An Easier Way to Talk About What Internal Auditors Do
When it comes to building awareness of what internal auditing is all about, let’s get to the root of the problem. Too many people don’t have a clear understanding of the value internal auditors bring to an organization. And too many internal audit practitioners don’t have the tools they need to cultivate that clarity.
In fact, many internal auditors have not even been able to make their close friends and family members understand what they do. This unique dilemma, which appears to be universal when it comes to this profession, likely stems from the breadth of internal audit practice. Unlike many professions that might be easily described in using a short description, internal auditing is integral to every aspect of business, risk management, internal control, and organizational governance.
The first thing that all who practice, represent, advance, or advocate for the profession must learn is how to appropriately frame internal auditing so that stakeholders will understand its relevance. To many, the term internal auditor conjures up less than positive mental images, even though this misconception often is held by those who know nothing about the profession.
An easy way to remember a new approach to a conversation about internal auditing is to use a tree acronym: Transparency Reliability Effectiveness Ethics.
In today’s business world, transparency is highly sought after and coveted. To ensure that an organization has nothing to hide, the internal auditors monitor, assess, investigate, report, and advise. They strive for transparency throughout the organization, and when it’s not at the appropriate level, they recommend ways to strengthen it.
In the internal audit profession, reliability is critical. Internal auditors help management and the board meet organizational goals and objectives. Those at the top most be able to rely on the advice, accuracy, and perspectives the internal auditor provides.
Internal control effectiveness is a key concern of internal auditors. They watch for red flags that might indicate potential for losses, whether the risks are reputational, operational, financial, IT- or compliance-oriented, or strategic in nature.
Professional internal auditors adhere to a Code of Ethics that is based on the highest principles and rules of conduct. In addition, they monitor the organization’s ethical climate and bring concerns to management and the board. And, most importantly, they comply with The IIA’s International Standards for the Professional Practice of Internal Auditing.
A Different Kind of Conversation
New acquaintance: So tell me, what do you do for a living?
Internal auditor: You might say that people like me are risk specialists. We provide a safety net that helps organizations stay on track.
New acquaintance: How do you do that?
Internal auditor: One way is by determining an organization’s risks. Another is by identifying gaps that might open the door to frauds and losses. Then I submit reports to management and the board.
New acquaintance: So you do research?
Internal auditor: Yes, although I consider it more of an investigation. I look at every aspect of my organization, its operations and its information technology. I also work behind the scenes as an “effectiveness” coach and advisor.
New acquaintance: Then you must be involved with everyone and everything going on in your organization.
Internal auditor: But I stay independent and objective. I keep an eye on the corporate culture and ethical environment and look at policies and procedures with a fresh eye.
New acquaintance: You have an interesting job! How can I learn more?
As this scenario suggests, in reality, few careers are more fascinating then internal auditing.
For additional information and tools to promote the profession please visit http://www.theiia.org/theiia/about-the-profession/promoting-the-profession/.