Many internal audit functions design training around technical skills instead of soft skills, lessening the priority of effective communication in internal audit. We cannot overlook communication skills training. Departments should provide regular training sessions on communication for the auditor skill set, and one of those areas should include avoiding jargon. If we practice effective communication in internal audit, we should assess the amount of jargon we use and develop alternative terminology that best suits our organizations. The training can then focus on using common terminology to improve our audit communications.
IIA Standard 2420: Quality of Communications requires that communications be “clear, easily understood, and logical, and provide significant and relevant information.” To help the team develop their audit skills and abilities, the training session can include exercises on being concise and avoiding jargon. As a basic principle, convey your message in as few words as possible. Make your point clearly and directly, whether you are communicating to someone in person, on the phone, in a meeting, in an email, or in a report.
Going back to the audit report example, issues are sometimes written with jargon to give too much background information. Here is an example:
During the accounting audit, the internal auditors selected a random sample of reconciliations. They observed the accounting director had approved all account reconciliations without performing an analytical review of the source documentation prior to approving the reconciliations. The blanket approval is the result of a policy put in place five years ago that has not been revisited since a new systemic control process to automate the manual account reconciliation, thereby rendering the manual review redundant. (75 words)
The wordy issue can be rewritten as follows:
Internal auditors observed the accounting director approving account reconciliations without reviewing. The existing account reconciliation control should be updated to reflect the current automated reconciliation process. (26 words)
When you evaluate internal auditor skills and competencies for the department, consider assessing the jargon in use by auditors. Avoiding jargon dramatically improves our ability to provide effective communication in internal audit. Developing an action plan and training sessions to limit the amount of jargon we use can improve our audit communication by addressing stakeholders with common terminology they can actually understand — especially in the audit report.