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​Building a Better Auditor: Improve a Process, Advance Your Career

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​If you want to progress in your career as an internal auditor, you should show your employer how valuable you are. There are many ways you can do this such as earning the Certified Internal Auditor designation, proving your competence in a certain area, and volunteering in your department.

One of the best ways to show your value is to improve a process or solve a problem within your department. It will take a little work, but it is not as hard as you think. Here are five steps you can take to improve a process.

1. Identify a Problem or Process to Improve

Think about processes in your department that could be more efficient. Maybe there are gaps or problems that need to be solved. Management may have already identified areas it wants to work on, but it doesn't have the time.

Well, guess what? Lucky for them, you do!

Just by asking "why" your department does something a certain way may help you identify processes that can be improved. Sometimes the reason it is done that way is because "it's the way we have always done it." If you hear that phase, there probably is a better way to do it.

For example, several years ago, turnover was high for new hires in my department, so I helped create a new-hire onboarding program. The year the program was implemented, turnover dropped below 10% and has remained low ever since.

2. Ask Your Manager If You Can Volunteer to Help

If you have identified a process that could be improved, you can bring it up at your next one-on-one meeting. If you don't know any areas to improve, you can ask your manager if you can help with a project. Let your manager know that you want to volunteer your time.

For example, our audit director asked if anyone wanted to help create an onboarding program. I raised my hand to be on the committee.

Once on the committee, I volunteered to work on specific parts of the new onboarding program. I spent several weeks researching best-in-class onboarding programs. I then created a new onboarding plan and support materials such as a buddy program, new hire and manager checklists, an overhauled new-hire handbook, and welcome cards and swag bag items to give away. Several years later, a few of my ideas were implemented into the new bank-wide onboarding program.

3. Think About How the Process Can Be Improved or the Problem Solved

This may take time and research. You might come up with several ideas, but not all of them will be equally as good. The trick is to pick the best solutions. Write down your ideas so you can share them later and not have to recall everything from memory.

4. Present Your Ideas to Management

Before your presentation, create a draft of your solution. This may be in the form of a PowerPoint presentation, new procedures, flowchart, handouts, etc.

Once management reviews your work, it may have further questions or changes. For example, after I created the onboarding program, managers wanted me to create a manager onboarding checklist to make sure they had all their "to-do" items in one place when a new hire started. This was an additional step, but it helped improve the overall program.

5. Implement Your Solution and Follow Up on How It Worked

If the new process is working better than the old process, then that is an improvement — that's innovation. Congratulations!

However, after a process is initiated, you may need to make changes before it is completely polished. That's OK.

The best way to follow up is to get feedback from people who used the new process. Ask them how it went and what else can be improved to make it even better.

For example, I followed up with new hires after they went through the new program to see what they thought of it. Many of them thought the program was great, but they also wanted procedures for how to use various programs within the bank. So I gathered or created procedures for all our main systems and saved them to our intranet site. This feedback helped to make the onboarding program better.

Solving Problems Proves Value

While volunteering to improve a process or problem can help internal auditors progress in their careers, it also shows their commitment to the department and the organization. By solving problems and improving processes in their department, auditors make themselves a more valuable employee and improve the department. What manager wouldn't want someone like that on the team?

Joe Byer, CIA, is a senior audit analyst at Commerce Bank in Kansas City, Mo.

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