Ever wondered what makes the best performing companies so good?
Well, I have been studying the best performing organisations for more than 25 years and can tell you that the very best treat their employees more like business partners than normal employees. That’s right, the best organisations train all their staff to have high levels of business acumen and then involve them in running the company.
It’s a no brainer; employees with good financial and business literacy just make better decisions. They understand the financial drivers and know how to connect their organisation’s business strategies to financial success.
Employees with business acumen understand how assets are used to generate income, the value of good cash flow, where to take costs out of a business, how the company makes a profit, how their own job fits into helping the company achieve great performance outcomes and much more.
Financially literate employees can read income statements and balance sheets. They understand pricing strategies, value efficient delivery of products and services, can read competitor strategies and are tuned into the needs and aspirations of their own customers.
In short, employees with good business acumen save and make their employers millions of extra dollars.
But the question is, how do companies like Boeing, Southwest Airlines, Caterpillar, Experian and many others train their staff to be business literate when financial training can be so boring?
Easy, they all use a world-class simulation that is fun, informative and engaging. They use Zodiak: The Game of Business Finance and Strategy, which was designed by the Florida based training company, Paradigm Learning, 17 years ago and has been used by many Fortune 500 companies continuously for years.
In an age of iPads and the ubiquitous computer, Zodiak stands out as an interactive board game where participants work in partnership teams to buy and run the Zodiak company for three years, taking out bank loans, attracting investors, purchasing material and equipment and delivering products or services to their customers.
As they do, terms like cash flow, return on equity, working capital, costs of goods sold, assets, liabilities and net profit come to life. Most importantly, they experience that one critical ingredient of high-level learning, FUN.
Throughout the simulation the participants learn to construct and interpret Income Statements and Balance Sheets, explain the relationship between Cash Flow and Profit, understand all the key financial ratios and explore how different business strategies impact the bottom line.
After year three, the participants take what they have learned and begin connecting their new knowledge into the real life situations of their own organisation and discover how they can change their personal behaviours to positively impact the financial outcomes of their company.
The transformation is quite amazing and in 30 years as a corporate educator I have never seen a more important area of learning for frontline staff or a more engaging learning tool than Zodiak.
Truth be known, it is hard to see any traditional organisation in the future competing successfully with the business literate organisations. The old command and control systems where employees are kept in the dark and have no business acumen will be at a severe disadvantage when competing against the collective genius of the truly literate companies.