Thought Leaders: Soft Skills Are a Top Priority for Internal Audit in 2014
According to reputable research and respected thought leaders, acquiring and developing relevant soft skills is a top priority for the internal audit profession in 2014.
As former director of seminars and curriculum development for The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) Global Headquarters, I know first-hand that non-technical “soft” skills emerged from mere nice-to-have attributes just a few years ago to become among the most essential and sought-after competencies for internal auditors today. This shift toward non-technical skills has important training ramifications for IIA chapters and internal audit departments.
Whereas chapter training programs of the past consisted almost exclusively of technical “hard” skills, they must now include relevant soft skills topics as well because as Larry Harrington, Chief Audit Executive of Raytheon Company and former IIA North American Board Chairman likes to say, “Soft skills are the new hard skills.”
In a forward-thinking whitepaper titled 7 Attributes of Highly Effective Auditors, IIA President and CEO Richard Chambers and Robert Half International Senior Executive Director Paul McDonald state that, “Technical skills remain absolutely necessary, but they are no longer sufficient on their own. The most effective ‘Internal Auditor of the Future’ possesses a broad range of non-technical attributes in addition to deep technical expertise.” Not surprisingly, they have research to back up their claim.
The 2013 Global Pulse of the Internal Audit Profession conducted by the IIA’s Audit Executive
Center identified analytical / critical thinking and communication skills as the top two skills for internal auditors most sought by global recruiters. Chambers notes, “Audit committees have come to expect, if not flat out demand, that internal audit evaluate the organization’s strategic risk exposures as well as provide assurance on overall risk management effectiveness.”
As further evidence of this shift, the 2013 Internal Audit Capabilities and Needs Survey conducted by Protiviti reveals that internal audit professionals at all levels seek to master such essential soft
skills as strategic thinking, collaboration, negotiation, persuasion, and conflict resolution. According to Protiviti, this trend signifies internal audit’s increasing responsibility to provide risk-related input into strategic decisions and partner with and influence colleagues at all levels throughout the organization.
The IIA Global Internal Audit Competency Framework, which defines the professional attributes necessary to meet the requirements of the IPPF, includes ten core competencies. Of those ten, six involve non-technical soft skills: ethics, business acumen, communication, persuasion and collaboration, critical thinking, and improvement and innovation.
Chambers and McDonald conclude their timely white paper by advising internal auditors to
“…apply as much effort and precision to the acquisition and development of non-technical attributes that they currently apply to the enhancement of their traditional internal auditing expertise.”
Do your 2014 training plans include the essential soft skills topics recommended by the foremost thought leaders of the internal audit profession?
Soft skills are the new hard skills, so resolve to invest as much time and effort toward acquiring and developing non-technical competencies in 2014 as you invested in learning technical skills in years past. A year from now you'll be glad you did so.