Coping with the speed of change is key
In today’s world, companies are much more interconnected. Consequently, they are affected more than ever from economic and political instabilities happening anywhere in the world. Constant changes in regulations and standards as well as consumer and customer expectations, are putting high pressure on companies in meeting the new norms. They are in an incredible need of becoming agile together with their associates. As a matter of fact, the way they react to these changes defines their overall performance and success.
Audit organizations are not exempted from this constantly increasing pressure of speed. The more the audit organizations understand the implications of latest global developments to their businesses, the better they help identify the risks of organizations. Audit professionals are expected to demonstrate a good level of agility, which would mean the ability to constantly learn from the new information released, and flexibility to switch priorities as a response to rapidly changing circumstances.
Soft skills are the new hard skills
One of the biggest challenges of the world of auditing is the increased decline in the field of qualified auditors. We must admit, with today’s pace of change, it is indeed difficult to become and remain a good one. As in the case of all other professions, the required skill set for auditors is being transformed to meet the needs of the future.
Technical skills or “hard skills” as they were once labelled, remain critical for auditors to perform their job. These set of skills are at their best when acquired by hands-on experience. Technical information can be transferred to a good level of knowledge and judgement, only after enough amount of practice, sweat, failure and learning from those. The important question is whether the technical capability is enough to perform. It is for sure that auditors with certain level of operational experience do perform better than the others, only if their technical expertise is supported by non-technical attributes. Some Chief Audit Executives view the non-technical attributes as competitive differentiators in terms of performance of their audit function and passionately believe that soft skills are the new hard skills.
Seven secret ingredients of an auditor
Agility and flexibility are the two most common and inevitable attributes asked for current and future employees, given the foreseen and unforeseen changes happening in our planet. Audit professionals demonstrating additionally the following skills, will define the new set of standards for the future.
- Lifelong Learner:
Audit organizations are after individuals who are not satisfied with “surface explanations”. A passion for understanding the fine elements of a case together with the implications to the business is critical to take a good picture of risks that the operation is/is going to be exposed to.
Only a curios mind would feel the hunger for business knowledge and go deep enough to surface the root cause of the problem. The new norm for auditors is not a standard entry training, and coaching provided during the first months of performance. The audit professionals of the future will be the sponges of knowledge, combining the formal training with rotational assignments, self-selected online courses, and self-initiated projects.
The new norm for audit professionals is to be active in learning, not only on the job-related topics but also on anything which will have impact on the risk universe of the organizations. It is for sure that the future success of audit organizations will be defined with their interest and effort in nurturing a culture and an environment for lifelong learners.
- Self-discipline and integrity:
Self-discipline is defined as the ability to control ourselves and the inner power to resist temptations to accomplish a particular task while maintaining a good pattern of behavior. It appears in various forms such as perseverance, endurance, and dedication despite obstacles on the way to the success. A self-disciplined individual is a master in dealing with ambiguity and the stress. The virtue will bring the audit professionals the advantage of staying calm when excited or frustrated, being patient and an active listener, being able to concentrate on needs rather than desires, and being modest and balanced.
One of the most important virtues which compliments the quality of being self-disciplined is certainly the integrity. The word has its roots from Latin adjective ‘integer” which means “whole and complete”. The individual with integrity is ethical, truthful, sound, reliable and incorruptible and feels complete with every single manner he/she demonstrates. Integrity will result in high respect and bring a great reputation to the individual and the function in return.
- Dynamic communication:
Communication is a multi-layered skill, consists of many different elements such as looking, seeing, writing, reading, speaking, hearing, listening, and using body language including gestures and mimics. On some occasions, the non-verbal ques are telling us hundred times more than what is being told. Understanding the interactions, is an absolute mastery, particularly in the 21st century, when we can talk about “the tone of voice!” in an email. I promise, it can be seen and heard through the keyboard and the screen – our indispensable virtual extensions.
Dynamic communication in that sense is an art of analyzing the interactions between the different layers and elements of communication. Dynamic communicators are the experts converting the output of the analysis into valuable and processable information with ingenious familiarity. Truth to be said, auditing requires nothing less than a “great communication” to drive the desired results both for the organization and the auditing function.
- Systems thinking:
Systems thinking is the ability to view systems from a broad perspective that includes seeing overall structures, patterns and cycles and their interrelations and interdependencies rather than seeing only specific elements in the system without its impact to the overall system.
This holistic view can help individuals to quickly identify the real causes of issues in organizations and know just where to work to address them. Needless to say, an audit professional with a systems thinking ability will be a great asset for the organizations.
- Synthetic and creative mind:
Majority of things which seem to be new are nothing but the re-arrangement of that which is old. Synthetic imagination is an act of combining recognized ideas, concepts, plans, trends and principles in new arrangements. An audit professional should demonstrate the ability to analyze the current data and use it to create something new for the health of the organization.
Creative imagination is working on basic patterns to create new ideas and concepts which have not been used previously or recognized. A synthetic and creative mind, is taking its roots from the past but certainly is future-oriented, holistic, focuses on long-term problem solving, without ignorance of emergent trends.
- Intrinsic motivation:
Intrinsic motivation is the act of doing something without any obvious external rewards. In other words, the motivation to engage in a behavior or act arises from within the individual because it is naturally satisfying. Intrinsic motivation provides an opportunity to explore, learn and actualize one’s potential. An individual who actualize his/her own potential continuously feels complete. Intrinsic motivation supports the individual to be creative, committed, persistent and successful.
Auditing is a quite demanding task with limited external rewards. Intrinsic motivation will be the lifeline for the audit professional not only to survive the pressure and but also see the internal rewards like the satisfaction of helping organizations and individuals in their continuous improvement journey.
- Tech savvy:
In today’s digital world it is very important to be tech-savvy not only for solution providers but also for users. Knowing how to use technology is the key to success and great personal future development. A tech-savvy person is someone who is well informed about the modern technology, and also uses his/her skills in order to take advantage of the current technology. In today’s digital world, every single person is forced to take a transformation together with the organizations. There is no other way to survive in this changing world.
There are numerous benefits of being a tech savvy, maybe the most important one is the increased productivity which will help the individual to save time for other analysis and tasks. This is certainly something that an audit professional would be looking for.
The audit organizations willing to accommodate individuals with a good balance of right technical and non-technical skills, will define the norms of the success. Future is here.
By Tülay Kahraman
July 30, 2020