The Next Big Things for the Fortune 500? Productivity, Training, and Change

When the Fortune 500 thrives, so does the global economy. According to Fortune, the 500 “represent two-thirds of the U.S. GDP with $12 trillion in revenues, $890 billion in profits, $19 trillion in market value, and employ 28.2 million people worldwide.” As consumers, we interact with these companies multiple times every day: When we open our computers, wash our clothes, purchase food, drive our cars—and the list goes on.

Despite the aura of excellence that surrounds the Fortune 500, the five hundred biggest companies on earth aren’t perfect. They’re complex organizations with thousands (sometimes hundreds of thousands) of stakeholders—from employees to execs to investors. To grasp the complexity of a global behemoth, open its annual report. In addition to cash flows, balance sheets, and legal disclaimers—you’ll often find a letter from the CEO (Warren Buffett is notable for having perfected the art of the shareholder letter).  The company’s leader uses this letter to share successes, challenges, and plans for the years ahead.

As we read through a number of this year’s Fortune 500 annual letters, we saw three recurring focal points for the coming year:

Productivity

“We’ll be focused on increasing productivity… This will provide capacity to make investments in our future and increase our return to shareholders.”
David A. Ricks, CEO, Eli Lilly (Annual Report 2016)

Productivity is a core input for success in any enterprise. Without productive employees, organizations begin to bloat—especially at the scale of the Fortune 500. So leaders across a wide spread of industries and markets are seeking ways to help their employees do more work, faster. This results in leaner, more fiscally responsible organizations that still accomplish groundbreaking things and deliver remarkable shareholder value in the process.

“As we look to our long-term investments in our productivity tools supported by our machine learning and artificial intelligence efforts, we see huge opportunities to dramatically improve how people work.“
Sundar Pichai, CEO, Google (Founder’s Letter 2016)

Google views its radically popular G-Suite as a productivity tool—one that can improve how people do work, and Lessonly was founded with the same mission in mind. With the ever-quickening pace of technology, business productivity tools, especially business productivity software, are becoming the bread and butter of improving a team. But it will take more than just tools to drive team productivity. Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos noted in his annual letter, that Amazon wants to, “…have the scope and capabilities of a large company and the spirit and heart of a small one. But we have to choose it.” That balance between scope and heart is exactly why the Fortune 500 is trending toward productivity—and why they need help getting there.

Training

“[Our associates] are the face of our company, and we equip them with the training and knowledge to provide customers with an outstanding wireless experience…[We] maintain one of the industry’s highest customer satisfaction and loyalty ratings. This focus also is a powerful factor in attracting and retaining outstanding associates.”
Kenneth R. Meyers, President, Chairman, CEO, U.S. Cellular (Annual Report 2016)

80% of L&D professionals note that training is top-of-mind for their executive team. The best leaders know that front-line employees are the essential cog in the organization wheel—they interact directly with consumers, and their behavior can make or break a customer’s experience with the brand. Josh Bersin, founder and principal at Bersin by Deloitte, notes that, “The single biggest driver of business impact is the strength of an organization’s learning culture.” Perhaps that’s why Fortune 500 CEOs continue to mention training as an essential focus for their companies.

“In retail, the things made possible by technology are fundamentally transforming this industry…At Walmart, we’re harnessing the power of technology and the investments in our associates to create new ways of serving customers and provide associates with more opportunities to grow their careers.”
Doug McMillion, CEO, Walmart (Annual Letter 2017)

Online employee training software is the greatest tool for leaders seeking to train their teams. Across the Fortune 500, many companies still use antiquated training techniques, materials, and processes that are detrimental to their employees and bottom line. Perhaps the greatest benefit to technology innovation is the ability to create information and apply it at scale—the rampant popularity of the app economy and social media prove this fact. Why not apply this same logic to train your employees? Forward-thinking companies are doing just that—moving from in-person training with huge binders of material to remote training with easy to use online training software. And they save hundreds of thousands of dollars along the way.

Change management

“Recognize true misalignment issues early and escalate them immediately. Sometimes teams have different objectives and fundamentally different views. They are not aligned.”
Jeff Bezos, Chairman and CEO, Amazon.com (Annual Report 2017)

It’s a fact—aligning a large organization is significantly harder than getting a small team on the same page. And when your team involves thousands of employees across tens, or even hundreds, of locations, changing direction seems impossible. Shifting people, processes, and methodologies to meet new goals requires visionary and intentional leadership. Executive teams need powerful, yet simple tools to help them implement and coordinate change at scale.

“Positioning GE to win has required change. Every leader talks about change, but most are just managing momentum. This is a luxury we didn’t have in GE. We refocused the company to be in businesses where we can lead while investing in new capability to capture future growth…The challenge for any company is to invest in the future while delivering results.”
Jeffery R. Immelt, Chairman and CEO, GE (Annual Report 2016)

Changing the direction of a giant like GE takes significant investment. The tension of applying resources to drive results today versus tomorrow is omnipresent in the C-suite. But leaders who are forward-thinking enough to invest time, money, and energy into change management will go down in organizational history as innovators and clairvoyants. They just need the change management tools to help them get the job done.

Lessonly helps Fortune 500 companies learn, practice, and perform

We’ve spent the last 5 years building Lessonly for this purpose—to aid organizations as they seek greater productivity, better training for their employees, and a platform to manage change at scale. We exist to help the world’s greatest companies do better and we’re already helping some of them, with radical success. Could we help you? Find out more today.

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