The Two-Sides of the Acumen Coin, Part II: Targeting and Accelerating Employee Development

Posted by Paradigm Learning on May 23, 2014

The Two Sides of the Acumen Coin

Creating an organizational vision is one thing, but bringing it to life is quite another. Part one of this discussion introduced the concept of “acumen” as a two-sided coin, with one side focused on the clarification and communication of strategic vision by senior leadership (organizational acumen) and the other on the development of broad-based employee acumen and skills. Both sides of the coin, in balance, are critical to success.

Research and experience strongly suggest that successful execution of new strategies requires managers and employees to understand them, commit to them and have the skills to implement them. A key to this is the targeted development of business acumen at all employee levels—development that ensures understanding of the financial and strategic drivers of organizational success and everyone’s “fit” within that big picture. This kind of clear and in-depth understanding helps drive commitment and increased motivation to contribute to success.

With strong business acumen as a base, the next step is develop the ability of managers and employees to take action within this context—development that includes the broader acumen suite of skills in areas like leadership, job skills, project management and more.

When building the acumen of employees, whether in the foundational understanding of the business or in specific skills required to execute on business strategy, it’s important to …

  • Communicate with clarity and consistency. Aligning managers and employees around the organization’s vision and strategies requires clarity of communication and consistency of messaging. This means that senior management must be in alignment and that the deployment of information must be well thought-through and tested.
  • Assess skill requirements. Not everyone needs the same development to be able to execute on strategy. Using an assessment process to target levels, jobs or departments can help ensure that organizations make the best decisions about the right training for the right people at the right time.
  • Reinforce, remind and re-adjust. Aligning, engaging and developing employees to support a vision isn’t a “one and done” effort. Figuring out how to keep the vision front and center while continuing to develop employee commitment and skills requires ongoing organizational commitment and skill!


Essilor International — a global manufacturer of corrective lenses — not only created a vision of future success, but engaged and developed employees to embrace that vision. A key for them was a business acumen approach that helped employees not only “see” that future, but also become part of it.

The company’s client story, linked here, offers a perspective about the importance of this kind of development initiative.

I’d appreciate your thoughts about the two sides of the acumen coin.

Topics: Business Simulations, Business Acumen