I wonder if internal auditors ever get tired of hearing that they need to be “better, stronger, faster”—to steal a line from the ‘70s television show, “The Six Million Dollar Man”—or, if they are excited by the prospect of continually growing the profession, of becoming trusted, respected advisers to the organization’s leadership (see “A Matter of Trust” on page 26).
Although I’ve worked for and with internal auditors for 15 years, I am not an internal auditor. As someone looking in from the outside, I am continually impressed with what I see. You have to admire a profession that constantly strives to evolve, to expand its mandate to address the needs of its stakeholders, and to ensure the well-being of the organization.
However, achieving trusted adviser status is no easy feat, and internal audit seemingly has a ways to go. According to The IIA’s 2016 North American Pulse of Internal Audit research, one area internal auditors need to improve is interpersonal skills. An overwhelming majority of CAEs and directors who responded to the Pulse survey agree that soft skills, in general, are essential to the trusted adviser role. Yet when asked about proficiency, many respondents rated their average team member as only moderately proficient in most soft skills. For example, 49 percent rated their average team member as moderately proficient in organizing and expressing ideas clearly, and 9 percent rated the average team member as only slightly proficient at this skill.
In this issue, we take a look at one of the foundational soft skills of internal auditing—interviewing (see “Getting More From Interviews” on page 38). Author J. Michael Jacka says practitioners can do far more with interviews than just gather information, including leveraging the opportunity to gain insight into the way operations work and gauging attitudes about the organization and internal control environments.
Mastering soft skills is just one component of achieving trusted adviser status. In this month’s “Eye on Business” (page 66), Michael Rose of Grant Thornton and Eric Holt of KPMG discuss several other aspects and suggest what CAEs can do to ensure their auditors have the necessary skills and attributes to be considered trusted advisers as they advance within the organization.
There is little question internal auditors can achieve trusted adviser status. They just need the right tools. As “The Six Million Dollar Man’s” Oscar Goldman (sort of) says: We can rebuild internal audit. We have the technology. We can make it better than it was. Did I just date myself?