Late last year we started working with a large MNC to design and develop a program entitled the Financial Leadership Metrics program. It had initially been requested by their Corporate Communications Group and pilot online sessions were attended by both Communications and also members of the Global Legal Team. The program was a great success, so we are rolling it out globally across the company this year with demand currently exceeding places available!
As we embark on the rollout of the program, I thought about the importance of these skills for Corporate Communications and what were the critical success factors in the program’s design and delivery.
The importance for Communications professionals to possess financial acumen skills can be summed up in the objectives for the program – to enable participants to:
- Define and use common key financial (corporate) terms & metrics.
- Recognize and define Company -specific financial terms, concepts and ratios.
- Demonstrate enhanced understanding of the Company’s strategies and financial objectives.
- Demonstrate enhanced understanding of the financial levers that influence the Company’s financial position.
- Recognise and describe how their own job and decisions “fit” within the overall financial success of the Company.
- Read and interpret Company’s financial position / statements as communicated in meetings and presentations.
- Use financial terminology and concepts more confidently in discussions with others.
Whilst one could argue that these objectives could be applied to a broad number of functions, I would argue that Corporate Communications can be at the forefront of the messaging for the business and arming them with financial acumen skills, an understanding of the financial strategy and challenges facing the company will enable them to perform this vital role more confidently and effectively.
In terms of what contributed to the success of the program, I would summarise the key points as follows:
- A blended approach of eLearning and 2 Zoom sessions. The former allowed participants to go through the basics at their own pace and in some cases, revisit it again after the Zoom sessions.
- The visual approach – Communications professionals are likely to be predominantly ‘right-brained’, yet Finance is very much a ‘left-brained’ subject. Our approach, from our international partners, Bonanza, uses what we term The Visualisation of Finance, involving colour and graphics, simplifying key concepts and messages. Many commented on how this helped their understanding and learning.
- Relevant – the second session looked specifically at their finances – but in graphical format,
- A complete absence of spreadsheets,
- Plenty of Polls, annotation exercises and break out discussions to keep them engaged, and
- Fun – a key to our approach is to make finance training enjoyable. As one director used to tell me at the management development centre in the UK – always leave them wanting more!