Purpose: Talent management (TM) has become a strategic priority for companies seeking to identify employees with outstanding performances and the potential to hold strategic positions in the future. In fact, talent is considered an intangible capital that adds value to the organisation. However, there are only a handful of studies in the literature that address the process of identifying talent in organisations for its subsequent development. Thus, the purpose of this paper is to reach a better understanding of the process of identifying and locating talent, while proposing a configurational approach as a theoretical framework for grouping talented individuals into different configurations or talent pools to initiate talent development in firms. Design/methodology: Case study methodology research based on four companies that have implemented TM programmes in Spain. Findings: The research questions formulated here and the case studies shed light on the process of identifying talent and on the criteria for grouping it in order to facilitate its future development. Our results highlight the following. First, talent means people with certain characteristics. Second, companies focus more on developing the talent identified than on considering the innate nature of that talent. Finally, talent can be found throughout an organisation, in both management and non-management positions. In turn, we conclude with the relevant theoretical contribution of the configurational approach to explain that a company's future competitive advantage is based on the different talent pools existing in its organisation that group talent for its differential management. Practical implications: Our results imply major recommendations for companies on how to identify talent and group it into talent pools in order to implement a process of differentiated management involving a range of temporal pathways. Originality/value: The identification and location of talent, as well as grouping it into talent pools, is an essential prior process for proposing the talent architecture that is so much in demand in the literature.