10 SMART Goals for Internal Auditors (Examples to Set Now)

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Goals For Internal Auditors That Increase Performance And Enhance Careers

Having spent part of my professional life working in internal audit, I want to share my thoughts on several performance and career goals for internal auditors.

Let’s get moving so you can start improving.

Examples Of Career AND Performance Goals For Internal Auditors

Here’s my top 10 list of internal auditor performance goals examples, including 3 to further develop your career:

  1. Be a business partner
  2. Improve your soft skills
  3. Become more efficient
  4. Integrate effectively with external auditors
  5. Cross-train extensively
  6. Get better at identifying business risks
  7. Hone your accounting skills
  8. Make a lateral job move
  9. Develop leadership skills
  10. Get your certification

Next, I will dig into these ten topics, breaking them into internal auditor performance versus internal auditor career goals.

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Disclosure: At no cost to you, I may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.

Examples Of Performance Goals For Internal Auditors

1. Be A Business Partner

Most people outside of the internal audit function are leery of internal auditors. Why? First, you create additional work as part of the audit. Second, you can make people look bad at their jobs if you aren’t careful.

So, you must distinguish between operating as an objective third party and being a valued business partner. Doing so is challenging, but the best internal auditors can find the right balance in their developmental goal-setting at work.

2. Improve Your Soft Skills

Soft skills are critical for internal auditors because you must work with many diverse people.

Thus, consider any one of the following possible areas for upskilling:

  • Verbal communication
  • Written communication
  • Meeting skills
  • Collaboration and teamwork
  • Negotiation
  • Listening effectively
  • Managerial effectiveness

There is a ton of opportunity for internal auditors to set themselves apart in any one or several of these essential areas.

3. Become More Efficient

Regardless of your level of responsibility, break the audit process into three areas:

  • Planning
  • Fieldwork
  • Reporting

In each area, look for ways to become more time and cost-efficient. Time is money; the longer an audit takes, the less cost-efficient it becomes.

Plan well, organize your work, prioritize, and leverage technology to be more efficient.

4. Integrate Effectively With External Auditors

Look for opportunities to work more effectively and efficiently with external auditors.

Communicate often. Avoid duplication of efforts. Create synergy. Build a strong working relationship.

5. Cross-Train Extensively

A bit later in the article, I identify and discuss the goals and objectives of the internal audit function. One of the things to be aware of from this is the broad scope of internal audit’s reach and responsibilities.

Thus, the greater your level of business experience, the better you will be at internal auditing.

Whenever you have the opportunity during or between audit engagements, deeply involve yourself in the business.

For example,

  • Go on sales calls
  • Work on production lines
  • Pick, pack, and ship in the warehouse
  • Test products for quality
  • Use the information technology system

To do so, leverage your authority as an auditor and be recognized as a business partner. What you learn will be invaluable as you grow in your current and future audit engagements.

6. Get Better At Identifying Business Risks

One of the most critical roles of internal auditors is identifying business risks. The last thing you want to happen is complete an audit area and have one or more sensitive issues rise to the surface. Specifically, problems you and the audit team missed.

Here are some ideas you can put to work related to risk management processes:

Adopt a risk management framework for every audit and audit area.

Step back and think logically about what risks may be hiding under the surface.

Brainstorm potential risks with other members of the audit team.

Become better skilled at observation and assessing key performance indicators for troublesome signs.

7. Hone Your Accounting Skills

Timely and accurate financial reporting is the lifeblood of every organization. If you are an accountant or not, set a goal to improve your accounting skills and your knowledge of financial reporting.

Furthermore, become an expert in the various business transactional cycles. For example, the sales orders to accounts receivable and cash cycles are critical.

Also, the procurement to accounts payable and payment cycles are excellent areas to dig into.

Work closely with the external auditors when doing so. After all, this area is their expertise.

Okay. That completes my discussion of seven performance goals for internal auditors. Set and achieve one or more of these goals to become a more effective and efficient internal audit professional.

Next, let’s shift gears and discuss your possible internal audit career goals.

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Examples Of Career Goals For Internal Auditors

As you consider your professional development plan, think about your career heading in one of two directions.

First, do you want to spend your entire career as an internal audit professional? Or do you want to use internal audit as a stepping stone into another area?

There is no right or wrong answer here.

Your long-term career planning is a matter of personal preference. However, the decision will influence your career goals as an internal auditor. However, the following two objectives for internal auditors will benefit you no matter your direction.

For the record, I used internal audit as a springboard into operational finance and accounting. I later became a senior finance executive at several different businesses. Most importantly, the skills I developed as an internal auditor were beneficial.

