Building Business Acumen Case Study
Verizon is one of the largest communication technology companies in the world. They operate America’s largest 4G LTE wireless network and the nation’s premiere all-fiber broadband network. Their employee training programs have consistently been ranked as among the best in the U.S. Verizon Wireless started off teaching new store managers business and financial acumen. The program spread quickly to other parts of the business including customized programs for Senior Leaders, HR Business Partners, and Channel Executives.
When Verizon bought out Vodafone’s 45% stake in Verizon Wireless for $130 billion it gave Verizon full ownership of the leading wireless network in the U.S. This move combined the wireless side of the business with Verizon‘s residential and business services divisions to form a single company. While the “new” Verizon provided financial flexibility, operational efficiencies, and shared innovations, it also presented some challenges. In light of one the most expensive acquisition deals ever, the executive team was anxious to generate shareholder value and integrate the two organization's cultures quickly. Learning and development was called upon to integrate all the different talent initiatives that were spread throughout the organization into a unified human capital strategy that would help make the acquisition the competitive advantage that the executive team was counting on.
After a thorough review of all employee development initiatives, business and financial acumen was identified as a critical competency for Verizon employees. But this wasn‘t anything new, both Verizon and Verizon Wireless had business acumen training programs. Verizon was using a simulation with their Senior Leaders and Verizon Wireless was using Acumen Learning’s Building Business Acumen program as part of their new store manager training. The learning and development team weighed multiple options, from keeping both programs to developing an in-house solution.
"This course was amazing. Not only do I feel that it was relevant to my current job, but I can use what I’ve learned no matter where my career takes me."
Verizon Building Business Acumen Participant
While Verizon‘s simulation was robust, reprogramming it to account for the acquisition proved to be cost prohibitive and internal training resources were busy designing and integrating new programs – they didn’t have the time, nor the expertise, to give business acumen the attention it needs to really move the development needle. In the end, Acumen Learning was chosen to expand their Building Business Acumen course to all new managers and to develop a new Senior Leader course focused on driving shareholder value.
The business acumen track needed to enhance managers and senior leadership’s ability to think more strategically about markets, competitors, customers, and partners while strengthening personal connections across the enterprise to help combine the company’s two cultures. There was a need to broaden the employee perspective by providing a “global view” of how financial decisions, like the acquisition, impact different areas of the business and the marketplace. The courses needed to be customized based on the audience to help Managers and Senior leaders – from every corner of the business – feel a sense of ownership and empowerment to take calculated risks based on strategic data in their efforts to generate greater returns for shareholders.
Acumen Learning moved fast, devising a multi-tiered curriculum aimed at progressively advancing leaders based on their experience and role . The courses featured case studies to allow participants to experience first-hand the impact of business decisions on a company’s operations and the costs associated with those decisions. For the Senior Leadership program Verizon’s proprietary shareholder value metric was integrated into the instruction with the goal that every Senior Leader would not only know how to calculate this metric, they would also be able to recognize how their department’s initiatives, and even their individual decisions, ripple through the organization and impact this key metric.
The programs were designed and delivered within an aggressive two-month window and gained momentum quickly, reaching 2,420 Managers and 1,840 Senior Leaders within a year’s timeframe. In the following year, additional programs were customized to help HR Business Partners more fully understand HR’s role in helping their clients achieve business results and to help the CEOs and CFOs from Verizon’s top channel partners better identify opportunities for future growth.
In our experience, business and financial acumen has been identified as a core competency and a training priority for most organizations. For those where it isn’t, we’ve found that eventually, the topic finds its way to the top of the priority list. So if business acumen training is a burning priority – we definitely want to talk to you. But even if it hasn’t bubbled up, we’d love to connect to share more about how we approach this important topic, so that when someone does bring it up in a meeting you’re one of the smartest people in the room.