#ChallengeTheProcess: Don’t assume everyone’s comfortable with numbers

Frustrated man rubbing his forehead

Do your palms sweat at the thought of working out how to split a bill? If they do – we see you.

If they don’t, do you assume everyone’s as comfortable with numbers as you are?

Today is National Numeracy Day and we’d like to use the occasion to challenge these assumptions.

During a recent chat about maths and numeracy, the Eximia copywriters discovered our affinity with numbers isn’t as strong as it is with words.

Personally, I’m a lazy number cruncher. I’ll instantly reach for a calculator to work out the simplest sums.

We’re convinced that there are many in our tribe who are the same. They’ll be those who take longer to process their payslip or pension information. And those who shrug their shoulders when reading about share plans. Many brains are not as comfortable with numbers as perhaps they’d like to be.

Understanding numbers isn’t as easy as pi

In a survey commissioned for the Financial Times by Ipsos Mori, 90% of people in England admitted to learning “nothing at all” or “not very much” about finance during their school education.

Of the 3,194 people surveyed, barely half of them were able to correctly compare the costs of borrowing via credit cards or bank overdrafts – and this was the same regardless of wealth, ethnicity or gender.

Shocking results, but not surprising.

If you work in share plans, pensions or financial rewards, you need to be aware of this when you’re communicating with your people, or you could leave them lost.

Top tips when talking numbers

We’re big on good communications here at Eximia, and our Insights page is full of tips and tricks for communicating with your people. Today, we’re looking at tips that can apply to any topic, but are especially useful when talking to your people about finances, share plans and pension schemes.

Be aware of the ‘curse of knowledge’

You might know money inside out, but not everyone has the same level of financial literacy. Low levels of numeracy are widespread in the UK with an estimated 17 million adults – 49% of the working-age population of England – having the numeracy level expected of primary school children.

For example, if you regularly talk about share prices, you know that shares are discussed in pence, not pounds. But this isn’t common knowledge for people who don’t deal with shares a lot. So when you tell them how much your shares are, they may think it’s just not affordable – there’s a big difference between 217.39 pence, and £217.39!

So before you launch into information on your latest share plan, or the changes to your pension scheme, make sure you provide information for people who need a bit more financial education. This could be as simple as linking to relevant subjects on trustworthy websites, or you could do something more tailored to your people.

Use clear language

When communicating with people about financial topics, write and speak clearly.

Everyone in your team might speak the same ‘language’, and understand all the acronyms and specialised terms. But for people not in your team, that ‘language’ might not be so easy to understand.

To find out if you’re being clear, imagine you’re explaining your message to a teenager, and run through this checklist:

  • Have you ditched the jargon?
  • Have you explained industry terminology?
  • Have you spelled out the acronyms?

Show, don’t tell

Humans process images far more easily than they do words. We’ve written about this before.

If you’re discussing numbers, can you display your figures in an easy to grasp visual? Perhaps a simplified chart, table or infographic will do the trick.

If it’s a financial topic that requires an in-depth explanation, consider using video or animation as a tool to get your message across. It holds our attention more easily, and can explain complex subjects in a way that’s much easier for us to understand than text.

Put your audience to the test

Many adults are embarrassed about their lack of maths abilities and as such, they stay quiet. Initiatives like National Numeracy Day aim to highlight how common it is for people to struggle with numbers and financial subjects.

Why not ask your employees to test themselves with this Numeracy Day number challenge? They don’t need to share their result, but it could help kickstart their interest in numeracy skills development. And that might lead them to getting more engaged with your financial rewards and share plans.

The next time you communicate numbers or financial topics, please challenge the process. Don’t assume your audience has the same financial literacy or knowledge that you do. Take the time to consider your audience and where they’re at, and tailor your message to them – it’ll have a much better impact!

We’re experts at challenging the process and making your financial topics easy to connect with. Get in touch if you’d like to see how we can help upskill your people’s financial literacy.

phone Call us on 020 7420 1984 or send us a message

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