Attracting talent with non-traditional skills to audit is the top challenge for audit leaders this year, according to Gartner.

A survey reveals that making the leap to more advanced analytics applications, improving IT auditing practices, and providing sufficient assurance over cybersecurity were also serious concerns for audit leaders in 2022.

“Audit leaders continue to experience skills gaps in their departments and are actively seeking to fill those gaps with specialized talent who have data science, IT and cyber skills,” says Leslee McKnight, director, research for the Gartner Audit and Risk practice. “These already-scarce skills are competitively sought after in other parts of the business, so finding them is a particularly acute challenge this year.”

Fifty-seven percent of chief audit executives said that attracting talent with nontraditional skills was an important or extremely important issue for them in 2022. Fifty-six percent flagged the move to advanced analytics as a top challenge, and 53% were concerned about inadequate cybersecurity and IT auditing practices.

Other top challenges included providing assurance over critical transformation projects, and the increased complexity of the third-party risk environment.

“A hot jobs market, and increasing demands on auditors, mean that many audit leaders are struggling to retain the staff they have,” says McKnight, “Over a third of audit leaders report that high-performing talent is leaving their organisation.”

The difficulty in attracting talent to internal audit is a major factor driving many of the other top challenging facing audit leaders.

“Audit leaders also expressed lower confidence in their team’s ability to audit evolving areas, such as cybersecurity, environmental, social and government (ESG), talent risks in the broader organization, and increase in the department’s use of data analytics and technology,” says McKnight. “These areas often require the specialised skills audit teams are trying to attract.”

The results suggest that technology is presenting a dual challenge for audit – both in terms of audit department innovation and adequate risk coverage. Almost half of audit leaders feel their department isn’t ready to adopt more advanced analytics applications; nearly a quarter feel their function isn’t achieving adequate ROI from robotic process automation; over a third have low confidence in their ability to provide adequate assurance over cybersecurity and in their IT auditing practices.

“This apprehension from audit around technology comes at a time when 60% of audit departments are planning to increase audit technology spending this year,” says McKnight. “Difficulty attracting the right skills to audit, while needing to bolster technology risk coverage, and pursue departmental digital transformation efforts is creating a perfect storm around these in-demand capabilities.”