​​​The Soft Side of Internal Audit

Internal Auditor's second winning scholarship essay examines the importance of soft skills in internal audit.

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The Role of the Internal Auditor

In recent years, the role of the internal auditor has evolved to extend beyond basic compliance assessment. Internal auditors now fill an organizational role that encompasses governance, business advisory, and more comprehensive analysis. Internal auditors are particularly valued for their holistic view of an organization and understanding of the associated business risks. In collaboration with the Board of Directors and senior management, internal auditors are engaged to, "help an organization accomplish its objectives by bringing a systematic, disciplined approach to evaluate and improve the effectiveness of risk management, control, and governance processes" (IIA, 2016, p. 1). Equally important as technical skills, soft skills such as communication, collaboration, and adaptability are essential to develop in order to perpetuate the internal audit profession’s contribution to organizations.

Communication

In today’s business environment, successful internal auditors possess refined written and verbal communication skills. Effective communication involves active listening and engagement with members of the organization to create a risk-based audit plan and subsequently message the audit results. To stimulate progression within the organization, both written and verbal communication emphasize sending the appropriate message that clearly and concisely highlights risks and findings. Engaging management through communication can also foster a collaborative culture.

Collaboration

Collaboration and communication between various levels of management and internal audit provides a more complete picture of the control environment and leads to opportunities for process improvement, risk mitigation, and strengthened governance. Knowledge sharing between departments and internal audit influences positive change that can protect the organization from the impact of a realized risk. As the organization’s business partner, internal auditors cultivate a deeper understanding of the hurdles and challenges faced by the organization by considering the perspectives of management.

Adaptability

Adaptability is a significant soft skill that acts as a conduit to address the challenges of the organization and facilitate positive change. Just as the role of the internal auditor has evolved, the landscape of the businesses in which internal auditors work also evolves. Risks, competition, and laws and regulations are a few of the changing factors that make organizations dynamic. An internal auditor considers these factors beginning with risk assessment and continuing throughout audits. Internal auditors must adapt to better incorporate ways to respond to new environments.

Importance of Soft Skills

Internal auditors have the ability to influence and facilitate positive change in organizations through effective communication, collaboration, and adaptability. Auditors who polish these soft skills can strengthen relationships with management and develop a deeper understanding of the business needs and strategic initiatives. As management continues to collaborate and trust in its internal auditors, the organization reaps the benefits of cohesive governance, process improvement, and risk mitigation.

Works Cited

Internal auditing: Adding value across the board. (2016). na.theiia.org. Retrieved from
https://na.theiia.org/about-ia/PublicDocuments/Internal_Auditing-Adding_Value_Across_the_Board.pdf.

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