Philip Cao

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Cultivating and Retaining IT Audit Talent

3 min read


People with deep technical skills are in high demand, so internal audit needs to take extra care to ensure the profession is attracting and retaining the right people. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers’ 19th annual global CEO survey released earlier this year, 72 percent of CEOs consider the availability of key skills a threat to their organization’s growth prospects.

As we discussed in New Orleans at the IT Audit Director Forum—part of ISACA’s North America CACS conference—there are steps companies can take to ensure IT audit develops the quality workforce needed to thrive amid this evolving landscape.

Work With Universities to Strengthen Workforce
The nature of audit is becoming more real-time and continuous, and less forensic. A number of factors have impacted the speed at which universities have been able to prepare their students for the effects of technology and automation on the IT audit profession.

That is problematic as the day is fast-approaching when professionals who lack broad, technical knowledge and skills around data analysis will be unable to successfully function in the field. This is especially true because the more organizations rely upon technology, the more necessary it becomes to tap into technology when auditing them.

Universities might be receptive to weaving more data analysis, cybersecurity and technical prep into their curriculums—they may just need some additional support and guidance from alumni and business leaders to keep pace with the changing demands of the profession.

Take Compensation Seriously—and Not Just the Dollars
Organizations cannot take a knife to a gunfight when it comes to offering the competitive compensation packages needed to land talented technology professionals. As organizations seek skilled IT auditors equipped for the modern landscape—and greater demands are placed on IT audit professionals—compensation must reflect the reality that talented candidates will have plenty of options.

Additionally, HR departments need to place an emphasis on going beyond salary when attracting talent. Particularly among millennials, other perks such as flexible work schedules, the ability to work remotely and even casual workplace attire are becoming increasingly meaningful.

At PwC, a flexible dress policy was recently implemented, allowing employees to wear jeans at the office when they are not meeting with clients. In the traditionally buttoned-up world of public accounting, that’s practically a tidal wave of workplace progress, and it’s a sea change many welcome.

Find Sensible Enticements to Encourage Progress
The perception is that internal audit lacks the glamour of other fields tied to emerging technologies. Internal audit needs to overcome that stigma to pull in the tech talent needed to perform at a high level.

Internal audit affords professionals rapid and exciting opportunities to tackle major projects involving high-level influencers. Being open to the idea of quickly giving employees such major responsibilities is worth considering.

Those who enter the job with high technical IQs might soon be ready to take on more senior tasks than was the norm in the past, and recognizing that potential quickly will not go unappreciated by employees. A word of caution, though—the potential downside of giving somebody a task beyond his or her ability is substantial. These judgments are about being open-minded and require a measured, case-by-case approach.

Working across departments to identify quicker paths to promotion as circumstances justify can be another worthwhile way for your organization to retain top talent.

There never has been a more exciting time to be in IT audit. Nothing is becoming less automated or less reliant on technology, so this is a career path with permanence. Still, challenges remain in attracting and retaining quality professionals. Organizations that take inventory of the evolving state of IT audit and are responsive to the priorities of prospective employees will be best positioned to assemble the high-caliber workforces that they need.

A. Michael Smith, Partner, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, and Khalid Wasti, Partner,
PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP

[ISACA Now Blog]

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