Posted by Jeff Carpenter ● January 28, 2016

Learning Leaders Wise to Incorporate Business Acumen in L&D Plans

business_acumenBusiness acumen and skills are obvious necessities for delivering business results, but the sad reality is that most learning organizations fail to provide effective training in these areas.

Two-thirds of corporate executives say that a lack of business skills inhibits strategy execution, according to a survey by The Economist Intelligence Unit. Learning leaders have an obligation to their organization to ensure that every employee, from the front line up to senior executives, has an applicable understanding of how their business operates and makes money, as well as how their functional group contributes to overall organizational success.

No matter what an employee’s role is, they make daily decisions that can positively or negatively impact organizational goals. A workforce that clearly understands the implications of their decisions and how those decisions impact organizational performance can drive business results faster and more consistently. Because of complex organizational structures, employees often fail to understand how their job function impacts the organization as whole. Training and on-the-job experience is functionally focused, shrouding the broader organizational operations with respect to the business model and industry.

Learning leaders can better deliver on organizational goals by effectively developing a strategic approach that transfers business acumen and skills to the workforce. There are three key things a learning leader can do to start that process.

1. Interview the Chief Financial Officer

The CFO can provide a broad organizational perspective on your organization’s business model. Meeting with the CFO can provide insight into organizational knowledge gaps or critical areas that need to be addressed. A conversation with the CFO should help uncover the following:

  • Industry positioning and market segmentation
  • How the organization drives revenue
  • Strategies to reduce costs
  • How frontline managers can deliver financial support
  • What initiatives can help support organizational financial strength

2. Build General Awareness Throughout the Organization

General awareness is a good starting point before implementing a more comprehensive plan, such as a functional- or role-based curriculum. A starting point might be as simple as an eLearning module that aligns the entire organization on how the business operates and how each functional-area contributes to the success. A short, succinct module can earn the necessary buy-in before designing a larger program. Leveraging key executives in the module (e.g., through talking-head videos) will help nurture the sponsorship of a more in-depth program.

3. Demonstrate Organizational Alignment

Illustrate how each business unit aligns to the overall business model. Every function serves a purpose to enable organizational success, and it’s critical that employees understand and can apply skills that enable them to make better decisions in their day-to-day roles. Function-based business acumen and skill building is a targeted end goal.

Organizations that have all levels of the workforce engaged and aiming toward the greater organizational financial goals and objectives can drive measurable business value. Small, incremental behavior changes in can have a major impact on overall financial performance.

Consider the example of American Airlines, which saved $100,000 annually by training foodservice workers to simply remove a single olive from every in-flight salad. By educating the workers on the importance of reducing food costs, the workforce is then armed to look for other cost savings.

It’s critical for learning leaders to ensure that employees understand how the organization makes money, creating learning interventions that drive performance for business results.

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Topics: Learning Strategy