After a recent session with a group of Fortune 1000 company managers, the firm’s training manager and I talked about the benefits of the session.
“No matter how good your evaluations are — and they’re always great — I have a hard time convincing our accounting and finance people to use you guys instead of them running this session,” she said. “It’s hard telling accounting and finance that I don’t want them teaching accounting and finance.”
A challenge with insiders teaching accounting and finance isn’t a lack of knowledge on their part, quite the contrary, it’s often too much knowledge.
“They know our numbers backwards and forwards, but don’t understand how to communicate them to people with little to no financial knowledge,” she continued. “The sessions they ran bombed.”
Accounting and finance professionals normally don’t understand adult-education principles nor how to structure an interactive session where participants learn in a variety of ways. Given they’ve worked for one, or just a few companies, they also often lack real-world stories to illustrate how to apply financial concepts.
“When we had insiders run your sessions, people didn’t ask questions either. The problem was participants didn’t want people to know how much they didn’t know. When you’re a manager who has sat in countless financial meetings, it can be embarrassing to ask what SG&A or EBIT means. With you, an outsider, leading the session, however, they’re free to ask whatever questions they want and focus on learning, rather than protecting their own reputations and egos.”
The conversation illustrated some important points to consider if you’re thinking about educating your managers about the numbers.
1) Define what managers need to know
2) Build a program to educate them about that need
3) Incorporate your numbers into the session
4) Use examples from other businesses to illustrate financial concepts/your numbers
5) Have a program leader who encourages asking questions and participant discussions
6) Create an environment conducive to learning
7) Incorporate adult learning techniques into your educational program
People want to use the numbers to improve themselves, their departments and shareholder returns. They need to understand the numbers before they can improve them.