I have been thinking about the war for audit talent. I think, when I started in the internal audit profession, it was easy to recruit internal auditors. First of all it was clear, you needed accountants. For internal audit was about financial compliance checking. So you listed your Consultancy Committee of Accounting Bodies (CCAB) qualifications criteria. You most probably did not bother with IIA qualifications. All decent candidates trained in the accountancy firms, and who bothered with internal audit qualifications? Really only dyed in the wool internal auditors. So, stick to CCAB accountants, part qualified for junior roles and fully qualified for senior roles. All sorted.
But now the world has changed. Internal audit does not do just accounting it does business risk. So what is the right qualification for now? Well I’ve now qualified with IIA qualifications, both chartership and IT auditing. That’s because the internal audit profession has grown up in my view, it has become something separate from the accounting profession. If the profession now does business risk, it really needs a broad set of supporting qualifications. I’ve chatted before about this and concluded we need a professional qualification supported by an internal audit professional qualification. Of course it makes sense that a broad based set of reviews needs a broad based set of context independent knowledge.
As I’ve become more experienced in my role, I’ve come to realise that one needs a broader set of skills and people. In other words I’ve come to appreciate diversity. Diversity in terms of experience, age, background, experience, ethnicity, professional background, sexuality etc. What I don’t need as a CAE is to be surrounded with identikit auditors, that is, more of me. When I worked in a professional services firm those years ago, I did not appreciate how similar we all were. From a small pool of universities, small range of social backgrounds, small range of ambitions and aims etc.
I have a great audit team now, really diverse, really different and really challenging; in a good way. They challenge me and challenge my views. That is good. For my audit opinions need to be challenged. They need to be argued against, for that is what strengthens them. I hope that I do the same for them too.
So this brings me back to what am I looking for? I guess nowadays I’m just looking for the ability to think, outside of the box, outside of convention, outside of their own space and thoughts. So, when I am looking, I think I am looking for someone I don’t already have in my team. This could be in terms of profession, or personal background, or personality type. I refreshed my training on unconscious biases this week. It reminded me that we all simplify the world through stereotypes and that these stereotypes bias us towards particular people and away from others. One of the potential solutions was to get others, with different perspectives, to challenge and calibrate our thoughts.
So when I’m looking for a talented auditor, perhaps I need to think broadly, for if internal audit is a broad church, so should my audit department be.