KPP Search opens APAC Office

KPP Search has announced its expansion into the Asia Pacific (APAC) region with a new APAC HQ based in Sydney, Australia. The Sydney office will serve as the physical HQ for APAC, with an emphasis on providing bespoke recruitment and client services into Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Australia and New Zealand.

KPP Search is globally headquartered in London, headed up by Paul Edwards, while the APAC operation is being spearheaded by Lee Hine. With over 10 years industry experience, and an extensive client network, Lee is one of the leading figures in the global Corporate Governance recruitment market. Lee has successfully built teams both in Sydney and London, as well as orchestrating key strategic hires for blue chip organisations such as PepsiCo, CapGemini and KPMG.

Paul Edwards, Managing Director of KPP Search said “It’s an exciting time for us. We have built a solid platform since our inception in 2012 and to be working with Lee again feels like a very natural step. I’ve known Lee since we first met as colleagues in 2008, and have the utmost respect for what he has achieved in this area. He is incredibly well networked and his reputation in the market is exceptional. We are looking forward to the next phase of KPP’s growth and building something to be proud of.”

Connect with us on LinkedIn, or contact Lee Hine here: lee.hine@kppsearch.com

 

How to collect feedback from stakeholders on internal audit performance?

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How to collect feedback from stakeholders on internal audit performance?

By Guillaume Litvak, Chief Audit Executive and Head Internal of Controls at Technicolor. 

All Internal audit departments look for continuous improvement and see the feedback from stakeholders as essential to transform the functioning and relevance of the audit department. But how many of them do this effectively? How many of them are acting on the feedback to reap benefits and thus truly transforming and measuring themselves against expectations of stakeholders?

 

The first key objective of collecting feedback is to understand our stakeholders’ expectations

If the Internal Audit’s role is to help senior management identify new ways to manage key risks in the most effective manner, then let’s start by collecting our top management’s perspective on risks’ impacts and vulnerabilities on business objectives and on efforts internal audit should prioritize to contribute to the overall performance. This a constant effort that is mandatory and that most Chief Audit Executives do. However, collecting feedback on risks is also an opportunity to discuss with key stakeholders the audit methodology, the clarity of the audit report and the fairness of the audit conclusions.

When I first started as a Chief Audit Executive, I interviewed Executive Committee members asking for their feedback about the Internal Audit department. Through this interviewing process, I was told that poor business acumen prevented from bringing added-value recommendations. This issue was quickly addressed by changing the internal audit organization from a geographical one to a business one. Lead division auditors were appointed instead of regional audit heads; their mandates was to be embedded in the business and thus have a close understanding of the business. As a result, Lead Division Auditors are capable of supervising the team with a clearer view on the stakes and priorities to address.

I also asked members of the Executive Committee one additional and useful question: how much time do you dedicate to reading the final audit report? The answer fused instantly: somewhere between 30 seconds and 2 minutes! It is therefore critical to create reports tailored to our clients’ busy schedules by concluding on audit objectives concisely, and easing the reading with colors and charts.

Collecting Feedback After Each Audit is also essential

You should not stop at collecting feedback from top management regularly. Collecting feedback after each audit can also bring high added value for Internal Audit. Collecting auditees’ views on our work will send the following message: we value your appreciation – we want to improve!

Feedback can be collected easily through a short survey taking less than five minutes to fill. Please find below an example of survey. This is just an example among multiple surveys you can find or create. Choose the one that suits you best. What truly matters is the feedback you’ll collect!

Name of the Audit:
Your Name & Organization :

 

Questions                          High strengthStrengthMediumWeakVery Weak
1.  Significance of audit topics for your activity
2.  Auditors business acumen / knowledge of your industry
3.  Professionalism of auditors
4.  Added value to your organization
5.  Usefulness of the recommendations / action plans
6.  Proper communication on progress status during the audit
7.  Clarity and design of the audit report
 
OTHER COMMENTS on what worked well / what could be improved:

 

All information should be thoroughly collected, aggregated then analyzed. It will be an invaluable source of information that will help every audit organization to understand its strengths and weaknesses. An audit seminar once a year could be a good occasion to analyze in depth the lessons learnt from these surveys.

 

As a conclusion, feedback is essential for a more effective contribution of the internal audit department to the Company performance. To have an added value, internal audit has to constantly listen and grow but also rapidly change direction based on feedback collected and stay flexible in the ever-changing business environment.

Internal Auditors as Change Agents: What a difference a year makes!

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Internal Auditors as change agents:

What a difference a year makes!

By Dr. Rainer Lenz, CIA, CIIA

 

  1. Introduction

It was evidenced in a multiple-case study that the pattern of interaction between Chief Audit Executives and Senior Management is a key determinant of Internal Audit effectiveness (Lenz 2013). There are notable differences among Internal Audit Functions. The effectiveness of Internal Audit is largely determined by “soft factors”. Therefore, where Senior Management, possibly pushed by the supervisory board or the owner himself, truly supports the Internal Audit Function and wants it to look at the right matters, its effectiveness will be fundamentally different from cases where the management and/or board is passive, and does not push the Internal Audit Function to become effective by unearthing matters they may not wish to be found. In the upper echelon of Management, interaction with the chief stakeholder/s typically happens frequently, in a timely manner, and the communication is geared towards problem-solving. The relationship is strongly based on shared goals, shared knowledge and mutual respect. At the other end of this spectrum, interaction with the chief stakeholder/s happens in-frequently, is typically delayed, and the communication is rather geared towards finger-pointing. In this context, functional goals prevail, knowledge is preferably exclusive and relations can be impaired by disrespect.

This article provides conceptual and practical insights into features within the more immediate control of the Chief Audit Executives, helping or hindering Internal Audit effectiveness. Self-perception and external perception can differ greatly (Section 2). Positioning and communication are instrumental when identifying successful Internal Audit Functions; these make a fundamental difference as to whether the Internal Audit Function is positioned as police, servant, consultant, doctor or change agent (Section 3). Practical insights then demonstrate what a difference a year makes. Guided by the change agent, the more effective Internal Audit Function can prove also with hard data that there are fewer overdue findings, that reports are delivered more swiftly, and quantum leaps of productivity can be achieved (Section 4).

  1. Self-images of internal auditors: You have a choice

1The literature on Internal Audit effectiveness indicates a significant disconnect between the “demand-side perspective”, – that is, the stakeholder’s expectations and perceptions – and the “supply-side perspective” – that is, self-assessments by internal auditors (Lenz and Hahn 2015). Self-perception and external perception differ greatly, (diagram 1[1]), which can be attributed both in part to hubris on the part of internal auditors, and to a lack of understanding from management regarding the service Internal Audit actually provides.

Narrowing this expectation gap increases the effectiveness of the Audit, as customers measure the perceived benefit in relation to the expected benefit.

Within organizations, Van Peursem (2004 and 2005) regarded the role of Audit as enigmatic, meandering between the roles of watchdog and consultant. She reflects on the nature of the internal auditor’s role confusion, and alerts to the dangers of a “jack-of-all-trades” image of internal auditors. In this article I will reference metaphors and self-images used by internal auditors themselves. I will focus the analyses and reflections on what internal auditors control completely, that is, how they view and describe themselves. To find more out about the self-perception of internal auditors, I asked them: “If you were asked to write down a catch-line to sum up your role as internal auditor in your organization, what would it be?” I posted that question in LinkedIn, in the official global group of the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) and obtained 141 comments within 6 months, between March 17 and September 17, 2010.

All self-images received are clustered into five groups acknowledging that “metaphors create insights. But they also distort. They have strengths. But they also have limitations. In creating ways of seeing they tend to create ways of not seeing” (Morgan 2006). Thus, the clustering is normative. Some metaphors and self-images sow the seeds for non-acceptance of Audit, and contribute to its marginalization within organizations. Others may be the base for disappointment in the eyes of stakeholders. Five clusters of self-images are distinguished (diagram 2[2]):

2

Negative self-images – as put by internal auditors themselves – like “An auditor is a watch dog and not a blood hound” may create distance and form the basis of non- acceptance (1. Police). Overly modest self-perceptions like “I am the one you want me to be” (2. Servant) and the use of self-evident and empty words like “Increase stakeholder value” (3. Consultant) can lead to marginalization in the eyes of the Audit stakeholder. Overly ambitious claims like “We are doctors” (4. Doctor) or A modern day hero …” provide the basis for disappointment as Audit then risks over- promising and under-delivering. Eventually, there are also original and helpful self- images (5. Change Agent) that point to positive characteristics and differences; helping to create a unique and sustainable identity, and supporting Audit’s pursuit to become more effective.

  1. Internal Audit at Villeroy & Boch: What a difference a year makes!

Change Agent has been the leitmotif when assuming my new role as Head of Corporate Audit in Villeroy & Boch[3] in May 2014.Those who take a look at the then newly created Corporate Audit page on the intranet may well rub their eyes in disbelief. What people expect to see is an objective, sober page describing the purpose and aim of the department, along with a couple of contact persons. Instead, the reader is greeted by an eye-catching quote from ex-racing driver Mario Andretti: “If you think you’ve got everything under control, you’re not fast enough.”

But how might this quote apply to Corporate Audit? Internal auditing is not an end in itself; it is designed to safeguard the success of the business as a whole. The Audit Function’s main task at Villeroy & Boch is to identify problems and risks in our business processes, offering support to the various operative units and to assist the company in meeting its goals. When conducting internal audits, the Corporate Audit department also plays an advisory role. For example, we discuss together with the units where there could be improvement in cross-departmental cooperation – between the various company divisions and headquarters or between headquarters and the subsidiaries.

“Cooperation” and “together” are words we often use when talking about Corporate Audit in action. Those who think the department distances itself from the rest of the company could not be more mistaken. The Internal Audit Function at Villeroy & Boch is part of the team. We pitch in – we do not just sit on the sidelines and watch. Ultimately, we are all working towards a common goal – we want to make Villeroy & Boch even more successful, and play our part in increasing the value of the brand and the company.

It is the readiness to implement change which is first and foremost here. The reports written after each audit, grading the various “findings” in risk categories A to D (very high to low), serve merely as a resource. We are pragmatic. The measures are based on common sense, keeping in mind what is realistic. For this, we need business acumen and a flexible approach to how we think and what can be done – and that is exactly the approach by which we want our work to be judged.

The work of Corporate Audit does not end once the report has been sent; steps need to be taken to ensure that measures are carried out and improvements made. We remain in contact with the units we have audited, because our work only becomes meaningful once the recommended measures are implemented.

The guiding principles of the Internal Audit Function at Villeroy & Boch since May 2014 have been twofold:

  • We are performance-oriented. We focus on the timely delivery of meaningful reports and improvements. Our reports and communication aim at improving our business practices and associated controls.
  • We are not the decision maker. We are not the one that will ultimately change things; we can only inspire people to change. That requires a healthy level of modesty; asking questions rather than assuming expertise; being open-minded and respectful in regard to the organization; and acknowledging that we are just one part of the organization, requiring the rest of the organization in order to succeed.

The units which have been audited respond to this pragmatic and active approach positively, as the latest feedback reports show. Also, hard data support the heightened effectiveness when comparing the situation upon assuming the role as Head of Corporate Audit in May 2014, and approximately one year later (diagram 3):

3

New processes and a cooperative and pragmatic approach have helped improve business practices and associated controls. The dialogue with Senior Management intensified resulting, for example, in an increase in ad-hoc requests and assuming project lead responsibilities. The heightened goodwill in the organization evidenced by positive customer satisfaction surveys has enabled the implementation of suggested actions. Further, computer assisted auditing techniques – especially Process Mining – have been instrumental when increasing the effectiveness of the Internal Audit service rendered.

While upon arrival most findings were overdue, this is now the exception to the rule. Delivery time of reports has been shortened from 8 weeks to less than 10 days. The productivity per full-time-employee (FTE) went up by 33%, from 6 reports per FTE p.a. to 8 reports per FTE p.a.; that is equivalent to one FTE. Most importantly, the improved acceptance and effectiveness of the Internal Audit Function was grounded in an overhaul of the overall positioning of the Function. We now have open access to Senior Management. Information flow freely in both directions; peers and auditees perceive the Function now as “Guide”, “Protectors”, and “Change Agents”, rather than as “watch-dog” and “police”.

  1. Conclusion

Internal Audit is at a crossroads (IIA, 2013). The Internal Audit value proposition is still not commonly appreciated since having organizational relevance is still regarded a top challenge. The value of Internal Audit is questioned by many: the study by Ernst & Young (2012) revealed that the majority of Audit stakeholders – that is, CEOs, CFOs, Audit Committee Chairs and members – believe that Internal Audit is not helping their organization achieve its business objectives, and that about 80% of Internal Audit Functions have room for improvement, which is now expected urgently by most. Otherwise, as the study by PWC (2013) pointed out, “internal audit runs the risk of becoming a marginalized function”.

To become and remain a key player in the governance arena, the identity of the Internal Audit Function matters. There is a huge difference between positioning the Function as POLICE or as CHANGE AGENT, whilst acknowledging that the Function in practice may have elements of both. The more promising path as evidenced in the case study in Section 3 represents the positioning of internal auditors as change agents. Internal Audit is a support function, not connected directly to the profit and loss account. The case study presented demonstrates what a difference a year makes when internal auditors become more humble. Becoming agents of change is the (new) leitmotif of the IIA (2014): “To be effective, internal auditors must possess not only sound judgment and critical thinking, they must inspire (I suggest saying “inspire” instead of “compel” as in the original statement from the IIA) others to an appropriate and sometimes urgent response (…)”.

The claim that Chief Audit Executives and internal auditors shall become change agents is aspirational at this point in time for most Internal Audit Functions. Internal Audit agency presently is a rare phenomenon in practice. It is not the stereotypical model – yet – that internal auditors emerge as agents, who challenge the status quo and initiate to alter “the way we do things” in an organization. However, internal auditors may become change agents on a much greater scale. In doing so, the stereotypical model may transform from being reactive; responding, and seeking to meet others’ expectations, to being an agent who drives change. A change agent breaks with institutionalized practices and contributes to establishing a new pattern. That requires particular personal characteristics and competencies in, among others; liaising successfully with auditees, Senior Management and the board or audit committee; business acumen; leadership and communication skills; listening and influencing skills; and relationship acumen. When seeking to make a difference, and create a unique and sustainable identity, inspiring others to change may become the avenue of success.

The analysis of how internal auditors view themselves partly explains why some Internal Audit Functions are on a route to marginalization and disappointment, while others embark on a more promising path creating a positive, unique and sustainable identity. When getting the positioning right, helped by excellent communication, the expectation gap may be narrowed. Improved relations with key stakeholders and strong “soft skills” increase the chance that hard data can evidence the boosted level of Internal Audit effectiveness, including fewer overdue findings and higher productivity.

This article shows that some shortcomings and limitations of Internal Audit Functions are self-inflicted. The self-perception of internal auditors often carries negative self-images (Police) that create distance and form the basis of non-acceptance. Overly modest self-perception (Servant) and the use of self-evident and empty words (Consultant) display a lack of identity and may lead to marginalization in the eyes of the stakeholder. Overly ambitious “superman-like” claims provide the basis for disappointment in the eyes of stakeholders, as Internal Audit over-promises and under-delivers (Doctor).

Ultimately, the internal auditor has no formal mandate; they are a “leader with no title” (Sharma 2010). When acknowledging that, inspiring others to change may be the more promising path when emerging as agents of change. Possibly, internal auditors as change agents need to be more like farmers. Like farmers, internal auditors have little or no formal authority. Farmers work indirectly, they sow the seeds. They acknowledge that they only can work and be indirectly effective since plants grow themselves when conditions are favorable, and chickens lay eggs (or may not do so when it is too cold). Similarly, internal auditors are not the decision maker. Internal auditors do not change processes or people by themselves but can rather inspire people to change.

To resolve the dilemma between self-perception and external perception in order to best position the Internal Audit Function, ask yourself:

  • What would Senior Management (the C-suite) say about you and your team?
  • What would the Board (Audit Committee, Non-Executive Directors) say about you and your team?
  • What role does your Internal Audit team play now?
  • What role will you choose in the future?

You have the choice.

 

 

References

  • Ernst & Young (2012), The future of internal audit is now, Increasing relevance by turning risk into results, July.
  • IIA (2013), Rethinking the Future of Audit – Internal Audit is at a Crossroads, The Institute of Internal Auditors, The Austin Chapter Research Committee, March.
  • IIA (2014), Agents of Change, Annual report, The Institute of Internal Auditors, Altamonte Springs, FL.
  • Lenz, R. (2013), Insights into the effectiveness of internal audit: a multi-method and multi-perspective study, Dissertation at the Université catholique de Louvain – Louvain School of Management Research Institute (Belgium), 01|2013.
  • Lenz, R. and Hahn, U. (2015), A synthesis of empirical internal audit effectiveness literature pointing to new research opportunities, Managerial Auditing Journal, Vol. 30 No. 1, 5-33.
  • Morgan, G. (2006), Images of organizations, Sage Publications Inc., ISBN 978-1-4129-3979-9.
  • PWC (2013), Reaching greater heights: Are you prepared for the journey? PricewaterhouseCoopers, State of the internal profession study.
  • Sharma, R. (2010), The Leader Who Had No Title, Free Press, New York, ISBN 978-1-4391-0912-0.
  • Van Peursem, K. (2004), Internal auditors’ role and authority – New Zealand evidence, Managerial Auditing Journal, Vol. 19 No. 3, pp. 378-393.
  • Van Peursem, K. (2005), Conversations with internal auditors, The power of ambiguity, Managerial Auditing Journal, Vol. 20 No. 5, pp. 489-512.

 


 

Author’s Biography

Dr. Rainer Lenz is a seasoned financial and audit executive with international experience in global organizations including Actavis, Schlumberger, and ABB. Since 2014 he has been Head of Corporate Audit at Villeroy & Boch AG. His doctoral dissertation about the effectiveness of internal audit was the winner of the Advancement Award 2013 from the German Institute of Internal Auditors (DIIR Förderpreis). His co-authored book on the subject of combined assurance was the winner of the Larry Sawyer Research Foundation Project of the Year Award 2012 from the Institute of Internal Auditors in the U.S. Dr. Lenz has published articles in journals such as International Journal of Auditing, Journal of Applied Accounting Research, and Managerial Auditing Journal. He is trilingual with business degrees from Universities in Germany, France, and the U.K. Dr. Lenz is qualified as Financial Analyst (CIIA) and Chartered Internal Auditor (CIA).

http://www.drrainerlenz.de/

https://de.linkedin.com/in/rainerlenz

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Rainer_Lenz2/stats

[1] Independent Audit Limited (http://www.independentaudit.com) gave their consent for using the diagram in my PhD-thesis (Lenz 2013), “Looking good – I’ll sail through the self-assessment”.

[2] Lenz, R. and Sarens, G. (2013), Insights into self-images of internal auditors: “We need to be more like farmers”, Working paper. April.

[3] Villeroy & Boch currently employs a workforce of around 7,300. The consolidated sales for 2014 reached €766 million. Villeroy & Boch is represented in 125 countries around the world and has 14 production facilities in Europe, Mexico and Thailand (http://www.villeroyboch-group.com/en/the-company.html).

Internal Auditors & National Culture

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Internal Auditors & National Culture

By Gijs Hendrix

1Every day businesses are faced with issues arising from cultural differences.  Despite the prevalence of these issues throughout multinational corporations, the nature of national culture being an intangible concept makes them difficult to clearly define and recognise. In many day-to-day conversations, differences between cultures are ascribed to stereotypes based on personal experiences and hearsay. For internal auditors the topic of national culture is especially relevant, as they often work globally and perform audits in different cultures. This article provides the results of a study on how internal auditors deal with cultural variances while auditing, and provides several recommendations for internal audit functions on how to efficiently and effectively deal with these differences.

National Culture and Internal Auditing

Within scientific literature the theme of national culture has been studied widely. Probably the most famous and broadly used body of research on the topic of national culture was conducted by Hofstede in the 1970’s. This research was based on survey data collected within a large multinational organisation, from over 100.000 employees, working in subsidiaries all over the globe. Based on the answers Hofstede identified six dimensions of national culture[1]; ‘Power Distance’, ‘Collectivism vs. Individualism’, ‘Uncertainty Avoidance’, ‘Femininity vs. Masculinity’, ‘Long-term vs Short-term orientation’ and ‘Indulgence vs. Restraint’. Please see table 1 for a short description of the dimensions. The countries were scored per dimension, scores that are relative to other cultures and allow for a comparison between cultures. The concept is not easy to grasp, as it is based on averages per country. In reality, people can differ from their country’s average. However, research has found differences relating internal auditing between national cultures. This article focuses on national culture but does not want to ignore other factors that might influence people, such as organizational culture.

Table 1: Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions
Power DistanceThe degree of inequality in a society
Collectivism vs. IndividualismThe strength of ties between individuals
Uncertainty AvoidanceTolerance of the ambiguous and the unpredictable
Femininity vs. MasculinityThe way society sees gender roles
Long-term vs. Short-term orientationThe fostering of virtues oriented toward future rewards, in particular perseverance and thrift
Indulgence vs. RestraintThe degree of gratification of basic and natural human desire related to enjoying life

Internal Audit program at the University of Amsterdam’s Business School. The research consisted of a qualitative approach using interviews within four diverse multinational companies operating within the Financial Services, Food & Beverage, Oil & Gas and Retail industries. The conversations were transcribed and analysed using a technique called ‘coding’.I recently conducted research on how internal auditors adjust to national cultures, as part of an

The four internal audit functions of the multinational organizations studied all use an audit methodology in line with the IIA Standards, and therefore were similar in nature. Internal auditors do not adjust the formal internal audit process to fit national culture. All audits include the same steps, regardless of the national culture of the country in which the audit is performed. However, differences were observed in the informal internal audit process, where audits are performed remaining compliant with the framework of the IIA Standards.

2The findings showed that auditors expressed differences between cultures in terms of the planning of an audit. More specifically, the results highlighted differences in the part of planning that deals with requesting information, both in advance and during an on-site visit. It was also noted that the effort required to obtain information differed from country to country. Differences were also found in the opening and closing of meetings, significantly influenced by national culture. Finally differences were found in how auditors communicated, where the interviewees adapted their communication style to fit the national culture of the country.

3Recommendations for Internal Audit Functions

Within internal audit, the topic of national culture is a topic which is difficult to grasp. Business literature on the combination of national culture and internal auditing is in a very nascent state. This is troubling, as the topic is relevant to internal audit departments across multinational corporations. Internal auditors that take cultural differences into account have been proven to work more efficiently and effectively than those who don’t, resulting in the earlier completion of audits and a positive perception of the audit process from auditees.

Based on my study described above and on Hofstede’s theory there are recommendations to make for internal audit functions operating in multiple national cultures. The following table provides an overview of these recommendations.

TopicRecommendation
Managing the internal audit functionTo hire and develop auditors keeping national cultures in mind (i.e. language skills, personality). To select a team that is able to work in line with the auditee’s culture and speaks the language (i.e. use French speaking auditors in French speaking countries).
Opening Meeting / Closing MeetingInvite more people in collectivist countries, vice versa for more individualist countries.
Planning / Requesting InformationTo schedule interviews and on-site visits in line with the country’s planning culture; countries that are less flexible require the internal auditor to put in effort more in advance of the on-site visit.
CommunicationTo adapt communication to fit the culture of the auditee; communicating with more authority in countries that respect such influences, and taking a softer approach in cultures where being polite is paramount.
ReportTo report using a tone that fits the national culture of the auditee. Be careful with pinpointing failed controls to specific persons in a collectivist country. Use words and phrasing used by the auditee.

