I’ve been working with one particular client now for a year and a half. That may seem like a long time, but the results for the team have been nothing short of inspiring (and measurable!).
Two significant contributing factors are the commitment of the head of the department to creating positive change, and the willingness of team members to step out of their comfort zones and really implement the techniques and strategies I present to them. This client happens to be an internal audit client, but the concept can work for any team that writes reports.
Understanding the starting position
This internal audit team has 15 auditors from multiple countries including Germany, Russia, and China. The team audits around the world at the company’s international subsidiaries and joint ventures, and writes about 35 audit reports per year.
I was asked to provide report writing training, and as as part of this process, assessed the quality of their audit reports. This meant looking at structure, style, language, and content, as well as assessing whether the reports were written in a clear, concise and consistent manner. Stakeholder needs also had to be considered, because different readers have different content needs.
Identifying the pain points
Discussions with management and an assessment of their reports indicated that:
- The reports were too long, too wordy, and the main points were unclear in many cases.
- The varying levels of English meant inconsistent use of vocabulary, spotty grammar, and a tendency to write overly long sentences.
- The head of the department was spending at least 8 hours reviewing and editing each report, taking her time away from other core responsibilities.
Implementing a customized strategy
We began with a two-day workshop, International Audit Report Writing, during which we focused on writing with the stakeholders in mind, implementing best practices in professional writing, and drafting audit findings and recommendations using an agreed and approved scheme. We also addressed formality, tone and cultural impact of language used in the reports.
The next phase of our work together was individual report writing coaching, which we conducted by email. And then we moved on to team report writing coaching, conducted by email and telephone.
We also created and maintained a style guide for the team that they can continue to update and use going forward. It’s a valuable tool for new hires as well, giving them insight into what is expected when writing audit reports.
Celebrating the results
The team has successfully achieved its objectives of writing more clearly, concisely and consistently:
- Stakeholders eagerly accepted the changes to report style and structure because it takes them less time to read and understand the content.
- The head of the department has reduced her review time by over 50% and has noted that the findings, risk assessment and recommendations have become more focused and add more value to the business.
- Team members are relieved at their being less back-and-forth discussions during client meetings, which results from writing only what is needed to provide support the audit finding, risk assessment and recommendation.
Maximizing the ROI on your training investment
The best way to ensure you get the biggest return on investment for your training dollars is to develop a plan for AFTER the workshop ends. Because that is really where the journey begins: The team must be motivated, encouraged and supported as they begin to implement the tools, techniques and strategies to achieve significant improvement in their report writing abilities.
It takes time, it takes effort from everyone involved, and yes, it costs money. But think about it: How would you feel if you could free up 8 hours a month, almost 100 hours per year? That’s almost 2 and ½ weeks! Then you’ll be able to focus more on your core responsibilities to the business. How great is that??
All the best,
Tracie Marquardt, CPA and owner of Quality Assurance Communication, is Europe’s leading audit communications specialist. She is a trainer, coach and consultant to audit teams operating around the globe. Tracie empowers internal audit professionals to communicate their key messages more clearly and concisely so they can be more successful as they create positive change in their organizations. Connect with her today to get your free communication skills assessment.