Tax & AccountingFinanceComplianceFebruary 21, 2017

Continued education – The value of staying relevant

We made it to another year and memories of December are already fading. The end of the year is a special time in audit departments. Most departments are trying to wrap up their annual audit plan, put together a draft of the January audit committee report, some are thinking about holiday parties, and everyone with a certification is trying to figure out how they are going to get enough Continuing Professional Education hours (CPEs) to meet year-end reporting deadlines.

We all worked so hard to get certified and now we have to spend even more time going to conferences, reading, and watching webinars. In truth, we often forget the point of fulfilling CPE requirements. The reason for the requirement is not a secret, it is to prompt you to continue your professional education. Our jobs are always evolving, and the world in which we work is getting more complicated every day. Staying current and relevant in our field is mandatory.

One of the biggest concerns I hear consistently from auditors is the cost of paying for continuing education. The fastest way to get your CPEs is to go to conferences, but conferences are expensive. The IIA always produces the highest quality audit conferences, and you can get about half of the CPE requirements for the year at once. An IIA conference plus travel will cost you between $2,500 - $3,500 dollars. If you only consider a conference as a way to get CPEs, the cost is $140 - $190 per CPE. On the other hand, if you view this as an education opportunity as it was intended, there are more than 100 sessions where you can learn about a new audit area, focus on risk based auditing, learn about data analytics, discuss how to improve your department’s performance, and further your own career as an internal auditor. The IIA has less expensive options from free one-hour webinars to self-study at around $25/hour, but in any case, there will inevitably be a cost someone has to pay, especially if you waited until the end of the year. While each company is different, it usually makes sense for the department to pay for continuing education. When we hire a new auditor, we usually look for people with certifications. To hire the right person for an open position, you will spend weeks, if not months, in the hiring process. If you use a recruiter, you are going to pay thousands of dollars to their firm, plus sign-on bonuses, and internal costs. You are going to spend your time and your coworkers’ time in interviews. On the other hand, you could encourage your existing team to get certified. They will need to obtain training materials, attend classes, and study before and after work hours. You may offer them reimbursement for the training guides and classes, and give them time off for the actual test. Considering all of this effort, the next logical step is to support our staff in maintaining their certifications.

Audit management needs to lead by example. Managers, Directors, and CAEs are usually certified, so you have a vested interest in establishing an environment in which education is both highly valued and easily attained. There are several key ways to support this environment:

  • Factor an annual continuing education budget for each person. At the very lowest, you should consider $1,000 per person if you expect the staff to find free webinars and inexpensive self-study options to cover a portion of their annual CPEs. Just remember, this approach is very frustrating since the webinars can be hard to find and are usually held in the middle of the day in the middle of the week.
  • Bring training to the staff. Rates usually vary from $1,000 - $3,000 per day plus travel to have a professional provide a day of training, but you can typically get 8 hours of CPE for everyone on staff. Internal audit software companies like TeamMate can even provide CPE credits for configuration and training services related to using the software solution. We too have to stay relevant as a software company, and with the new TeamMate+ release we have updated our functionality. It may be a good time to revisit how effectively your department is using your audit solution.
  • Make sure staff is aware of education opportunities and the set aside budget. Your staff should never feel like they have to beg to use the budget you have already allocated. If you have the budget set aside for a conference, like the TeamMate User Forum, make sure your staff knows they can go.

Attaining certifications and staying relevant in our industry takes time and money every year. If you don’t make it easy for your staff to maintain their certifications, your employees are eventually going to let certifications lapse or they will find a new place to work. Considering how difficult it is to hire quality auditors, none of us can afford to lose sight of the value of continuing education.

For auditors who are challenged to improve audit productivity while delivering strategic insights, TeamMate provides expert solutions, delivered with premium professional services, to auditors around the globe and in every industry.

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