Did you leave school with your certificate under your arm, ready to tackle numbers at an advanced level? Or did you leave school relieved you’d never have to work out a percentage without a calculator again?
If you’re in the latter group, you are not alone. In fact, the vast majority of New Zealand school leavers are just happy to get their NECA and move on to work or education they actually enjoy. In the most recent Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), New Zealand’s year 9 maths knowledge had fallen below all other English-speaking countries.
But Kiwis aren’t alone in shunning numerical subjects. The USA ranks just 31 out of 79 countries for maths literacy. In the UK, a Nuffield Foundation report demonstrated that just 14 per cent of school leavers studied any maths at all post-16, and over the ditch, Australia is trying to figure out why maths scores in high school are plummeting.
It is no wonder then, that so many managers and business executives are terrified of anything to do with numbers. In short – they fear finance. But don’t panic, because IMNZ’s courses Finance Fundamentals and Finance for Non-Financial Managers can help you overcome that fear and improve your performance at work.
“It was a great course to get more familiar with financial reporting.”
– Penelope Roberts, Future Directors Program for Tatua Dairy Company
Although you might be screaming internally, “That’s why we’ve got a finance department! So we don’t have to do numbers!” The results are in, and the figures don’t lie – organisations where all staff have a good grasp of finance perform better than the ones that don’t. No one is asking you to retrain as an accountant, but understanding the numbers will make you better at what you do.
Here are the three most common misconceptions about financial literacy that might be holding you back:
1) I’m bad at math, so I won’t understand finance
If you can work out your change at the supermarket, you can work out finance. In his blog on the topic, business coach John Warner says, “almost all accounting uses nothing more difficult than add, subtract, multiply, divide – and all of these are only primary school math.” If you graduated school, then you can understand accounting.
2) I don’t know what all the different terms mean
Unless, perhaps, you speak English as a second or third language, you should have no trouble learning the finance lingo. While the finance department might like their role to appear to be witchcraft, the words they are using aren’t magic spells, but just bits of the English language you don’t quite get yet. It won’t take you long to grasp their meaning if someone takes the time to explain it.
3) Knowing finance is not the same as accounting
The majority of finance is easy, and the bit that isn’t is what the finance team are for. You don’t need to know that bit! Understanding finance is not the same as understanding accounting – the detail isn’t for you, just the overview.
“It’s broken those barriers across departments. I’ve been able to engage with and better understand what’s happening. It’s been a massive win. I have an increased confidence in my ability,”
– Andrea McDowell, Junior Consultant for Skills International
Once you have overcome the initial panic at the idea of having to read and understand numbers, you will find understanding the basics of finances so much easier than you thought. Taking a finance course is a perfect way to ease yourself into the concepts that will revolutionise your performance at work.