Rear View: Business Acumen Signs Line the HR Road
By Rocky White, CEO, The SyN Learning Institute
“In the business world, the rearview mirror is always clearer than the windshield,” quotes Warren Buffet.
From my driver’s seat, the rear view has been filled with headlines proclaiming the importance of business acumen for sometime now. The articles have been flying by, one after another, like interstate billboards. Unlike the blur of road signs, however, I’m paying attention to a clear message. Survey after human resource survey places business acumen at the top of the list for success in today’s increasingly strategic HR environment.
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) now lists business acumen in its core competencies model; its most recent human capital survey cites 58 percent of HR executives placing business acumen as a critical requirement for HR employees. At the executive level, 83 percent of respondents state that the competency is required upon entry. However, only 37 percent of respondents state that it is required upon entry as an early level HR professional, suggesting that early and mid-level professionals who are looking to advance within the profession should focus on developing their business acumen.
What exactly is business acumen? There are many ways to define it and its benefit to an organization. SHRM summarizes it this way: “Business Acumen addresses an HR professional’s ability to understand business operations and functions, the organization’s external environment, and how human resource management practices contribute to core business functions. HR professionals who are proficient within the Business Acumen competency are able to recognize how internal and external factors interact to influence organizational performance. They are able to maintain working knowledge of the competitive labor market (external) and awareness of personnel resources (internal), and they are able to determine how these factors impact recruitment processes.”
In layman’s terms, business acumen conveys an understanding of an organization’s financial and strategic goals and the ability to communicate that understanding in business and financial terms. For the HR professional, it means entering the financial conversation in a meaningful way.
“The field of human resources naturally attracts people who love people and are often shy of numbers,” says Rebecca Holland in her ProfitAbility Blog article, “HR and the Problem of Business Acumen.”
“People who are number-shy tend to switch off when finance and numbers are discussed. They don’t seek clarification of either the numbers being mentioned, or the terms used to describe them. At its worst, this means that mid and top ranking HR professionals focus all their efforts on HR issues, largely in isolation from other business issues, and hence are not even at the table when major initiatives are bing discussed,” says Holland.
When business moves forward with important strategic decisions without input from HR, a huge element is missing from the discussion. It is HR’s responsibility to ensure the company has enough people, with the right skills and experience to execute those plans. Without being involved in major discussions, it is difficult for HR to focus efforts on solving the company’s main problems, whether in business as usual, or in new initiatives. The lack of relevant focus in HR can leave the department on the sidelines, lacking relevance.
The SyN Learning Institute is pleased to partner with David Sanders, widely considered one of the nation’s leading experts on building business acumen into organizations and individuals. Sanders leads a four-part live virtual training course, “Financial Management for Non-Financial Managers,” covering Financial Statement Modeling and the important accounting functions of an organization and how they integrate with human resource operations.
“This course is designed to equip employees responsible for developing, contributing to, and supporting the organization’s mission, vision, values, strategic goals and objectives. It will help HR professionals who are charged with ensuring that the knowledge, skills, abilities and performance of the workforce meet current and future organizational and individual needs,” says Sanders, who holds numerous advanced degrees in the financial and accounting fields. The author of four acclaimed books, Sanders brings a wealth of experience and expertise from 36 years as a financial executive, including posts as CFO and Senior Partner at accounting/tax/auditing firms in the U.S. In addition, Sanders is a leading Sarbanes–Oxley (SOX) trainer and has worked with numerous fortune 500 companies on SOX compliance, both domestically and internationally.
This series helps organizations equip employees with the training they need to add value to the bottom line. We become a training partner, providing leading subject-matter experts on today’s top HR issues.
We’re always looking forward, trying to make sense of what lies ahead for HR professionals. But we’ll keep checking the rear view, knowing a glance back often points in the right direction. Today’s signs tell us that building business acumen into the core competency of the HR professional is the way to go.
For more information on David Sanders’
“Financial Management for Non-Financial Managers”
live virtual training series or for a complete listing of our webinar series.
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