Most medium- to large-sized organizations have a standard onboarding process for new employees where they are briefed on topics such as the organization’s history, organizational structure, and employee benefits. The duration of new employee orientation and the topics covered may vary.
Internal audit can be involved in the onboarding process in two ways. First, it can audit the effectiveness of the process, itself. Second, internal audit can be a part of orientation by introducing new employees to the department. Internal audit can share its purpose and explain the new employees’ responsibilities related to internal controls, cooperation during audits, and reporting to a whistleblower or ethics hotline.
Auditing the Process
Internal audit may opt to review the organization’s strategy for onboarding, in addition to becoming a part of the onboarding process, itself. This is especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, as organizations around the world have been forced to halt or change how they onboard employees during a time when most employees are working from home. Initiating a performance audit of the onboarding process may reveal areas where improvements can result in a more effective process. Like any performance audit, knowing what criteria to use is key when planning the audit. A review of human resources (HR) policies and procedures as well as HR goals and metrics with onboarding is a logical place to start. Reviewing feedback solicited from onboarding participants will provide critical insights.
Benchmarking with peer organizations may highlight areas where the business can enhance the onboarding process. Internal audit should consider the time allotted for onboarding as well as the amount of information being covered. Based on these observations, internal audit may conclude that the onboarding process should be condensed or expanded. Determining whether the organization has a contingency plan to onboard employees remotely, during a time when most employees are working remotely now, will determine the organization’s agility to adjust to changing circumstances beyond its control. Lessons learned analysis will also highlight areas of improvement.
Internal audit’s review can expand beyond the general onboarding process given to all employees to include the process at each employee’s specific department. An audit can determine whether employees were provided adequate training, resources, and guidance during their initial period of employment and help ascertain whether staff turnover may be higher in certain departments. A risk-based approach when planning will help determine what areas to include as part of an onboarding process audit.
Introducing Internal Audit
Employee orientation continues to evolve based on the changing topics organizations are legally required to address, and different departments may be brought in to introduce themselves and talk about their roles. Internal audit may be among those groups. The audit function can provide new employees with an overview of its responsibilities and how employees can help the organization achieve strategic goals by being cooperative during audits.
Explaining how employees play a significant role with helping internal audit achieve its mission is vital. The level of detail in this discussion can be scaled according to the audience and time allotted. New employees may not remember everything explained about internal audit during onboarding, but they may walk away with enough basic knowledge to recall when it becomes more relevant or when they are involved in an audit.
Revamping the Process
In organizations where internal audit is not part of onboarding, the chief audit executive (CAE) should discuss with the HR department why adding internal audit is important to the organization’s mission. The CAE should provide details such as a proposed agenda, the people delivering the presentation, and materials to be incorporated into the new employees’ welcome packages. A mock presentation to HR can help sell it on the need to include internal audit in the orientation, so the CAE should consider whether to provide a slide presentation and a demonstration of the department’s website.
If internal audit manages the organization’s hotline, the presentation can become an essential part of educating new employees on how to use the hotline to report suspected fraud, waste, abuse, or mismanagement. It also is important to explain the options and protections they may have for reporting suspected fraud.
Knowing the Audience
Internal auditors should remember that most new employees will have no background in auditing, and many will not be familiar with internal audit’s responsibilities or may not have heard of it. With that in mind, topics should be kept as nontechnical as possible.
It’s equally important to keep the audience engaged in the discussion. Auditors should not assume anyone will know the correct definition of
internal controls, audits, or other terms used during the presentation. The point is to keep them actively listening and interested, without overwhelming them. Auditors should allow enough time for questions at the end of the presentation.
Obviously, there will not be enough time for covering all aspects of internal auditing, so the presenter should try to cover what is most relevant and important for a new employee to know.
Doing the Research
An internet search may provide insight on what similar organizations include in their new employee orientation, while information about the process may be gleaned from networking with local IIA chapter members. After due diligence is done, internal audit may decide to collaborate with HR to introduce an online training module to highlight internal audit’s role and employees’ responsibilities. Research will help guide internal audit to a decision that is right for its organization. Over time, it will become obvious what works and what does not.
Onboarding presenters should carefully read any feedback they receive from participants and adjust their presentation as necessary. If no formal feedback is solicited, an internal audit colleague should sit in during the presentation and provide feedback. Presenting during orientation can be a great learning opportunity for audit staff members, especially when presenting opportunities are rotated among the staff.
The opportunity to enhance internal audit’s role within an organization begins with the cooperation of its employees. Investing time up front to ensure all new employees have a basic understanding of internal audit’s role in the organization can add value and improve audit results down the road.