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  • Kevin Cope

COVID-19 Wasn’t the Only Thing Breaking Your Business

It is clear that as the pandemic has divided employees from the office, converting your workforce into business-minded leaders became essential for success.

Kevin Cope ACUMEN LEARNING CEO Author of Seeing the Big Picture


I read a tweet recently where someone said, “I’ve just been asked in a job interview if I used lockdown “to pursue any passion projects or personal development.”’ And it got me thinking — how will not just individuals but companies be judged in their navigation of 2020? Did they remain compassionate? Transparent? Did they maintain shareholder value? Did they not only survive but thrive? Going forward, employees have to prove that they can be great in their functional roles and also great for the business.


Employees need meaningful communication and relevant training to keep them actively engaged in the evolving strategy of their executives, but too often business strategy is left out of the conversation. According to research by Harvard Business Review, 95% of employees don’t understand company strategy. This gap is killing your business during COVID-19.


A survey conducted by Acumen Learning across multiple industries found that 46% of employees rarely or never listen to earnings calls. How can employees be expected to make strategic decisions if they don’t understand metrics valued by investors or implement the right initiatives? They can’t. More often than not, employees are focused on their role rather than the impact of their role on the money-making process, and in times like these, companies can’t afford narrow-minded decisions.


Business acumen creates a foundation in which other big picture decisions can stand. For example, when it comes to something seemingly unrelated like diversity training, individuals with business acumen have a better understanding of how different perspectives can help shape a successful project and ultimately a successful company. Without business acumen, it's just another HR course. Individuals who have an established business strategy skillset have fuller perspectives on leadership presence, negotiation, and communication. Imagine how much more effective a sales team is when they can speak to the strategy and business needs of their customers.


This is your new challenge.


Teach the language of business. Not knowing the metrics important to shareholders may have been acceptable yesterday, but not today. We can’t rely on leaders who were never equipped with the tools to speak the language of their company. Train them. Give employees the knowledge and confidence they need to be actionable partners. When individuals feel credible, they’re productive.


Learn what CEOs need you to know. Smart organizations are recognizing that including business acumen in their professional competency models is a real competitive advantage. The advantage comes in the form of narrowing the break between executive need and company execution. Put simply, employees that know what their leadership is asking for are better equipped to deliver on those needs. By making business training, quarterly reports, and top-down discussion more meaningful, companies can see a measured difference in performance.


Make bolder business decisions. Now that employees can speak the language of business, they can bridge the gap between ambition and performance. Empowered individuals think and act more like owners, and don’t you need more successful partners? Entrust your emboldened employees to make the difference. To quote Stephen M.R. Covey, trust is “not a nice-to-have; it’s a must-have.” Create a space of trust in which your people can be bold.


Disruption requires leadership. A high-potential employee isn’t and shouldn’t be shackled by a lack of direction and vision. Their natural drive to succeed coupled with effective training will give employees power to move the needle in the direction companies need. Give your employees a lane in which to run.