Having business insight is essential to ensuring that talent development strategies align with overall business strategies.
Business insight is one of the 23 capabilities in ATD’s new Talent Development Capability Model and is housed in the Impacting Organizational Capabilities domain, which involves the distinct skills and knowledge talent development professionals must have to drive their organization’s long-term sustainability and success. The model is more than a fixed set of skills; it captures the evolution of the industry and the knowledge and skills talent development professionals need to keep up with fast-paced change happening in the industry now and in the future.
Business insight, according to the Talent Development Body of Knowledge, is the understanding of key factors impacting a business, including how it accomplishes its mission, how it makes and spends money, how it influences its industry or market, how strategic decisions are made, factors affecting growth, and its internal processes and workflows. Without business insight, talent development professionals will not be able to design and implement talent strategies that align with overall business strategies.
“Today’s business professionals are requiring increased business acumen and business insights from their talent development partners so they are viewed as business partners, not just the people who run those training programs,” says Rob Brodo, co-founder of Advantexe, a company that provides simulation-centric learning in corporate environments.
According to ATD’s capability model, talent development professionals with business insight must:
- Thoroughly understand their organization’s business model
- Know what defines business success (and translate it into quantifiable metrics as well as derive quantifiable performance metrics from those)
- Understand business needs and how they can assist and support those needs through development of the organization’s talent
- Understand external factors that may affect organizational performance—specifically, be able to conduct an environmental scan (an inventory of the political, economic, sociological, cultural, global, technological, and employment forces that influence the way an organization functions), and strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis
- Understand financial management principles and how they are applied in an organization (which includes being comfortable with financial terminology and having hands-on budget and resource management skills)
- Understand how their organization provides customer service and its measurable customer service goals, so they can build talent development solutions that address customers’ needs and expectations
- Communicate the customer value proposition, which differentiates the organization from its competitors
- Know how talent development contributes to organizational outcomes and promotes its competitive advantage and demonstrate this contribution through quantitative metrics—for example, increased employee engagement scores, decreased turnover, and improved customer satisfaction
- Be able to build a business case to gain buy-in for talent development initiatives from senior leadership then use that case as a communication tool when rolling out initiatives across an organization, department, or team
Talent development professionals must understand the business ecosystem of each business unit, in particular line managers (or middle managers), says Brodo.
In preparing a new training curriculum for a specific business unit, talent development professionals need to immerse themselves in that unit’s daily work environment, tasks, and workflows and speak the managers’ language in terms of their decision making, priorities, and metrics for success, Brodo explains. He adds that this will help the talent development team ensure that the training is aligned with overall business goals as well as is meaningful and effective for all the employees in the unit,
Finally, Brodo notes that if those employees are having trouble seeing how their work fits into the larger picture of organizational success, strong business insight can help talent development professionals make that connection through their training and other offerings.