I have written frequently over the past three years about the refocusing of internal auditing’s priorities around the world. The era of extensive focus on the effectiveness of financial controls is a thing of the past for most internal audit departments. Instead, annual internal audit programs in 2012 are apt to be more equally divided between operational risks, financial risks, and compliance risks. Emphasis on IT and fraud risks also has increased since 2008.
With internal auditing’s focus having been transformed, it is only natural that the requisite skills needed by internal auditors would have changed, as well. The recently published Global Pulse of the Internal Audit Profession survey results by The IIA’s Audit Executive Center confirmed very dramatically how much the requisite skills for internal auditors have changed. Chief audit executives are no longer lined up at the doors of their local universities to bid for newly minted accounting graduates. Instead, today’s internal audit job postings are apt to look for nontraditional skills to fill vacant positions.
The top five skills being recruited globally include:
- Analytical and critical thinking (72%).
- Communication skills (57%).
- IT general skills (49%).
- Risk management (49%).
- Business acumen (43%).
Analytical and critical thinking actually placed as the No. 1 most recruited skill in every region we analyzed. The second most recruited skill diverged somewhat by region with “communication skills” ranking second in North America and Asia/Pacific and “risk management skills” placing second in Latin America and Europe. The third most recruited skill in North America was “data mining and analytics.” Interestingly, it did not even place in the top five this year in Latin America and Europe.
While it is fascinating to study the differences in internal audit recruiting priorities by region, one fact overshadows all others: Skills most traditionally associated with auditing/internal auditing (e.g., accounting) were not even in the top five. From my perspective, this is a testament to the agile nature of our profession where risk profiles drive audit coverage, and audit coverage drives the most pressing skill requirements.
We at The IIA will continue to monitor these and other important trends going forward. In the meantime, I welcome your thoughts on this important topic.