Help Employees Become Business Savvy: How to Build an Effective Business-Skills Development Program

By Noah, Ash | Talent Development, November 2016 | Go to article overview

Help Employees Become Business Savvy: How to Build an Effective Business-Skills Development Program


Noah, Ash, Talent Development


Corporate roles are changing. The new business environment requires companies to be as efficient and lean as possible. Businesses across all industries are working toward building adaptable and versatile organizations to meet the demand for agility in business decision making and to ensure that they remain competitive.

Finance professionals, for example, are increasingly expected to provide more analytical insights and decision-making support for their companies. They're being asked to act as true business partners to the CEO and other departments and, ultimately, provide more value to the business.

Finance is not alone, of course. Employees today need to be more than technical experts in their fields; they need to be able to combine technical expertise with business acumen.

What it is

Meeting the new expectations of being business savvy requires employees to build a new set of competencies. Employees can't be expected to do this on their own. Providing a structured learning program that identifies, teaches, and tests for these skills is necessary.

How it works

Recognizing the shift in business and the growing skills gap between what leaders expected and what employees were doing day to day, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) partnered with the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) to introduce a learning program and designation. Known as the Chartered Global Management Accountant designation, the program focuses on building new strengths required for finance professionals and testing them on their ability to apply these skills in workplace scenarios.

The program, and others like it, works because it's built on the premise that simply obtaining new skills is inadequate. The key to a successful program is to educate employees in a structured way, and then to test that training to ensure they can apply their new skills in the way they think and operate.

Guidelines

Without a structured methodology, learning will be loose and it will be difficult to measure the value of what employees have learned.

The program should take into consideration the company goals for the business and employees, skills gaps in reaching those goals, and resources needed to address those gaps. There are four main steps to building such a learning program:

Identify essential employee competencies. The program should have a clear starting point and should measure current competency levels. For each role, ask, "What are the required levels of competency that provide the optimum value to the company?" This includes the evaluation of the required skills people in the role should possess, the tools they should be proficient in, and the level of knowledge needed to be effective.

Each company and role will have its own unique set of requirements; but, in general, talent development programs geared toward building business strategy skills should focus on the following critical areas, which are growing in demand:

* critical and strategic thinking

* collaboration and business partnering across departments

* understanding the industry and external business environment

* ability to lead and manage change

* ability to motivate teams.

Assess employees' current capabilities. Once you've defined the skills and competencies employees should have, determine which ones they actually have, and identify gaps. By doing so, you can determine the adequacy of the competency and talent development program. How do you do this?

AICPA and CIMA spoke with more than 300 employers from around the world to understand the skills and new competencies demanded in today's business climate. We found that companies are in need of finance professionals who can act as trusted business partners, advisers, and strategists-employees who can spot industry trends, identify disruptors to their corporate model, and help the company adjust. …

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