by Booze and Company, Inc. excerpted from Strategy & Business

Many executives are prone to postponing talent management innovation in the wake of the global economic crisis.  Employees are so grateful to have their jobs, the thinking goes, that they can be relied on to deliver 100 percent.  But the crisis has added urgency to the talent problem; the commitment of employees is most needed in a crunch, and that commitment is all too easy to lose.  Companies that react to crisis with across-the-board talent cuts are not just missing an opportunity to compete; they're making themselves weaker.

By contrast, some companies have been steadily innovating their talent models, and the results are showing up in breakthrough performance, superior competitive advantage and significantly enhanced global reach.

The economic crisis has created a complex challenge for corporate leaders with respect to talent.  As companies begin to recruit and train people again, they will find a very different talent pool than they had in the past.

All three cohorts are interested in striking "talent deals" with their employers to balance their work obligations and private lives.  They thus seek modulated work arrangements such as seasonal leave and flexible time.

An appropriate, 21st-century talent model assumes a workforce that is global, diverse and gender-balanced, with discontinuous career progressions, in which high-potential employees may take time off or work for different types of organizations along the way.  Under this model, companies value functional and leadership skills, embrace new employment structures (such as highly responsible part-time work), encourage virtual workplaces (in which people work together across long distances, communicating electronically), and offer non-monetary rewards alongside financial rewards as a way to attract people. Family, community and work are intertwined in a variety of ways, and the result is a more flexible, dynamic and unpredictable workplace in which people feel they are continually building their skills and learning from the enterprise.

Chief executives need to declare talent a priority, and to lead change in the four building blocks of global talent innovation:

1. Differentiated Capabilities

  • Understand and prioritize the critical capabilities required for competitive advantage.
  • Identify key talent segments.
  • Develop tailored value propositions.

2. Performance Acceleration

  • Reinforce meritocratic pay and promotion decisions.
  • Measure outcomes.

3. Leadership Development

  • Evolve the executive leadership competencies model.
  • Promote and develop people who match those competencies.
  • Build the leadership bench.

4. Talent Culture

  • Build engagement.
  • Rethink organizational and career designs.
  • Enhance the talent brand.

Crafting an effective approach to talent management is as challenging and complex as any other C-suite mandate.  Each building block is essential.  All four elements work in concert within the context of an organization's business strategy.  Following this systematic approach, companies can move beyond the best practices of their competitors to best-in-class innovation and performance.  And that, in turn, will pay off in sustained talent advantage on a global scale.