Internal Audit Priorities: Diversity & Inclusion

The last few years have been marked by campaigns and progressive discussion highlighting the importance of diversity and inclusion to society. Businesses and organisations are increasingly concerned with the impact of inclusivity and the benefits greater diversity brings.

Internal audit as a department and a profession is no exception. However, while many employers and internal audit leaders have made improvements to address gender imbalances it is still struggling to encompass a truly inclusive attitude that addresses disability, neurodiversity, and differences in socio-economic background, lifestyle, and beliefs.

Why is diversity and inclusion important in the workplace?

Building diverse and inclusive teams provides several benefits from increasing productivity to improving a company’s reputation. Some of the most important benefits of diversity and inclusion include:

  • Increased productivity, creativity & revenue

Different skill sets, experience and perspectives work together to provide new and innovative ideas, fresh ways of looking at problems and the potential for increased productivity and better financial performance. 

  • Reduced turnover

Promoting an inclusive work culture allows employees to feel more valued and accepted. Additionally, a diverse leadership team means that employees feel listened to and more comfortable discussing problems and difficulties which arise. All of which leaves them feeling happier and less likely to move on.

  • Better problem solving & better decision making

Diverse teams have been found to solve problems faster than their more less diverse counterparts. Groups with different experiences and views can bring a better range of ideas to the table and teams can reach innovative solutions faster. Similarly diverse teams come up with more effective, informed decisions with better results.

  • Positive customer & employee reputation

Companies with a diverse and inclusive workplace culture are frequently seen by customers and clients as more relatable and socially responsible. Companies with these qualities are increasingly more attractive to consumers who are looking for the businesses they work with or buy from to share their values. Potential employees are also more attracted to working for companies with happier, more engaged workforces.

  • Increased cultural awareness

A diverse workforce means a company is in a better position to understand cultural nuance and compete in an increasingly global marketplace.

Why having a diverse audit team improves audit quality and overall company culture 

It is important for businesses to model diversity from the top down and across all functions and departments. As businesses make efforts to increase the diversity of their wider workforce it is important for internal audit teams to reflect this in their make-up to deliver excellent results and better audit soft controls for company culture. Some of the benefits of diversity in your audit function include:

  • Diverse audit teams contribute innovative thoughts, ideas and solutions
  • It allows underrepresented groups to feel comfortable expressing concerns
  • It brings together auditors with different backgrounds, ways of thinking and skill sets
  • A diverse internal audit team signals a wider intention to address inclusion and impact company culture across the board  

How to improve diversity in your internal audit team

Overall, as a profession internal audit has experienced success in improving diversity in areas such as gender in comparison with other disciplines. Over 42% of the members of the Chartered Institute of Internal Auditors are women. Although these statistics drop as professionals move up the career ladder and there remain fewer women in leadership positions within internal audit.

However, there are significant areas, such as race, socio-economic background, disability, and neurodiversity representation around which the industry is struggling to provide an environment of inclusion outside of London

What are some ways employers can improve diversity in their internal audit team?

  • Address unconscious bias

We all carry unconscious biases which affect how we interact with others. Providing unconscious bias training to management and hiring staff is the first step to developing a more inclusive workplace culture.

  • Advertise your internal audit jobs in non-traditional spaces

Look beyond traditional spaces for advertising jobs. You can utilise social media, attend jobs fairs and leverage specialist recruiters, like Barclay Simpson, to connect with candidates from more diverse backgrounds.

  • Create mentorship and support opportunities 

Offer opportunities to support employees from different backgrounds in their professional development through inclusive mentorship schemes, targeted internships, and training opportunities.

  • Offer flexible working

Allow employees the opportunity to work more flexibly. Remote working and flexible hours give employees the ability to balance work with their daily life and allows those with caring responsibilities the opportunity to continue in the workforce which can be particularly helpful in supporting women entering leadership positions. 

  • Incorporate diversity into workplace policies and processes

Ensure that company policies and practices are as inclusive as possible. This means reviewing hiring practices, performance evaluations, onboarding policies, promotions, and benefits to ensure they are accessible, free from exclusive language and reflect what your employees’ need from you as their employer. Also useful to review is your workplace’s physical accessibility. Can employees with different levels of physical ability access bathrooms, do you have private spaces for prayer or breast-feeding, and is your technology accessible?

Diversity and audit checklist: 

When conducting a diversity assessment of your internal audit team follow these steps:

  1. Collect data – data should include statistics on hiring and promotions, employee demographics, employee feedback, performance reviews, industry benchmarks.
  2. Review internal procedures, communication, and policies – list your internal processes for hiring, onboarding, evaluations as well as material from job advertisements, websites, and marketing material.
  3. Conduct interviews, focus groups, and gather feedback from current employees – ask their opinions on workplace culture and leadership attitudes.
  4. Build an action plan – link your research to recommendations for direct, concrete action and strategy going forward to improve diversity.

How can Barclay Simpson help you create an internal audit function with diversity and inclusion embedded at its core? 

At Barclay Simpson we can help you create diverse and inclusive internal audit teams that can take your business forward. We source experienced professionals through our sophisticated network of contacts built up over many years. Our consultants work with you to understand your specific values and requirements to find your candidates of the highest calibre.

Get in touch today to find out how we can help