Few of us know the name, but we probably come into contact with its goods every day. Ciba Speciality Chemicals’ products are used in everything from soil additives to automotive coatings. Operating in 120 countries, the global chemical manufacturer’s mission is to add performance, protection, colour and strength to everything from buildings, to sheets of paper.
Last year, it decided to launch an initiative to ensure its managers had the necessary financial knowledge to drive the company forward.
“Financial goals such as cash generation, profitability and price management are key to success,” says Juergen Kuehl, global head of people development at Ciba Speciality Chemicals. “It is essential that managers have a sound understanding of how these goals impact business performance, and how they can contribute to achieving them. We identified some weak spots and wanted to address them.”
Classroom training was unfeasible for this goal, because of the geographical spread of the managers, so Kuehl’s team looked to e-learning. The programme was high profile within the organisation right up to executive level, and he was aware of the potential difficulties that can sometimes hinder remote online learning.
“E-learning always has to be sold,” he says. “It can be difficult to manage and handle, especially as you have to rely on people’s personal discipline. But it was the only way that we could do what we wanted and ensure the same standard of knowledge on a global basis.”
Ciba was aware of financial and business skills provider Intellexis, which had provided international learning programmes for clients including Nestl, Hilton International and Rolls-Royce. The company was also familiar with some of its e-learning products, having previously used the company for a smaller-scale project.
“We chose Intellexis because of its internationally recognised experience in e-learning, and ability to provide customisation focused on our specific needs and market environment,” says Kuehl.
The course was initially aimed at 2,500 non-financial managers based in 28 different countries. It may become mandatory for all managers above a certain grade across all services and geographies, up to and including the executive committee level. The course will also be a pre-requisite for new appointments or those being promoted to a specified grade.
The first part of the programme involves an assessment to ensure that training resources are channelled in the most effective way. This is carried out by Intellexis’ web-based Fact tool, which asks the learner 30 to 40 standard questions, designed to reveal any knowledge gaps in their financial awareness. An added advantage of this is that the results can be stored and used to produce reports and analyses.
Based on the assessment, a learning path is defined for the individual, and managers use a range of Intellexis products to increase their financial know-how. The topics covered include basic finance, ratio analysis, costing, project appraisal, shareholder value and working capital management.
Learners sit the game after the individual courses on their defined learning paths have been completed. It is an interactive business simulation, and players are judged on decisions made and their style and effectiveness. Ciba worked alongside Intellexis to customise the game to cover specific areas it wanted to address, such as price management and cash-flow generation.
After the assessment, managers sit individual courses to plug any gaps in their knowledge. The courses use bar charts (below), flow diagrams and other graphical devices to make the material as accessible as possible. “The courses are targeted at teaching managers the financial impact of their day-to-day business decisions, rather than teaching accounting,” says David Willis, managing director of Intellexis