Strategic Human Capital Insights

Business Acumen: Do Your Employees Really Know Your Business?

12/2/15 11:30 AM

The Need For Business Acumen is Critical


Business_AcumenIt’s Time To Take the Business Acumen Leadership Challenge

Rate your employees on their business acumen. And you can’t say that their job isn’t important enough. Every employee, in every job, should have an understanding of your business, as a business. 

Your employees come to work everyday. They sit at their desks and look busy. That’s the way it should be, right? ‘Busyness’ has become the new performance metric.

The Case For Business Acumen – Thrive and Survive

Just because employees come to work and are busy, doesn’t mean they really understand the ‘business of your business’.  And, this is no indictment of employees. As work has become more specialized and technical, employees are often judged by their functional skills alone. Accountants are judged for their accounting skills, and technology employees for their knowledge of technology. That sounds reasonable, right?  That might be fine in businesses that are not living in a hyper-competitive world. But if you think this is the current work environment, you are living in a time warp of denial.

The Case for High-level Business Acumen

For businesses to thrive and survive today, organizations need employees who are not just doers, but thinkers. Business challenges are complex and driven by external pressures.  How can businesses expect to remain competitive, if employees don’t understand the business issues driving the business?

Today, all employees need to be outwardly focused and both internally and externally responsive. They need to understand and work within matrix organizations, where they have a deep understanding of other functional groups with whom they need to interact. Gone are the days of just coming to work and doing a job and leaving for the day. The need for employees to have high levels of business acumen has descended deep into the organization. Knowledge workers are delivering products and services that often have a direct impact on business viability. Customer-facing employees represent the company brand to the public and can directly impact company sustainability, value creation and growth. Everyone today is operating at more sophisticated levels that require higher degrees of business acumen than ever before.

The Current Dilemma

In our transformative world of complex ambiguity, we know the following:

  • Competition is coming at us from everywhere – especially from the unexpected.
  • Barriers to entry are lower and impacting competitive advantage everyday.
  • Employees are carrying heavy workloads resulting from a decade of headcount cuts.
  • Employees are working to put out today’s fires with no time to figure out what is causing those fires in the first place, and how will those fires ultimately hurt the organization in the near and long term.
  • Stress is up and business resiliency and organizational agility is down. 

So it’s not surprising that employees come to work, put their heads down and get through their tasks and hope to survive another day. There isn’t the time or inclination for people to go beyond their functional work to ask the following broad business questions:

  • What impact does every part of my job have on:
    • Understanding the functional interdependences with other departments
    • Understanding how I can do things better that will positively impact the organization, both internally and externally
  • How will my efforts help:
    • Attract and retain customers
  • Create competitive advantage
    • Who are your competitors?
    • Where are we competitively vulnerable as an organization?
  • What external factors can positively or negatively impact this business?
  • What can I do to ensure the ongoing sustainability of the organization?

Every business lives and thrives in a broad macro context. These questions represent an intellectual curiosity needed to understand the ‘business of the business’. Provide the Business Environment Where Business Acumen Can Flourish and Expect that All Employees Understand the Business Significance of their Work.

We invite you to learn more about how people, potential and performance all translate into profits for your company.  In addition to profits for your company, see how you can engage your employees and ultimately have more satisfied clients. Schedule a complimentary organizational benchmark assessment with our team to learn how you can further motivate your people to their full potential to drive enhance performance results to bring your company to the next level.

Schedule Your Free Assessment >>

Topics: Business Acumen

Posted by Joanne Flynn

Joanne Flynn

In 2014, Joanne Flynn founded Phoenix Strategic Performance, a strategic human capital advisory firm. Prior to this, Joanne was Vice President at Goldman Sachs for 10 years responsible for global learning and development. She then led the consulting practice of Phoenix Group International, a consulting firm specializing in global financial service. Joanne is now taking best practices from the people-intensive financial services industry and adapting those best practices to startup and growth businesses. She is a thought leader in the areas of strategic organizational alignment, organizational agility, human capital gap analysis, leadership challenges for the new workplace and transformation leadership.

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