Speaking the business language

Business acumen is one of the most important skills for HR practitioners to have, writes Pallavi Srivastava, Asia-Pacific Talent Partner, Global Technology Services, IBM.
By: | June 28, 2018

  “Pursue excellence and success will be compelled to follow.”

Success is defined differently by different people, but looking at it from a very basic professional perspective, it means excelling in your area of work and moving to roles that give you the mandate to make a significant impact on the business and its future outlook.

HR’s strategic value to business is no longer debated, and former HR leaders such as Mary Barra of General Motors and Lisa Weber of MetLife have even become CEOs, clearly showing that HR professionals can rise to the highest levels of an organisation. These leaders carried the mindset that HR is a business function just like any other. It just happens to deal with people matters, which are the most critical resource for any company – whether it is a car manufacturer or a technology consulting firm.

It therefore follows that one of the most important skills HR professionals need to develop is business acumen. This enables us to understand the drivers of organisational success, and speak the same language as the business. Only when we in HR understand how our business makes or loses money, and what internal policies or processes influence our ability to satisfy clients, will we be able to truly partner with the business and make an impact. That is equally so for both the organisation itself, and for our own career progression.

However, developing business acumen has to be a deliberate process, since HR professionals do not deal with external clients or markets on a day-to-day basis. While there are many ways to build this capability, I have found personally that my career growth has been enhanced by using these approaches: