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​A Crisis of Timing
Could talent shortage slow internal audit’s rise to trusted corporate advisor?

ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, Fla. (March 4, 2015) – In recent years, internal auditors have made great strides toward earning a “seat at the table” alongside the traditional C-suite heavy hitters. As rapidly emerging risks, expanding compliance burdens, and the specter of cyberattacks create boardroom consternation, internal audit is increasingly being valued for its insights.

But even as economic, geopolitical and technological changes have contributed to the evolution of the internal audit profession, a looming threat of a talent shortage could slow or potentially undo those hard-fought gains.

In a report set for release on Sunday, March 8, The Institute of Internal Auditors’ (IIA) Audit Executive Center (AEC) raises a red flag on potential shortfalls but also presents strategies for maneuvering through what could become a significant battleground for talent.

The 2015 North American Pulse of Internal Audit survey found that 4 in 10 chief audit executives (CAEs) say attracting and retaining skilled personnel is a high or critical priority in their audit plans. What’s more, more than half (54 percent) of respondents indicate skill gaps on their audit teams caused by increased competition for a limited talent pool.

“Business and government face significant challenges to keep pace with a dizzying array of rapidly emerging and evolving risks,” said IIA President and CEO Richard F. Chambers, CIA, QIAL, CGAP, CCSA, CRMA. “The internal audit profession is in an ideal position to help them, but we must have the right talent at our disposal to provide that assistance.”

The Pulse of Internal Audit report, which will be released at an AEC forum prior to The IIA’s annual General Audit Management (GAM) conference in Las Vegas, provides recommendations for assessing team skills and developing a strong talent management strategy. The report will be made available for free through the AEC.

Internal auditors’ ability to provide the proper assurance and advisory support to their organizations hinges on having the requisite talent and skills. New risks, changing technologies and an increasingly global marketplace have changed many of those required skills. Experience in finance and internal controls alone is no longer enough to address an organization’s evolving risk profile. That makes it imperative for CAEs to understand what skill sets they have on staff, what skills they lack, and how to attract and retain talent to fill the gap.

Top areas for both hiring difficulties and skills deficiencies are in IT, cybersecurity and privacy, and data mining and analytics, according to the report.

The challenge involves more than just identifying people with the desired skills. The Pulse report found other reasons for the talent shortage, including changes in demands on internal audit (33 percent), insufficient compensation (28 percent); and a lack of training dollars (25 percent).

A positive note from the Pulse survey is that most internal audit budgets and staffs are expected to grow or remain the same in 2015. Only 9 percent of respondents expect budgets to decrease and only 3 percent expect cuts to staff.