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22 Jan 2020

How internal auditors could improve their communication skills


Internal Control

Why do internal auditors hesitate while communicating with staff, having meeting with clients, or presenting reports to them despite having prepared adequate work papers/audit documentation and writing audit reports with ease? Why do they find it difficult to speak to others and cannot be clear & brief?

Communication skills are vital to a successful career and are always considered to be the most important attribute an employer seeks in corporate world.

In some organizations, employees undergo months of communication training. Besides this, there are some communication tips/tricks which an organization would follow, to train their audit staff and effectively increase their communication skills. These tips are given as under:

Face to face meeting with staff

Face to face meeting requires the audit staff to commit to an action. Usage of emails should be limited to assign routine tasks and keep people informed of current activity. Ambiguity and indifference would occur when email is used to teach or obtain a commitment for action. A communication breakdown commonly occurs during fieldwork when additional documentation requests are emailed.

Anticipate the stakeholder’s requirements

Internal auditors have many stakeholders, including staff, managers and audit customer. Auditor needs to take a moment to examine their stakeholder’s want, which helps them to get common theme/clear information.

A kick-off meeting is a perfect example of what stakeholders need. This is usually held at the beginning of an audit fieldwork where the audit team introduces themselves to the activity involved in the audit, and provides information about the audit’s scope and objectives, the audit team etc.

Internal auditor who anticipates requirements of client will be more effective with their time and in turn, help clients be more efficient with their time.

Keep Meetings Short and specific to agenda

Before any meeting, create an agenda of the meeting and stick to it. Put the most important tasks in meeting, i.e. agreement on identified issues and management’s action plans as the main agenda to be discussed. Give a run-through of the agenda to the seniors, before conducting the meeting.

Main purpose of meetings would be to provide a status update on project, or obtain consensus on key task. Auditors should refrain from wasting time of clients during the meetings by sharing irrelevant information.

Most audit teams conduct an exit meeting with clients to obtain a final opinion on any identified control issues during the audit and action plan for future. The exit meeting among all the meetings held during the course of audit is most likely one that is well attended by senior management.

Don’t use Technical Jargon

The auditor should not use Technical Jargon such as Risk appetite, significant deficiency, etc. These are the terms that most internal auditors are well-versed in, but these terms may mean something completely different to the client. By using these languages, Internal Auditors run the risk of confusing their clients and decrease the odds of getting whatever they are trying to accomplish.

To improve their effectiveness, internal auditors’ communication skills must be pithy. They should try to focus on being more brief while communicating and anticipating their client’s needs which will improve the chances of getting more opportunities to enable positive change in their organization.

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