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Boosting Your Business Acumen

Developing business acumen.

Implementing human capital strategy in any enterprise requires proficiency in business acumen. The ability to understand and apply key metrics to decision-making is one of the competencies that HR leaders must possess to make an impact in their organizations. Developing Business Acumen (Society for Human Resource Management, 2016) by Jennifer Currence, SHRM-SCP, is the first title in the SHRM Competency Series, which will cover eight behavioral competencies that are critical to effective HR performance. With examples, guidance and practical tools, the book is aimed at helping HR departments, especially small ones, apply business acumen to solve everyday issues.

Common themes in the book include the following:

  • Understand all business functions. Take the time to get to know and understand the responsibilities and HR needs of each department head. You will benefit from building relationships, deepening your understanding of the business and learning how you can help each individual.
  • Think proactively. Don't get stuck in "administrivia," Currence warns. She admits it's hard not to get bogged down when employees are calling you with payroll issues, benefits questions or employee relations grievances but insists you must carve out time each day to think—and act—proactively in order to grow your credibility, trust and influence with senior executives.
  • Be present. When interacting with others, don't think about the 27 e-mails waiting to be answered; they will still be there later, Currence writes. Instead, get as much out of every conversation as you can by being there physically and mentally. People will notice and appreciate your attention.
  • Dig deeper and be brave. Don't accept everything you hear. Be curious. Ask questions. If you don't understand something someone says in a meeting, for example, it's likely others don't understand it either. You'll be admired for your courage if you seek clarification, and others will grow to trust you because they know you're not just following the crowd.

Currence, president of OnCore Management Solutions in Tampa Bay, Fla., and a professor of human resource management at the University of Tampa, has nearly 20 years of HR experience working in for-profit, nonprofit, public and private institutions. To underscore the concepts presented in the book, she includes two tools, an "HR Implication" section that explains how each topic distinctly relates to human resources and an "HR in Action" section that highlights real-world scenarios demonstrating how a strategy can be applied.

Developing the competencies SHRM has identified as essential to effective HR performance takes commitment, but understanding the business environment in which your organization operates on a macro and micro level, and knowing how your company makes money, will benefit your professional growth and help your business succeed in today's competitive environment.

Desda Moss is managing editor of HR Magazine.


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