Over the years, I have noted that the demand for internal audit talent can be cyclical. I’ve concluded that the need for qualified practitioners is influenced by a handful of factors that ebb and flow.
For the first time in more than a decade, there is mounting evidence of an emerging internal audit talent shortage driven by factors including an improving economy, heightened regulatory oversight, competition for talent from other industries and — most notably — growing risks associated with cybersecurity.
Any number of studies, including The IIA’s 2015 North American Pulse of Internal Audit, point to a dearth of skilled internal auditors and the commensurate rise in competition to hire the best candidates.
Indeed, in recent conversions with numerous CAEs, I have heard anecdotal evidence of the heated battle for talent. More than one of these CAEs, primarily those in financial services, related instances when a new hire accepted a position with another internal audit department even before he or she showed up for the first day of work.
This rivalry for qualified internal auditors comes at a time when internal audit’s stakeholders are demanding more from the function than ever before, and further, those demands are redefining the scope of talent required for the average internal audit department.
So what can CAEs do to build a talented team at a time that meets their changing needs while their peers are attempting to do the same? The simple answer is to make their organizations as attractive as possible to internal audit candidates. The challenge is recognizing what characteristics will present the most rewarding career opportunities for today’s internal auditor.
Here the discussion goes beyond attracting younger internal auditors or those new to the profession. It applies to anyone in the profession. Even if you are preparing to hire a senior IT auditor, you need to position your organization to attract the best talent.
Salary and benefits clearly are major issues for job candidates, and The IIA’s annual job satisfaction survey can provide good insight into what practitioners expect in those areas. But beyond this, an organization must present employees with prospects for growth and making meaningful contributions.
Here are a handful of issues to consider when evaluating how attractive your organization may seem to internal audit candidates:
One consideration that may seem counterintuitive is recognizing that some of the most talented professionals may not want to pursue a career in internal audit. One strategy gaining popularity is to design, implement, and promote an internal audit rotational program. Organizations can attract top talent with the promise that a position in internal audit will give them exposure to all areas of the operation. This in turn can present them additional career opportunities at the end of a three-to-five-year stint in internal audit.
It is important to note here that CAEs must have a keen understanding of their organizations’ risk profiles and the related skills needed for the internal audit function. Creating an organizational risk profile, assessing current team skills, identifying skills gaps, and developing strategies to close those gaps are important prerequisites to making the next — and hopefully ideal — hire.