>In a range of interactions today I was made aware of the importance of a little something called business acumen. The bread and butter of any successful organisation is to understand what business acumen is all about. I still don’t know if I get it. Not really. I get enough to understand a range of factors associated with it. You know, things like ROI, portfolio of clients, customer identification strategies, marketing, PR, R&D, finance, cash flow, profit and loss, revenue streams, new business pipeline. You do know, don’t you?
And that’s where things start to get interesting. How many of us actually understand all of that jargon I’ve just thrown out there? More importantly, how many of the fresh talent coming into the workforce understand any of those things? We have high expectations for graduates in particular but anyone starting their career in a company. But what are we doing to help them understand everything that’s expected of them? And I don’t mean the work they’re doing, but the important things of running a business.
So how do you do these things? Well a study by the CIPD showed that most learning and development in the workplace happens via information passed on and coaching done by the manager. In the first instance then, you have to know your stuff. You will always be the first port of call for a new recruit. You’re the one with the answers. You’re the one who can explain the meaning of life. The buck starts with you. It doesn’t end there though.
You then need to have in place a process or programme that helps your new recruit gain business insights. Huh? For example, arrange weekly/monthly sesisons where you discuss what’s been happening in the business and why any of that matters. When everyone was being asked to cut back on their spending, were you able to articulate why? When the recession meant redundancies had to be made, were you able to help the team see the business case for this? When Bob took sick leave every Monday consistently for 2 months were you able to discuss the impact of this and give appropriate feedback?
There also needs to be in place a session of sorts delivered by a senior business leader explaining what these things mean to give the business overview. In that session you need to also explain the jargon you use on a daily basis. What’s a TSV? What does cash flow mean? What is a revenue stream? How do we find new business? What does ROI actually mean? And R&D?
Then you’re looking to ensure you keep this activity up. Improve the quality of the conversations so deeper and more significant learning and development takes place. Send them on conferences where they can talk to other people about these things. Send them on an external course to interact with other industry people. Arrange discussions with other business units to help them understand how the business as a whole works.
And when you have all that in place, after about 2 years, they’ll be ready to move on and get promoted. 2 years I hear you scream? Absolutely. If you want your new recruit to be a high flyer, and if you’re serious about their career development you’ll invest 2 years of your own time and efforts to get that person up to scratch. And 2 years is a good target to aim for.
So, are you ready to teach Business 101?