A recent article on CFO.com describes internal audit as a "dead-end job." The author cites an academic research survey in which early career individuals expressed the desire to have a predetermined exit strategy before agreeing to work in an internal audit department. Survey participants said they would accept a job in an audit department only if they had a guaranteed path to rotate out. The author and researchers, however, fail to acknowledge the enormous benefits of working in internal audit. In fact, the real value is rotating into the audit function, not out of it.
Only by rotating into the internal audit department can an individual quickly and effectively gain a broad perspective of the organization's business units and develop a network among those units for future collaboration. Admittedly, someone could obtain companywide perspective and form networks by rotating among several positions in different business areas — but the time investment required under this strategy is simply too large for today's early-career employees. Joining the internal audit department effectively provides a jump start to one's career.
But the value of rotating into the department is not just related to individual career development. According to The IIA, more than two-thirds of Fortune 500 audit departments now consider all or a portion of their internal audit positions to be part of a rotational model. These departments know that individuals joining the team often bring expertise not covered by existing staff. They also bring a deeper understanding of the business risks and a network that expands the effectiveness of the department. The internal audit department itself, therefore, is enhanced by a strong rotational program.
Finally, employees rotating into an internal audit department, regardless of their long-term career track, help create a common language across business units, departments, and functions. As practitioners move from an audit in one area of an organization to another, they build upon their knowledge of processes and terminology in each part of the business. In each new engagement, auditors use that knowledge to help facilitate communication among the areas with which they work. To the organization as a whole, the common language established means improved quality of information and increased collaboration for business solutions.
It is unfortunate that the author of the CFO.com article, and the researchers whose work is discussed, failed to understand the complexity and potential of the internal audit profession. As a non-accounting professional who rotated into an internal audit department, I can attest that internal audit is anything but a "dead-end job." And as evidenced by the wide use of the rotational model in internal audit departments, it is obvious that many Fortune 500 companies would echo my sentiments.