Retain internal audit talent with innovation

Retain internal audit talent with innovation
October 13, 2015

The demand for internal auditors is stronger than ever. And employers are struggling to find ones with the right skill set.

For many companies, internal auditors have become the first line of defense as CFOs face increased cybersecurity threats and new financial regulations—including nearly 400 new rules issued under the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act and the countless provisions of the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

A strong internal auditor can evaluate a company's risk management and control systems and recommend ways to improve them, but these days executives with the right mix of skills for those tasks aren't easy to find.

Supply and demand

According to the Wall Street Journal, the number of job openings for internal auditors posted with the Institute of Internal Auditors has more than doubled in just a year—while the number of resumes posted by job seekers is down 42 percent. The last major shortage occurred when the Sarbanes-Oxley corporate-governance law took effect in 2002. Companies raced to find executives qualified to help implement safeguards against fraud and financial misstatements.

"Ten years ago internal audit was really focused on financial controls. Five years ago we were fresh into the financial crisis, and internal auditors were focused on cost containment and risks related to profitability," said Richard Chambers, the chief executive of the Institute of Internal Auditors. "Today, we see information technology and compliance and regulatory risks emerging."

Once you find good talent, you want them to spend time on value-added activities instead of manual busy work.

Today, many internal audit teams are spending hours on repetitive and manual tasks as they review and assess large stacks of documents and samples, instead of on gaps and issues. Fortunately, there's technology available that can help you identify and manage risks and controls in a more efficient manner, so your internal audit team can be proactive and spend its time on gaps and issues. Such process automation solutions can provide a line of defense against security threats or increased financial regulations—and help you retain the talent you worked so hard to find.

Process automation to the rescue

As we all know, automation is on the rise—from software to self-driving cars. So, finance departments might want to look into automation as a future-forward strategy to make their growing teams more efficient and effective.

It can help eliminate the human error factor in accounting and save time—and therefore money—by taking over repetitive manual tasks. Automation can also detect repetition, keep up with local laws and regulations, alert you to discrepancies or violations, and give your staff more time to discover insight through evaluation instead of doing manual work.

And what if artificial intelligence could help your internal audit team?

New technology can provide internal audit with tremendous capabilities, such as improving the review of contracts and financial documents by automating the process. It can even offer valuable insights and predictions regarding organizational risks. Computers are being used to view financial documents and guess stock prices, so why shouldn't internal audit reap the benefits of technology as well?

Cutting-edge technology can help your internal audit team improve audit quality and avoid a financial documentation crisis.

Automation can allow teams to work on the things that really matter, like strategic decision-making and other important projects that they otherwise didn't have time to attack.

Ultimately, automation looks like the future—and shying away from it could leave your department behind when it comes to innovation and retention. Whatever your reservations are, it's crucial to have a strategy for if, and when, your fears are realized. Every system comes with risk, but the rewards of automation outweigh them.

Get five additional tips to avoid internal audit mistakes, here.

Mike Sellberg

About the author

Mike Sellberg is Executive Vice President and Chief Product Officer at Workiva. He is the former EVP and CTO at iMed Studios and the former Divisional General Manager at Engineering Animation, Inc.