Training insights – bespoke benefits A&R magazine May Jun 22

 

While the Chartered IIA  runs many public courses on a wide range of topics, some employers choose instead to work with the trainers to develop an in-house course for a specific team or group of individuals in the same organisation. The number who later come back to repeat the experience with different teams, or return to study more topics, demonstrates, even more than the positive feedback, that this approach has many benefits.

For a start the course can be tailored to suit the team’s needs – the course leaders can help attendees to explore their responses to genuine challenges and will often suggest using the organisation’s own working papers, controls and tests, so the wider issues are focused on the most relevant applications.

“For instance, in the Compliance Audit and Assurance module of the IIA Certificate I like to use as an example an audit subject that they have either already completed or a future audit topic. I then populate a complete set of audit working papers – including a risk and control matrix and test programme – with the appropriate risks, controls and tests,” explains Marian Silltow, who leads workshops for the IIA Certificate in Internal Audit and Business Risk. “It means we start the course with a complete package of materials that have been customised to their needs and sector.” 

She adds that delegates are often more willing to open up about specific issues and concerns in an in-house course, than they would necessarily be in front of strangers. “You get to know them well and understand what they need from you,” she says.

The courses may also be adapted to suit the experience and knowledge of the team – an important element if it is in the first or second line and does not have the same depth of knowledge of controls and governance as internal auditors.

“Sometimes clients have strong knowledge of the subject matter; they know exactly what they want, and they require an expert trainer to get the message across in the form of a training course,” explains Stephen Maycock, who works in conjunction with Silltow delivering modules of the IIA Certificate.

He has found that around half of the groups that book in-house courses do not work in internal audit and their needs and base levels of knowledge of controls and governance vary. One thing that is clear is there is considerable demand – and need – for this training.

“If clients are not already knowledgeable about the subject matter, we can help them by creating an outline for a course to discuss with them based upon initial conversations regarding their objectives for the training,” Maycock says.

The in-depth pre-course discussions also enable the course leaders and clients to work together to identify what exactly will best meet their needs. It’s not unknown for a client to request a particular course, for example on combating fraud, and then during the pre-course discussions realise they would be better doing another course, or the full certificate.

“On other occasions, teams use the training as a catalyst to review and improve their own processes. I find out whether this is the case beforehand, so I can initiate conversations on areas where they have potential to improve,” Maycock adds.

Best practice and benchmarking

The trainers not only help to guide teams through current dilemmas and find approaches to real challenges, but can also offer a perspective on best practice based on their knowledge of, and wide experience with, teams in different sectors. Attendees can therefore gain a long-term view of where they want to get to in future and benchmark their own performance, as well as gaining new skills and knowledge.

“I love doing the in-house courses because it’s great seeing people develop their understanding of governance, risk, controls and assurance,” Silltow says. “It’s particularly exciting working with people who start with little knowledge who are being asked to provide assurance but aren’t sure how to go about doing this. They often know the terminology but have no real idea how it applies to what they do. As we work through the materials, light bulbs start to come on and they get a better idea of what it means to provide assurance and how important it is to follow a professional approach.”

One of the interesting by-products of in-house training is how often it is used as a catalyst for teams to reconsider where their assurance work adds value to their organisations. For example, teams often organise away-days to discuss the training and how they can use the learning to improve the quality of their assurance.  

“When we work with teams from first- and second-line assurance we help them to learn to work in the same disciplined way as internal audit, which means that the first and second line can talk the same language as the third line. This really helps communications and builds trust,” Silltow adds. 

“Ultimately, it’s all about assurance. It doesn’t matter where you are in the assurance framework, we all need to speak the same language and understand the principles behind governance, risk and controls.”

Additional benefits

At a practical level, in-house courses may be more cost-effective if several people from one organisation require training. Groups who know each other may also be more relaxed in each other’s company and open about areas they are struggling with. Last, but not least, courses can take place at a time that is convenient and on their own premises (if they are face-to-face), which can save time and money. 

This article was first published in May 2022.