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Are You Driving Away Talent?​

Peak audit performance hinges on keeping staff motivated and focusing on retention.

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​Effective talent management is essential to keeping up with the high demands placed on today’s audit functions. And while attracting the right people and assembling an effective team are key to that effort, equally important is the retention of those individuals. According to a survey last year by human resources software company BambooHR, a top reason employees cite for whether they stay with a company or leave is how they’re treated by management. Yet some audit managers may overlook this factor’s importance to maintaining a motivated, productive team — in fact, they may actually be driving staff members away by committing key retention mistakes.

One critical error managers can make is failing to understand staff members’ strengths and weaknesses. Some auditors, for example, may be especially proficient in Microsoft Excel or flowcharting, even though they weren’t hired with those skills in mind. Or, a generalist, non-IT auditor may possess data analytics skills. Taking full account of the team’s portfolio of competencies and recognizing all employee skills and assets is key not only to leveraging them for the benefit of the organization, but also to making auditors feel valued and appreciated as members of the team.

Management style is also important to retention, though unfortunately some managers adopt a style that relies on negative behavior — namely fear and intimidation. Managing by way of direct or implied threats and intentionally eliciting distressing emotions is counter-productive. Those who work within a culture of intimidation will never give their best — their creativity will be stifled, their commitment will wane, and they will feel disempowered. Instead, managers need to encourage staff and use positive management techniques that work best for each team member.  

Another negative approach, autocratic management style, or relying on unilateral decision-making, also does little to engender staff loyalty and retention. Constantly reminding staff who’s in charge and pointing out that any deviation from following management directives constitutes insubordination does not elicit quality work or commitment. Managers should listen to staff members’ ideas and opinions, making sure that communication is a two-way street.  

Lastly, ineffective mangers often value deadlines and targets above all else. Emphasizing quantity over quality and then blaming staff for poor or inadequate performance is a recipe for team failure. Quality of work must be high on a manager’s list of priorities, and expectations of staff must be reasonable. Measuring and reviewing “outcome” should receive just as much attention as gauging “output.”

When the audit function is not performing at its best, its value to the organization is compromised. Peak performance hinges on keeping staff motivated and retaining top talent. Managers who recognize this and treat staff with retention in mind reap the benefits of an engaged, productive, and highly motivated audit team.

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