In a growing small business, introducing an internal auditor into a team can be a challenge. In many cases, established units have a difficult time accepting change and welcoming strangers. When that stranger is going to look at practices that may have been implemented years ago by the same staff doing the same job they’ve done for years, maybe even decades, that challenge is intensified. Also, staff may not understand what an internal auditor is, especially if the audit concept was recently introduced. Staff that does have experience with being audited usually describes the practice as time-consuming torcher where they are in constant fear of the informant running back to the boss with every little finding.
As an Internal Auditor, what steps can you take to ease the tension and promote cooperation?
It is amazing what walls will be taken down with a simple “good morning; this is whom I am, this is what my goals are and I am not a threat.” Many team members just need reassurance that you aren’t coming in “guns ablaze,” or in other words, that you weren’t hired by the company to find and terminate all employees who have ever made a mistake. When connecting with teammates, be personable and considerate. Remind the staff that you are part of the team and are essentially working for them, looking for areas where development of policies and procedures would make their everyday functions clearer and more efficient and at the same time, confirming that all staff is producing quality service in alignment with already documented policies and procedures.
Ask Probing Questions Informally
If you are new to the business, using that unfamiliarity of procedures to have someone walk you through a process is a great way to learn a practice without seeming demanding or too assertive. If you are not new to the business, sending initial questions about processes in an email or giving the colleague a quick call will reduce anxiety. Note, even if communication is causal, it is important to document all communications, so be sure to follow up any face-to-face or phone conversations with a summary email.
Be Ready for Opposition
No matter how friendly and supportive you are, there will always be someone who is reluctant to share information. Make sure frustration does not get the best of you; threatening non-compliance and pushing power will not get you the information you need nor the reputation you want for an open and accommodating work environment.
Changing the perception of the internal auditor as an infiltrator will take time and patience. By exhibiting consistent and persistent cooperative interactions, the personnel will soon see that you are part of the team.