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Finance is for everyone: top tips to help people ‘get’ finance

August 13, 2019

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Tim Boyes-Watson

Associate Consultant, UK

Finance is for everyone, or at least it should be. The better everyone understands finance, the healthier the controls environment, and better decisions will be made. Financial literacy is a core capability for individuals and organisations to survive and thrive in today’s challenging context. However, in many organisations finance is seen as principally the responsibility of the finance team and people outside the finance team can feel alienated by the language and formality of finance and finance processes.

Break the barriers by meeting regularly and not keeping finance as a separate agenda item

The best way to improve communication is for finance staff to meet regularly with other teams to talk through how the organisation and these teams are performing. Seek to include finance in those conversations as a topic that is an integral part of performance, not a stand-alone item.

Don’t hide finance away

Finance teams are often hidden physically away in another building, floor or office from other staff. Finance staff will tend to also barricade their desks with partitions as they are worried about handling confidential documents – but how much of the working day do they really spend with these? The better finance staff are integrated with other teams physically, the easier communication and partnership with other teams will be.

Make finance fun and interactive – no chalk and talk presentations

Non-finance staff switch off very quickly during presentations of the budget or financial reports from the front of the room and this perpetuates a stereotype that it is the finance team that are THE experts and no-one else need take responsibility. Instead structure sessions as interactively as possible using quizzes and other ways to engage non-finance staff in interpreting the numbers. Use simple, plain language (and every day examples) when explaining finance concepts or reports – make it accessible not complicated.

Get finance and other teams talking the same language at every stage of each project

Help your programme teams see that the plan-do-review cycle of project planning is the same as the budgeting, accounting and reporting cycle that finance staff focus on. Finance staff should seek to get involved in project planning at the design stage to create a common language that can be used throughout projects, and then work as part of the project team at each successive stage as well. This can help avoid the finance team becoming seen as the outside bearer of ‘bad news’, and instead be seen as part of the team seeking to solve the problems that always occur in projects.

Be consistent in how you engage everyone and make finance accessible

Staff rapidly become cynical when they see leaders talk one way and act another. As you seek to make finance engaging and accessible to everyone, you’ll need to look at every aspect of how finance is dealt with. Does the CEO avoid deferring to the Finance Director as soon as they are asked a money question? Are financial reports made accessible to all, or are they technical documents issued to only a few managers? We put this integration checklist together so teams can discuss how well they have integrated finance across the organisation.

This blog was originally published on the Directory of Social Change’s website and inspiried by Humentum’s Top Tips card for Financial management, also linked above.