 

Managing the Internal Audit Function

An important element of the internal audit profession is the ability to communicate respectfully and efficiently, and especially internal auditors operating in multiple countries need to have well developed inter personal skills next to auditing skills. Key to this is to speak the local language of the auditee; firstly, in order that communication with employees can take place and documentation can be read; secondly, because speaking the local language increases the efficiency of work by avoiding anything being lost in translation. Relating to his is the fact that nuances and emotions are more easily identified and expressed in one’s native language. It is recommended that internal audit functions keep language skills in mind when hiring and training internal auditors.

4Next to the ability to speak a language it is recommended that internal audit functions pay attention to the ‘soft’ skills of auditors. In countries with a more direct culture auditees appreciate receiving feedback and findings in a direct fashion and a forthright way. Auditors operating in cultures in which communication takes place in a more indirect fashion are advised to possess and use the opposite skills: be able to read between the lines and present findings with courtesy. In line with the IIA Standards findings should be presented to the auditee immediately, however the wording used and the context of the communication are important. This does not mean to suggest that one person cannot possess multiple skills, albeit it is recommended that internal audit functions make sure that the auditors possess the skills, personality and style required to work most efficiently in the countries in which the internal function operates.

It is also recommended to select an audit team which ‘fits’ the national culture of the audited country. When an audit is planned in a country in which communication is traditionally direct, it is advised to select auditors in the audit team who possess the same skill.

Opening Meeting / Closing Meeting

5In collectivist countries the group prevails above the individual. Auditors can align with these national cultures by carefully taking this into account while performing the engagement; for example, by inviting the entire group of people relevant to the audit object for the opening meeting. This will create goodwill that can be used to perform the audit more efficiently and shows more respect to the specific culture.

Certain countries value relationships more than other countries. Therefore it is recommended for internal auditors to pay more attention to building a relationship with auditees in certain countries. This will allow for a more efficient and effective audit as the auditee is more open to the process and will cooperate more. Opening and closing meetings can be used for this purpose by taking more time into account.

Planning / Requesting Information

In some countries it is harder to schedule meetings while performing on-site procedures than in other countries, and similar differences apply to any changes to the interview schedule. It is recommended that auditors take the country into account when planning on-sites visits and adjust their planning accordingly.

Differences were also found between countries in responding to information requests before on-site visits. Some cultures require more explanation and chasing of the auditor in order to receive all required information. It is recommended for internal auditors to take this into account, as this aspect can greatly speed up the audit process and allow time to be used more effectively. 

6Communication

It is more effective to communicate in a fashion that fits the national culture. More direct and authority-driven countries in general have a more direct way of interaction, while other countries prefer a softer manner of communication. Based on the interviewees it is recommended that internal audit considers this in the communication with the auditee. In a more authoritative culture, for example, people attach more importance to recognition for one’s work, while in a more democratic culture a good working relationship with others is more important. An auditor can adjust to this: when auditing in an authoritative culture the auditor can clearly express knowledge of the responsibilities of the auditee and be bolder in communicating (asking questions directly, using fewer words to come to a question) as this is seen as ‘normal’. In countries that take a softer approach to communication, the auditor is advised to communicate in a more eloquent way (provide a more extensive introduction to questions and address feelings or emotions noted). Hofstede’s Femininity vs. Masculinity dimension can help in identifying the type of culture of a country.

Report

The results of the audit are communicated in the report. As mentioned in the previous paragraphs communication is an important topic. It is recommended that the language used in the final report fit the specific national culture. One of the interviewees mentioned that the language in the report be adjusted to the auditee, to use the language and phrasing used by the auditee. That way the culture is respected and the effectiveness of the audit is increased (for example in a collectivist culture it might be wise not to pinpoint a failed control to one person, although it was clear that one person was responsible; it is enough noting that the control has failed). By not presenting the results of the audit in a fashion that fits with the culture the auditor risks being seen as rude or disrespectful, thereby limiting the effectiveness of the audit and the willingness of the auditee to cooperate. Hofstede’s dimensions can help in finding a good fit.

Conclusion

Internal audit functions are advised to take differences in national culture into account while performing audits. Hofstede’s work is an example of easily accessible literature that can be of great use in understanding differences between national cultures. Taking differences between cultures into account can make audits more effective and efficient.

[1] Hofstede, Geert. ‘Dimensions – Geert Hofstede’. Geert-hofstede.com