11 Ways to Celebrate International Internal Audit Awareness Month
Take a look around your office. Chances are it is a wildly different place than it was five years ago. Compared to 10 or 15 years ago, it is a night-and-day change.
Not only has internal audit technology dramatically changed the way work is done, the workforce itself is different. Many professionals are delaying retirement. There is also a serious shortage of professors ready to teach the next generation of internal auditors.
Let's face facts: audit is not the most exciting topic to people outside the industry, either. In my experience, when I introduce myself as an auditor at a party, it seems to create more confusion and polite nods than lively conversations.
How can an auditor strengthen the reputation and secure the future of the profession?
Turning internal audit perceptions around
I came across a recent study that found that simply being around auditors can change peoples' perceptions of what we do. I think that is pretty telling. The status quo will not do us any favors. It is up to us to bolster the perception of internal audit, promote the importance of what we do, and ensure the future of our profession.
Kathy Anderson, National Director of North American Advocacy at The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA), agrees that familiarity and changing perception of the profession is key to success.
"As the general public becomes more familiar with what internal auditors do, the number of those who consider it a viable career option rises, which, in turn, fuels the profession, now and in the future," said Anderson. "By effectively communicating the value of their work to stakeholders and the local community, auditors become an essential asset in their organizations, fostering an environment in which internal audit is viewed as indispensable to organizations for generations to come."
That is where International Internal Audit Month comes in.
International Internal Audit Month
Started by The IIA in the 1990s, International Internal Audit Awareness Month helps promote the value of internal audit both inside and outside of organizations. It is celebrated every year in May.
"Of course, auditors should strive to build awareness year-round, but having a designated month helps draw attention to the profession and its value to stakeholders. The Institute of Internal Auditors wanted to focus awareness on the valuable role internal audit plays, while at the same time encouraging internal auditors to celebrate their successes," said Anderson.
While it is international in nature, tactics are best implemented hyperlocally: around the office watercooler, in the hallways, and in meeting rooms.
"Most IIA Chapters and Affiliates find that workplace events are a welcoming way to let others know more about the profession as they share in the celebration of it," said Anderson.
You can put the following tactics to use in celebrating Internal Audit Awareness Month in your organization.
How to celebrate Internal Audit Awareness Month
1. Make your profession visible in the workplace
The old saying "out of sight, out of mind" comes into play here. Internal auditors are often on the periphery of companies, shuffled into a corner. It does not have to be that way. Remind others that your team is here to help.
2. Offer lunch with an internal auditor
Who can resist a free meal? Invite nearby coworkers—those on your office floor, nearby department heads, or others—for a catered lunch, and deliver a short presentation on the benefits of internal audit.
Better yet, offer one-on-one sessions with members of your internal audit staff to build community and learn more about how you can help others.
3. Write internal audit content for the company intranet or newsletter
Many companies have communication outlets to share internal-facing news among the team or around the whole company. Reach out to the editors who direct these projects and ask if you can include an article, interview, or short video on the topic of internal audit.
Consider dropping in a joke or two. (Where did the accountant go to buy her new shirt? The GAAP!)
4. Promote the profession through social media
Most people are on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn. If you are looking to promote Internal Audit Awareness Month, it is a smart idea to get social. Consider sharing some resources from organizations such as Workiva, The IIA, FEI, and others to spread the word.
5. Meet with an elected official
Many elected officials are looking for publicity opportunities in May, especially as they ramp up for November elections.
Try contacting your local officials, such as city council members, state legislature, or others, for an opportunity to chat about how important internal audit is. Some states, such as Arkansas, even established an official, statewide proclamation about Internal Audit Awareness Month.
6. Rebrand the internal audit department
What makes Apple different than IBM? Honda different than Harley-Davidson? Branding. You are not in the business of auditing—rather, you are advising others, mitigating risk, and improving processes. That is why many internal audit teams are rebranding—repositioning others' internal perception to articulate benefits and set a vision for tomorrow.
For instance, a team I used to work on rebranded from "Internal Audit" to "Risk Advisory and Assurance." It helped answer questions about what we do and provided clarity to the types of services we provided.
7. Embrace internal audit technology
Technology can help automate the internal audit process in enormous ways. Today, teams are not cemented to the legacy spreadsheet and word processing tools that have not changed since the 90s—there is a better way.
If you are looking for a modern internal audit tool to save your team time, consider this checklist of the traits you should be looking for in a vendor—it is a great place to start.
8. Put a face to internal audit work
It is one thing to know that the internal audit team worked on auditing last year's marketing expenses. But it is another one entirely to know that it was Steve in the Chicago office who worked on the audit, that he likes gardening, and his phone extension is 5138.
When you associate a name and a face with the work that is being done, you effectively break down barriers, deescalate problems before they manifest themselves, and humanize a previously anonymous process.
9. Host a passport program
Work with your HR team to encourage everyone to get to know other departments better through a "passport" activity. Print up passports, distribute them to all employees on your floor or in your office, then invite them to visit your team (and others) and fill their passport up with stamps along the way. It is a great way to build community and popularize your team with others.
10. Reach out to local media
Think outside of your company when promoting Internal Audit Awareness Month. Submit a letter to the editor of your local newspaper, or contact a local TV station to see if they would be interested in a story about your team and its efforts.
11. Speak at a local university or attend an internship fair
Keeping the future class of internal audit professionals well aware and informed of who your team is and what you do is a great way to celebrate—and potentially recruit exceptional talent at the same time.
Offer to give a presentation to audit, accounting, or finance students at a nearby university and give them a taste of what the future affords for a career in internal audit. Professors will love the real-world advice, and students will appreciate learning about a different career path. It is a win-win.
Jim Pelletier, Vice President of Standards and Professional Knowledge at The IIA, summarizes the importance of International Internal Audit Awareness Month succinctly:
“It is important to keep in mind always, but particularly during Internal Audit Awareness Month, that every interaction as an internal auditor is an opportunity to advocate for yourself, the department, and the internal audit profession," Pelletier said. "To that end, May provides a great platform for reminding others—and even ourselves as internal auditors—how valuable internal audit is to the success of our organizations.”
No matter the time of year, internal auditors must make their teams more efficient and effective to afford the time to do all of the above. Download my recent white paper, Beyond Quality: The Four-Part Approach for Audit Efficiency and Effectiveness, to strengthen your team and keep internal audit secure for generations to come.