As people professionals, it’s critical that we understand organisations – their purpose, future direction, priorities and performance – as well as the external influences and trends impacting them.

We also need to understand the wider world of work – and how organisations contribute not only to the lives of their employees and customers, but society as a whole. Understanding these aspects of work enables us to anticipate external events and internal issues, and identify how people practices can add the most value – and, therefore, contribute to the sustained success and development of organisations.

Within this area you’ll also find the practical business knowledge that you need, such as understanding business models, financial literacy, strategic planning, and supplier management. Knowledge of how to use these business skills is critical to operating successfully as a people professional within different types of organisations and environments. And this applies whether you’re employed by one organisation, or working for several client organisations.

This is why Business acumen is one of the largest knowledge areas in the Profession Map; we need a deep understanding of the world of work if we are to be effective in creating value for organisations, their employees and workers, and wider society.

Business acumen standards

Each standard progresses through four levels of impact. Which level do you most embody in your day-to-day work?

Foundation level Associate level Chartered Member level Chartered Fellow level
At this level you'll understand: At this level you'll understand: At this level you'll understand: At this level you'll understand:
Organisation strategy and issues The products and/or services your organisation delivers, and who its main customers are Your organisation’s strategy, priorities and issues, and how these connect to people strategy and people priorities How the organisation’s strategy translates to your work, and how different issues in the organisation are connected Your organisation’s long- term vision and strategy, and what it means for the people strategy
External landscape The key external influences that impact your organisation The different external trends which impact your organisation (eg social, economic and technological) How the organisation is responding to different trends in the sector and wider environment which impacts its performance How external influences impact organisation performance, and emerging trends in the sector and beyond
Business model How your organisation creates value for its customers How your organisation generates revenue, and how different departments contribute to that Your organisation’s business model and areas of competitive advantage, and where value is created and lost Future opportunities and risks in your organisation’s business model and how to enhance competitive advantage
Value creation What value is, why it’s important, and how your work benefits other people in the organisation How people practices benefit different stakeholders (eg workers, customers) How people practices create value for different stakeholders, and the associated risks How people strategies create sustainable value for others, and the interdependencies and risks of those value creations
Organisation performance How your organisation measures its performance Your organisation's financial and non-financial measures of performance How to interpret your organisation's performance data, identify people risks and mitigating actions Internal factors that shape short and long term business performance
Financial literacy How to make common calculations (eg percentages, averages) How to interpret financial statements, track costs, and forecast spend in your work How to contribute to business performance by reviewing and forecasting spend and calculating return on investment How to represent the value of people in different ways (eg skills, profit, capability, cost)
Strategic planning What your organisation's goals are, and why it’ s important for organisations to plan How your work connects with and supports wider people and organisation strategies How to develop a people plan (review, develop insight, align with organisation strategy, create proposals) Different forms of strategy development, how to create an organisation- wide people strategy, and shape the business strategy
Governance The role and purpose of governance in your organisation The role and purpose of governance, its structure in your area of work, and the broader regulatory environment you work in The role and purpose of governance, its structure in your area of work, and the broader regulatory environment you work in How to influence and shape governance, its structure in your area of work, and the broader regulatory environment you work in
Supplier management The suppliers and partner organisations that support your area of work How to manage relationships with suppliers and partner organisations, and how to choose them How to select and manage responsible suppliers and partner organisations, how to ensure value for money, and different supply models How to determine the right supply and partner models that fit the people approach, organisation principles, and ensure value for money
Environmental sustainability What your organisation’s priorities are on environmental sustainability What your organisation’s priorities are on environmental sustainability and how your work contributes to this How people and work practices can enable environmental sustainability Emerging developments in the area of environmental sustainability, and how people strategy and the people profession can contribute
Brand What employer brand is and why it’s important How employer brand and reputation is shaped and formed How your organisation contributes towards society and how this impacts employer brand and reputation How people strategy shapes employer brand and reputation

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