The value of soft skills for internal auditors
Internal auditors (IAs) are professionals who draw on deep technical knowledge and a good understanding of clients’ finances, practices, procedures and organizations to perform their jobs. But the skill set of internal audit advisors is not limited to “hard” skills. The profession also demands solid soft skills for maximizing project success.
In this article, we explore why internal auditors’ soft skills are crucial and how they can help these professionals grow their careers. We’ll also discuss difficulties some IA experts face in their workspace and suggest handy and actionable solutions.
What are soft skills?
Soft skills refer to character traits and personal, non-technical qualities one uses to connect with others and form relationships in the workspace. They are considered a complement to hard skills and are equally sought after by employers.
Here are some crucial soft skills employers look for in every employee, regardless of profession:
- Good communication, including all skills that let you connect with others through listening, negotiation, verbal and nonverbal communication, writing and public speaking
- Critical thinking (adaptability, creativity, flexibility and more) that allows for efficient problem solving
- Leadership as an ability to make decisions and manage situations and people
- A positive attitude to brighten the workspace with confidence, cooperation, courtesy and other traits
- Teamwork that relies on accepting feedback, collaboration, customer service, empathy, emotional intelligence and more
- A work ethic that helps employees complete tasks on time and stay organized
These and many other soft skills help people fit into a workspace and achieve better career results. The same applies to internal auditors, who may benefit from soft skills more than other professionals.
Workspace challenges of internal auditors
Why are soft skills particularly significant to internal auditors? IA experts can face many challenges in the workspace due to the nature of their jobs, and soft skills can help manage, resolve and even prevent these on the go.
A highly-technical profession
Internal audit advisors spend a lot of time analyzing financial spreadsheets, internal control reports and regulatory material. Such processes require advanced hard skills and involve hours of study and solitude. Therefore, it’s not unusual for internal auditors to become somewhat introverted professionals and sometimes have difficulties connecting with others.
As introverted internal auditors don’t spend much time with other colleagues in the company, audits become more challenging to perform. People are less likely to trust those they don’t interact with daily and may hesitate to share information of paramount importance. This is where soft skills can help internal auditors connect with others and develop long-lasting relationships that result in increased respect and better audit outcomes.
Dealing with a lack of understanding and cooperation
As investigators, internal auditors may face a lack of cooperation from clients. A department under audit may take time to adjust to a financial examination and strive to restrict or limit information. Auditors can also be challenged for having outdated software, incomplete data, or a lack of efficient analytics tools.
Challenges of connecting in remote work environments
The role of soft skills and emotional intelligence in business changed since the onset of the COVID pandemic, impacting the internal audit profession like many others. With many audits taking place remotely, an auditor may feel disconnected from others in the workspace.
As non-verbal cues tend to be more challenging to interpret, auditors working from home must have sharp listening and observational skills to process information accurately. They also need an advanced ability to listen, communicate and learn from the people they’re working with from a distance.
How to improve soft skills and build relationships with colleagues
Considering internal auditors’ soft skills can be highly beneficial in resolving and preventing typical role-related problems and promoting greater job success, it’s in these professionals best interest to focus more on developing them. The question is, how do you enhance your personal traits to better connect with others and grow, both privately and professionally?
Draw on emotional intelligence
If internal auditors want to gain trust from clients and make the audits easier, they need to focus on soft skills, particularly emotional intelligence (known as emotional quotient, or EQ). Emotional intelligence refers to one’s ability to understand, use and manage emotions to communicate better and empathize with others. Such practice allows people to overcome relationship challenges in the workspace and avoid conflict.
When internal auditors draw on emotional intelligence or empathy, self-awareness, motivation and social skills, they can carry out complex and lengthy projects more effectively. A higher EQ allows an individual to maintain control in stressful situations, gain the trust of colleagues and clients, and make well-informed decisions.
Communicate clearly and effectively
Improving communication skills for auditors begins with finding the client’s preferred method of communication and how best to address potential issues. Some clients may favor informal conversations and others formal meetings or long written reports. Internal auditors with good communication skills can meet the needs of both types (and those in between).
Effective communication relies on conveying messages clearly and openly. It means avoiding verbosity, getting to the point, using easily digested data, and offering actionable advice. Internal auditors who practice these methods of communication are more likely to connect with others faster and perform more successful audits.
Practice continuous learning
A vital soft skill for IA experts is continuous learning, a practice of developing knowledge on an ongoing basis. Internal auditors should look to draw conclusions before, during and after an audit, learning as much as they can from every investigation.
This is especially true in digital and technical realms subject to constant change. New product offerings, software expansions and even markets develop each day. Internal auditors need to stay up to date with all these to ensure successful job outcomes.
Internal auditors should approach every engagement as a chance to widen their knowledge about a particular business or industry. Such a practice will allow them to engage more creatively with clients and bring a competitive edge to their jobs.
Empathize with clients to eliminate skepticism and enhance trust
Many auditors face a certain level of skepticism from auditees because they are not involved in their day-to-day tasks and projects. In this case, if auditors lack the soft skills of good listening and empathy, the relationship between the two parties, and the audit results, can be jeopardized.
Auditors can resolve this issue by getting more familiar with the business operations and understanding their role more as strategic partners than investigators. Empathy and continuous learning can help with each audit, making it a beneficial, long-term partnership rather than an interrogation. Through an open relationship, auditees may also become more ready to reach out proactively when future issues arise.
Combine your hard and soft skills with data analysis tools for best results
Effective communication, continuous learning, empathy and emotional intelligence are the internal auditors’ soft skills that can pave the way toward a more efficient and effective audit. But IA experts may also want to consider working on other parts of the job to increase their success rate in a rapidly changing digital world.
Caseware IDEA can help you achieve excellence through innovative data analysis tools for auditors, accountants, finance and data professionals. IDEA is built to aid you in detecting fraud, trends and patterns to deliver high-quality audits at all times. IDEA is easy to use and connects with any data source. You can import information quickly and safely, visually pinpoint patterns, and record every step of the audit process.
Learn more about how IDEA can help your internal audits and start combining it with your hard and soft skills for the best business results.