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​40 Hours or Forever

Audit training should go far beyond just logging a requisite number of hours.

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​For as many years as I can remember, our audit department’s annual budget included 40 hours of training for each auditor. Some auditors used their time; most did not. But year after year we doggedly entered our optimistic estimate that each auditor would invest those 40 hours. Apparently, we weren’t the only ones.

Larry Harrington, IIA global chairman of the board, has adopted the theme, “Invest in Yourself” for his chairmanship. Let’s start by admitting it is a bit sad that we have to be reminded that a personal investment in learning is important. Nonetheless, research shows that the 40-hour allotment is true for most audit departments — and it has been true for a long time.

Harrington emphasizes that an increase in training time is necessary and that auditors must broaden their knowledge of internal audit and the business. And because studies indicate that some of our clients are questioning internal audit’s knowledge and business acumen, it is hard to argue with this recommendation. Still, I don’t think it goes far enough.

Whether investing 40 hours, 50 hours, or more, only the bare minimum can be achieved when training merely involves clocking hours. I have seen far too many auditors sitting in meetings, conferences, luncheons, and other events taking notes that will never be read, listening to words that will not be heeded, and putting in the minimum requirement of attention necessary to gain precious continuing professional education credits. In fact, I’ve seen these people sitting in some of my own presentations. The words flow around them, they clock the hours, and they say they’ve been “trained.”

The problem is that we focus on training. What we need is real learning.

Real learning is not about 40 hours. It is about an unconstrained thirst for knowledge. It is about succumbing to inquisitiveness. It is about passion for a subject that is not restricted to the classroom, office, or convention hall. Real learning is about spending forever in the pursuit of knowledge because there is just so much to know.
And effective learning should not be pigeonholed. New ideas can spring from anywhere. History is rife with examples of unconnected concepts coming together to make great leaps. So, while pursuing knowledge about internal audit and the business, auditors should also recognize that effective learning can happen in any discipline.

Harrington shares another important concept — the need for internal auditors to be agents of transformation. We need new ideas, we need new thoughts, and we need new knowledge. If we stay the way we are, we will become forgotten relics of the past. As agents of transformation — transforming the profession and transforming business — we will be part of an important future. But to do that, we must remain inquisitive and never be satisfied with how much we know, let alone being satisfied with 40 hours of training. 

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