Dr. Hernan Murdock, CIA, CRMA, serves as the VP of Content and Programming at ACI Learning. As a certified internal auditor, risk management expert, and instructor, Dr. Murdock has seen up close how giving and receiving feedback is an essential element in every internal auditors’ development. In this article, he shares the best practices that can help internal auditors more effectively give, receive, and adopt feedback.
First and foremost, all feedback should be based on relevant facts. By basing comments on observed behaviors and results – not unnecessary judgments – managers can provide a constructive, balanced review that focuses on strengths and areas for improvement.
It is important to remember that a critical role for any manager is to support staff members during their development and career growth. Managers should encourage ideas, opinions and different thoughts about the methodology followed and the work produced (e.g., testing performed, narratives and reports written, flowcharts drawn, etc.). They should also encourage the staff member to provide ideas on what is (and is not) working, what should be continued, what should change, and what should be stopped.
The manager should focus on feelings and emotions that guide the auditor towards desired behaviors. The tone should be as positive as possible while simultaneously addressing any negative feelings present. These negative elements should be kept in check or put aside so the focus stays on what needs to be done to improve performance and help the auditor grow professionally.
Part of a manager’s feedback should be on what the internal auditor is learning from her successes and failures. Focusing on learning is a good way to reframe issues and look at the positive side of improvement opportunities. Ultimately, this can enable the internal auditor to take ownership of their actions and personally invest in taking corrective actions.
During the conversation, managers should include an assessment of the implications of what the internal auditor has done and learned. By including implications, the manager can provide a wider perspective on the impact of the auditor’s behaviors and actions.
Managers should help internal auditors implement corrective actions and adopt better work practices. This can be done by setting new goals that keep the individual moving forward. Transforming actions into positive habits can lead to better performance in the future.
The aim should be to always provide feedback promptly and in a timely manner. This is why many organizations have implemented a mechanism to provide formal feedback frequently, and informal feedback spontaneously. Under this framework, the annual review is infrequent and often too late. Behaviors needing improvement continue for months when they could have been corrected sooner.
In addition to feedback from a manager and customers, internal audit departments should consider implementing a 360-degree review. This holistic and comprehensive review mechanism incorporates feedback from an employee’s manager, peers, direct reports, and sometimes even external consultants or vendors (e.g., co-source providers). By increasing the number of participants in the review process, a better understanding of an individual’s strengths and weaknesses can be gained. It provides a rounded view, especially since many internal auditors work on multiple projects with multiple managers or outside daily oversight entirely.
The following are some essential elements to make the 360-degree review process work well.
Many organizations experience subpar results from 360-degree reviews because they do not operate in an environment where feedback is fair, objective, and honest. When this happens, the process is tainted by retaliation (or the perceived threat of it). In some cases, employees are afraid to provide honest feedback about their managers or use the process to intentionally damage the reputation of others. Any of these cultural issues can derail the program and eventually lead to its discontinuance.
Like all performance evaluation programs, a 360-degree review should look to the past with sufficient effort to gain an understanding of past performance. But it must also focus on how skills and competencies can be enhanced in the future. By having a development component that addresses future needs and performance, the process will be more effective and valuable to the internal auditor whose work is under review.
The review should not be limited solely to technical skills. It should also include a comprehensive look at aspects such as leadership, communication, teamwork, decision-making, problem-resolution, time management, effectiveness, and collaboration.
Ultimately, the goal should be to make a 360-degree review beneficial and useful to all parties involved: the employee, the manager, and the department.
As they receive valuable input from a variety of sources, the employee benefits by receiving feedback that can help improve performance and advance in their careers.
With a diverse and comprehensive array of insights, the manager can continue to support the employee’s growth and development.
For the department, a culture of giving and receiving feedback is created that continuously improves how the work gets done.
The One Minute Manager is considered by many as a classic source on business and management. Originally published in 1982 and updated in 2015, authors Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson offered the following advice on giving and receiving feedback. As you can see, the advice is timeless and applicable to internal audit teams.
Let your employees know in advance that you will often tell them how they are doing by giving them feedback on their work performance.
When you learn that someone has done a good job, praise that person as soon as possible. Don’t wait for the performance review.
Tell people what they did right. Be specific.
Tell employees how good you feel about what they did right. Also, mention the helpful impact their actions have on the organization and on the other people who work there.
Don’t rush your praising. Stop for a moment to let the employee really feel that you genuinely mean what you are saying.
Encourage the person to continue doing more of the same.
When evaluating an internal auditor’s performance, giving and receiving timely feedback is essential for ensuring continued development and growth. Ultimately, this will result in more engaged, more capable, and more productive individuals and teams.