How do you pull together a course to teach employees about financial literacy? Here’s some advice from the experts.
Keep it simple. A lot of people are intimidated by finance, and you will have to get past that if you are going to make any headway at all. “Our approach in our classes is, ‘We’re not trying to make you accountants,’ ” says Karen Berman, co-owner of the Business Literacy Institute, a business literacy training company in Calabasas, Calif. “Finance is mostly addition and subtraction, and it’s not as complicated as it’s made to sound.”
Avoid jargon. Finance jargon is as confusing to novices as engineering or software jargon, especially when it’s coupled with other company-specific terms that might be confusing to those who haven’t been exposed to them.
Relate it to something concrete. Joe Knight, another co-owner of the Business Literacy Institute, says that when he conducts training in finance, he makes a point to explain the information in terms of other events the trainees understand. For Knight, that’s often the fraud cases that have littered the business landscape in recent years. “For example, when I talk about balance sheets, I talk about WorldCom,” he says.
Don’t let the lecture crowd out the discussion and exercises. Dan Topf is the vice president of Management Development International, a business literacy training company in Grinnell, Iowa, with an office in Suffolk, Conn. Topf says that you have to do something with this kind of non-intuitive information—you can’t just talk about it, and practice with the numbers is as essential as the lecture beforehand. “The most vexing issue is the tendency to rely on the cognitive approach to training, that all we need to do is tell them,” Topf says. “So there’s this sense that there’s no need to build in time for practice.”
Don’t just keep throwing more content in. Berman says often she has had to push back on pressure to add more and more to a curriculum that’s already as difficult as it needs to be. “Some things really are just nice to know,” she says. But the idea is to integrate what you’re telling them into the job they do. It’s a problem of people wanting to do too much; they figure, ‘Well, they’re already here, so let’s do this, too.’ But you don’t want to overwhelm anyone.”
It’s not just training, it’s knowledge management. “This is a wonderful opportunity for the training department,” says John Case, author of Equity: Why Employee Ownership is Good for Business. “They can help not only to deliver the information initially, but also to get these numbers on scoreboards and keep reminding people what they mean and why they’re important.” – H.D.