Speaking the language of success: Effective communication strategies for internal auditors
In the complex world of internal auditing, where the landscape is dotted with risk assessments, control evaluations, and compliance checks, the power of effective communication often goes unheralded.
As an internal auditor with several years of experience, I have come to understand that our profession is as much about effective communication as it is about technical expertise.
This article explores the pivotal role of communication in internal auditing and provides practical strategies to enhance communication effectiveness.
The role of communication in internal auditing
Clear, concise, and persuasive communication forms the bedrock of successful internal auditing.
It's through effective communication that auditors articulate audit objectives, convey findings, and recommend improvements. Auditors communicate with a variety of stakeholders, including senior management, the board, and employees.
The ability to adapt the message to suit the audience's needs, expectations, and understanding is an essential facet of auditor communication.
Strategies for effective communication
Based on my professional journey and the insights gained from numerous audit assignments, here are some effective strategies to enhance communication:
1. Know Your Audience: The first step to effective communication is knowing your audience. Different stakeholders have varied needs. For instance, a department head may need an overview of the findings, while a process manager may require detailed information about a specific issue. Tailoring your communication ensures your message is not only heard but also understood and acted upon.
2. Be clear and concise: It's no secret that audit reports can be laden with jargon. While some technical terms are necessary, the essence of your findings should be conveyed in clear and simple language. Aim for clarity and avoid using ten words when five will do. This approach ensures that your message is accessible to everyone, irrespective of their familiarity with audit terminology.
3. Listen actively: Communication isn't just about talking; it's about listening. Active listening means fully concentrating, understanding, and responding to what the other person is saying. This skill is crucial during the feedback phase of your communication. It ensures you capture the concerns, feedback, and insights of your audience, leading to richer, more productive conversations.
4. Show empathy: Remember, an audit can be a stressful time for those being audited. There might be concerns about shortcomings being highlighted or even fears about job security. Approach your communication with empathy, understanding the concerns and emotions of your audience. It's not about soft-pedalling issues but about being considerate in your delivery.
5. Leverage visual communication: A picture, they say, is worth a thousand words. Transform complex data into visual representations like charts, graphs, and flow diagrams. This can make your findings more engaging, more digestible and highlight critical areas of concern. In an era of data visualization, tools like Tableau or Power BI can be invaluable assets for auditors.
6. Highlight the positives: While it's the auditor's role to identify gaps and issues, it's also beneficial to highlight what's working well. Recognizing the positive aspects can balance your findings and motivate teams to address the areas that need improvement. This approach is not about sugar-coating but providing a holistic view of the scenario.
7. Be solutions-oriented: While identifying problems is crucial, offering potential solutions can be a game-changer. It demonstrates your commitment to not just finding gaps but also aiding in bridging them. Even if the solutions aren't adopted verbatim, they can serve as a starting point for discussions on remedial measures.
8. Reiterate key points: Reinforce your key messages multiple times throughout the communication process. This helps ensure understanding and retention.
9. Continuously refine your skills: The world of communication is dynamic. New tools, techniques, and platforms emerge regularly. Dedicate time to refine your skills – be it through workshops, online courses, or feedback from peers. Continuous improvement will keep your communication strategies relevant and effective.
10. Engage in continuous feedback: Encourage questions and feedback from your audience. This promotes dialogue, aids in clarifying any misconceptions, and builds stronger relationships.
The art of audit communication
Effective communication is an art, honed over time with experience and intention. As internal auditors, the impact of our work is magnified when our communication skills are as finely tuned as our auditing skills.
By implementing these strategies, we can enhance our communication effectiveness, build stronger relationships with our stakeholders, and ultimately drive better audit outcomes.
As we navigate the complex terrains of risk, compliance, and control, let's remember that it's not just what we say but how we say it that counts.
As auditors, we are not merely inspectors of integrity but also ambassadors of information, and effective communication is our most powerful tool.
The writer is an independent Internal Audit Advisor, Enterprise Risk Management Consultant, and professional trainer.
He is the founder and Chief Operating Officer of Redric Consulting, your trusted partner for comprehensive training and consulting services in the fields of Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC). With a proven track record in Internal Audit, Internal Control, Compliance, Fraud Risk Management, and Cybersecurity, Redric Consulting empowers your organization and ensures its success.
You may reach out to Frederick on