turn is related to behavioral outcomes. Results also indicate that professional identification moderates the impact of performance ratings and talent designations, and hence may constitute an important boundary condition for effective differentiation. These results point to the importance of taking employees’ self-images into account when implementing differentiation. The thesis also highlights the potential difficulties of implementing conventional employee differentiation in context characterized by strong professional self-images.

Kajsa Asplund is a researcher at the Department of Management and Organization at the Stockholm School of Economics.

Kajsa Asplund - Putting on the Talent Hat: An Identification Perspective on Employee Differentiation

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