8. Make A Lateral Job Move

Make a lateral job move out of the internal audit function. Try an operational role of your choice. Doing so serves two purposes.

First, you may enjoy the new opportunity and decide on a career path beyond internal audit.

Second, you may choose to return to the internal audit function. Then the operations experience will significantly boost your abilities and credibility as an auditor.

9. Develop Leadership Skills

Set goals to improve your skills as a leader. Some possibilities include:

  • Think strategically
  • Accept responsibility
  • Promote change
  • Reflect and learn from failure
  • Be open to contructive critisism
  • Increase your emotional intelligence
  • Set a good example
  • Know your limits and work around them
  • Set expectations and goals
  • Be a coach and mentor
  • Provide positive feedback

Understand that you don’t have to be an internal audit manager to be a leader. Everyone can find ways to lead just by choosing goals from the list above.

Furthermore, check out this MasterClass on Learning How To Lead if developing your leadership skills is a priority.

10. Get Your Certification

Finally, when you choose internal auditing as a career, I recommend you become a Certified Internal Auditor.

Doing so is a great way to improve your resume, stand out and show your knowledge and commitment to the profession.

I passed the CIA exam later in life while teaching graduate school courses in accounting and auditing. I found the process challenging and rewarding.

Next, I will address goal alignment with the internal audit function.

Internal Audit Goals And Objectives – Align Your Development Plan

Remember the internal audit function’s overall goals and objectives when setting your performance and career goals. Then ensure your performance and career goals align with audit departments overall.

Here is a refresher.

Internal Audit Goals And Objectives

The goals of the internal audit function are to independently and objectively assess:

  • Ethics and governance
  • Business risks
  • Risk management
  • Internal controls
  • Accounting and financial reporting
  • Quality
  • Compliance
  • Business performance
  • Operational effectiveness and efficiency
  • The integrity of information technology
  • External business relationships
  • Contracts
  • Security and privacy

The internal audit function must effectively communicate the following:

Next, I will highlight another aspect of setting goals as an internal auditor.

SMART Goals For Internal Auditors

Internal auditors should use a proven goal-setting system. I recommend setting SMART goals.

SMART is an acronym that stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Timebound

In a nutshell, document your internal auditor performance goals and include these characteristics::

Specific: Make them as detailed as possible. What is the precise result after achieving your goal?

Measurable: Establish how you will measure progress and completion.

Achievable: Stretch yourself, but save time by working only on achievable goals.

Relevant: Ensure your internal auditor goals make sense for your specific situation.

Timebound: Set a deadline to achieve every goal you set.

Examples Of SMART Goals For Internal Auditors

Here are some examples to illustrate how to set SMART goals as an internal auditor.

Internal Auditor SMART Goal Example #1:

Specific goal: During the audit of the Waston City operation, spend one day working on production line A. Also, shadow the quality assurance team responsible for the line’s output. Identify areas for improvement.

Measurable: Spend 6 hours on the line and 2 hours shadowing quality assurance personnel.

Achievable: The activity has been discussed and approved with the Watson City Plant Manager as part of the audit planning.

Relevant: By becoming familiar with production operations, your audit efficiency and effectiveness will increase.

Timebound: Complete as part of audit fieldwork during week 1.

Internal Auditor SMART Goal Example #2:

Specific goal: Become a Certified Internal Auditor.

Measurable: The goal will be achieved after passing all three exam parts.

Achievable: Other members of my internal audit department have passed all three parts of the exam.

Relevant: As a career internal auditor, becoming a Certified Internal Auditor will demonstrate my knowledge of and commitment to my chosen profession.

Timebound: Prepare, take, and pass each exam part according to the following schedule:

Essentials of Internal Auditing (part 1) – End of quarter two this year

The practice of Internal Auditing (part 2) – End of quarter four this year

Business Knowledge for Internal Auditing (part 3) – End of quarter two next year

Okay. That’s all I have for you today.

So, allow me to wrap up with a few parting thoughts.

Selecting And Setting Goals For Internal Auditors: Wrap Up

Setting and achieving the right goals as an internal auditor is critical to your success as a professional.

Thus, dig deep into these ten goals we have discussed today and use the SMART system to set your goals. Then get busy taking your internal audit career to the next level.

When you are ready for more, check out my other articles about goal setting and professional development.

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Author Bio: Tom Scott founded the consulting and coaching firm Dividends Diversify, LLC. He leverages his expertise and decades of experience in goal setting, relocation assistance, and investing for long-term wealth to help clients reach their full potential.

Internal Auditor Performance Goals Examples Explained