(As background, we have spent the last few weeks talking about what makes success – for the audit department and the audit staff – all spawned by the book Moneyball by Michael Lewis. If you’ve missed out on those past posts, you may want to go back and take a look. On the other hand, feel free to just jump in with the rest of us here – the water’s fine.)
Okay, this has all been beautiful. We’ve talked about redefining the success of auditing. We’ve talked about changing the way we hire. We’ve talked about what we should be looking for in the audit staff. We’ve talked about the traits we should be exhibiting as auditors. I guess we’ve got it all covered now and we can go forth and prosper.
Not quite; there's one more really darned important point to cover. And I’m going to be just a little bit boring now because I want to speak to something we all know is required, something we all try to ignore, and one of the most important things in any auditor’s, any boss’s, life: the annual performance review.
Quiet! Quiet! I heard that low, synchronized groan. I know that there are only a very few of you out there (a twisted and sick few) who look forward to performance reviews. First, speaking as a supervisor, it doesn’t matter what the circumstances are – they just turn into work. Even if someone is doing a good job, it is still a horribly time-consuming task to write down, in triplicate, in accordance with whatever mundane rules Human Resources has developed, in our infinitely spare time, a repetition of the things the employee already knows.
And woe to the supervisor/manager who has to write up someone who is not doing a good job. It becomes a task of finding all those things you’ve brought up in the past, trying to put it together as a coherent whole, attempting to find the words that will make the criticism constructive, and make it all come together in such a pretty bow that you don’t have to worry about the disgruntled employee coming at you with a sharpened mechanical pencil.
But it is no easier for the employee. It is excruciating to listen to the halfhearted attempts of a boss try to articulate the “good” things you’ve done or stumble over themselves as they try to avoid delivering the bad news. And it is all based on the last three months of work, because we know they threw it together the night before the meeting and they haven’t had time to go that far back in their long-term memory for anything we might have done correctly at the beginning of the year.
I exaggerate. I know there are people and organizations out there that have very good processes. But, even in the best of situations, this very important event is often put off. And, no matter how many times we say that people are our number one asset, our priorities lie with getting the audit work done, not with people who do that work.
So, the first lesson to take away is this: Make the commitment that the catchphrase “people are our number one asset” (even if your organization has not articulated that as a cornerstone to its development) will be exhibited in all that is done. Beyond the discussion of annual reviews, this means a commitment of time and personal resources to working with your employees. And you know what? It means the same commitment from the employee. All you auditors out there don’t get to sit back and wait for someone else to take care of you. Take control of your own career.
But with all that out of the way, let’s talk about that performance review itself because I’ll bet it is full of all the things that we just spent a series of blogs saying aren’t important. Go in and change every performance plan (your own and those of the people you are responsible for) and change the emphasis away from the standard standards we have all lived with (timely reporting, utilization, number of findings) and to the things we really want to see exhibited – inquisitiveness and creativity.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that measuring such traits is a beast. What’s a concrete measure for creativity? Bad news: you have to show creativity in coming up with such measures. Here’s a couple of suggestions (not necessarily good suggestions, but suggestions nonetheless – something to get you started).
Employee and manager meet weekly to discuss new ideas the auditor has come up with in audit processes, audited processes, or organizational processes in general.
One suggested “value add” in every audit, whether it is accepted or not.
Use of at least one new CAAT in every audit conducted by the auditor. (If you don’t think this takes creativity, you haven’t tried to come up with CAATs.)
Just ideas, but this is what it takes; building into each person’s success measures examples of how they are stretching their minds and digging deeper to learn.
And, one more time, this does not let you auditors off the hook. Whether you are allowed to build this into your performance plan or not, act like the exhibition of such traits – like the measurement of such traits – is the only difference between being laid off and getting that next promotion.
Next: The end, the end, really, honest, the end, the last post.