JCW Group | Blog

How to build high-performance audit teams

Daniel Evans

Group of business people working with laptop at meeting

Today, organizations are looking for auditors who have a balance of technical skills and communication skills. As covered in our recent whitepaper: Achieving High Performance in the Audit Function, one of the most important roles an auditor is connecting with the audit team and with a variety of stakeholders.

It may seem counter-intuitive to think about IA in terms of soft skills, people skills and personal development, but in order to create and embrace high-performance teams, you have to work from the inside-out.

Start with understanding where you are going – as an individual and as a team. What’s your vision and mission? What are your values? Ask yourself these questions:

  • What are we here to do?
  • How are we going to do it?
  • How are we committing to our goals?
  • How are we communicating and measuring progress?

Once you have set a mission and direction, your team will be focused on the same goals. They will use their talents – whether it be technical expertise, subject matter expertise or other skill sets – to advance the team towards those goals.

This focus will also allow you to syndicate your mission with stakeholders. This will achieve two critical objectives:

  1. Show that you have a vested interest in the organization’s goals and values and that you have aligned your team’s vision, values and goals to them.
  2. Demonstrate that you want, and are soliciting, feedback.

The feedback issue is particularly important when you need the support and engagement of the IA team and the wider organization. If you have communicated what you’re trying to do, and how you’re going about it, you will get greater buy-in from those around you which leads to a willingness to feedback and support.

Goal setting needs to come with measurement. Organizations that do this well measure key elements like timelines, quality assurance reviews, and efficiency ratios for audits. To move to a truly high-performing team environment, however, you need to include actionable relationship goals. This includes:

  • Establishing regular reviews with stakeholders
  • Initiating non-event conversations
  • Setting goals about the introduction of new technology into your auditing techniques
  • Exploring and pushing boundaries for your approach to audit work

By incorporating these activities, you can focus not just on getting the practical work done, but also on encouraging your team to explore opportunities to improve audit processes, results presented and ensuring those results are clear and valuable.

Here are some ideas to help you build a high-performance IA team:

Establish a 360° process – even if this is not part of your regular performance management approach, it’s worth initiating with your team. Essentially, each individual in the team asks for feedback from a range of contacts. These might include immediate stakeholders, managers and partners – such as 1st line contacts. It should include people on your level, and on multiple other levels so you can see your influence across the organization. Questions to ask include:

  • ‘What is your impression of my work?’
  • ‘Do you understand my role and why it is valuable?’
  • ‘Am I executing this role efficiently?’
  • ‘Am I delivering results?’
  • ‘What could I improve or do differently?’

Polling from our recent survey showed that 55% of attendees agreed that they had specific training opportunities and development plans in place.

Solicit feedback – as auditors, we are used to being independent. Our role is to identify gaps or issues, not to solve them. We can, however, influence as a trusted partner. We want auditees to call us when there is something that may have an impact on future audit work. We want the board or senior managers to consider issues with an eye to audit, and we want to show that we are thinking about the wider picture even when we are not presenting a solution.

You can develop relationships and gather information from stakeholders and businesses that you can use to promote the solid values and results that come from your audit plan.

It’s great to be right, but it’s much better to be effective. In order to build a high-performance IA team, you have to be effective at communicating, delivering trusted advice, and be relied upon to adhere to your stated values, goals and mission.

An effective team often comprises people with different styles, expertise and strengths. This helps to push the agenda forward so it meets your agreed goals and clear expectations. No matter what your expertise is or where you are asked to work, your stakeholders will rely on the fact that they are going to get an excellent, well-articulated product that’s delivered with integrity.

Give your team the opportunity to stretch – IA teams don’t ask themselves to stretch very often, but you have to be willing to stretch yourself and stretch your team. For example, maybe it’s time to look at new technology or methods of gathering data to see if it makes your audit plan more effective. Stretching builds a sustainable team, and that drives audit to become a resource for quality accounting and decision making: people are often chosen from audit to lead other teams because they have shown they can expand their skills and take on new ideas.

All of these methods can help to foster an open environment and achieve a well-rounded, motivated and efficient audit function. If you’re hiring and would like to find out more about which of our varied service models would suit your hiring needs, find out more on our services page – we have service models tailored to suit any hiring requirements, no mater the size or scope.

Co-author – Alyson Beasley Bradley, SVP/Chief Audit Executive, Freedom Mortgage

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