Putting Talent First to Support Organizational Agility and Growth, with Bestselling Author Ram Charan

Chuck Leddy

Ram Charan is a world-renowned business advisor, bestselling author of more than 20 books, and speaker who’s spent the past 40 years working with top global companies (including GE, Novartis, and Bank of America). Across all settings, Charan is renowned for cutting through complexity to uncover core business problems. In bestselling books such as The Talent Masters: Why Smart Leaders Put People Before Numbers, Charan has addressed the all-important issue of how enterprises can optimally access and deploy their talent to drive strategy and growth.

In his latest book, Talent Wins: The New Playbook for Putting People First (Harvard Business Review Press), Charan describes how multiple business trends have resulted in making talent, or human capital, every bit as strategically important to enterprises as technology and financial capital. In fact, Charan’s book urges enterprises to elevate the CHRO/HR leader to the same strategic plane as the CEO and the CFO, forming a 3-person strategic partnership Charan calls “the G3” (CEO, CFO, and CHRO). The sole focus of the G3, as Charan describes it, is on sharing insights and collaborating around the two most important assets of any enterprise: people and money.

Catalant Technologies recently spoke with Ram Charan about Talent Wins and how agile talent strategies should be at the forefront for enterprises seeking to drive growth in today’s fast-paced business landscape.

Accessing and Leveraging Talent in World of Change

Charan sees talent emerging as a key strategic advantage as a direct result of astronomical changes in technology, customer expectations, and market demands. Companies can easily gain access to emerging technologies and even financial capital, but effectively implementing any business strategy —including truly maximizing technology and adapting to consumer trends —requires having the right talent in the right place at the right time.

“Talent has always been important,” Charan says, “but the financials have dominated in the past. Today, talent is as important as capital. It’s your talent that conceives of business opportunities. It’s your talent that drives innovation.” Ultimately, a business without the right talent is unable to adapt and move forward, making it critical for leaders to find the best people to drive key strategic initiatives. Charan explains that forward-thinking CEOs and business leaders today are asking the same questions: “Are my company’s talent practices still relevant? How can I be sure that I have the right approach to talent —and the right HR —to drive the changes we need to make?”

Why Legacy Mindsets Arounds FTEs Won’t Work Anymore

Charan’s ideas align with the findings of Catalant’s recent report, Reimagining Work 2020, which makes it clear that enterprises need to adopt agile talent solutions in order to accommodate today’s fast-paced business landscape and the evolving future of work. Traditional HR mindsets that maintain the idea hold that hiring full-time employees is the best and only talent solution are simply outdated and will put enterprises on the path towards becoming immobile and obsolete.

As Charan says: “These traditional talent practices were designed for predictable environments, traditional ways of getting work done. They are vestiges of another era. In today’s more fluid, fast-changing landscape, where business strategy is about quickly sensing and seizing emerging opportunities, plans and structures that assume a predictable future just won’t work. Companies must deploy talent in new ways, and talent must lead strategy.”

The G3 Strategic Partnership

 It takes strategic partnership to drive these needed changes, notes Charan, including senior support for innovative ways of accessing and deploying talent, such as through creating systems for blending teams of FTEs, on demand experts, remote workers, and even artificial intelligence. Charan believes that agile talent solutions need to be discussed, developed, and championed by the people in charge of talent and money inside any enterprise: the CEO, the CFO, and the CHRO.

“Companies need to understand their two key resources —money and people. Getting the people who manage these resources (the CFO and CHRO) in the same room with the CEO is the only effective way companies can link their financials with the talent who produce the numbers,” explains Charan. “One simple way to make the G3 work is to have operational reviews monthly: the CEO, CFO, and CHRO should get together, listen to each other’s diagnosis of what’s going right, what’s not going right, and how they can do things better, really drilling down into the details and uncovering root causes in order to move the organization forward.” That’s a talent discussion.

Assembling Enterprise Talent Through Emerging Tech Tools

Charan is a big proponent of using technology and data to assemble teams of talent. Software that matches talent to project/team needs is becoming readily available. Not only can software (digital talent platforms) match internal talent to those needs, but it can also find and match external talent to strategic enterprise needs that may not have a departmental home. Smart companies are experimenting with and deploying this emerging “talent technology,” Charan believes, and Catalant is at the forefront of this innovation, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“Today, software matters when it comes to assembling teams. Companies must have data on each individual, then use algorithms and software to form the teams and have these teams work productively. More companies are also using digital platforms to find external talent, like gig-economy specialists, bringing them into their teams,” says Charan.

But it takes more than digital tools to assemble great teams, as Charan explains: “It takes platforms. It takes providing meaning. It takes teamwork. You also need to have a good ‘social architecture,’ a set of organizational norms that guides how work happens, how people collaborate and communicate.” Putting all these pieces together is what the future of work will look like.

Talent Agility Supports Business Growth

Charan closes by emphasizing the continuing need for organizations to adapt and become more agile, deploying their talent in new ways in today’s fast-paced business landscape.  Savvy enterprises, Charan says,“will need to be ready to move and adapt their resources faster in order to be more successful.”

Talent Wins provides a roadmap organizations can use to leverage people and money so they can thrive,” Charan concludes. Smart and essential talent solutions can support much-needed agility —is your enterprise ready for the new workforce?


To learn more about implementing agile talent solutions, download Catalant Technologies’ report, Reimagining Work 2020.