Why your internal audit team should be completing weekly timesheets
Don't get me wrong. I hate timesheets as much as the next guy. It ruins your Friday, as you're ready you go home and then all of a sudden you get that pesky reminder email and next thing you know, your 15 minute early mark is all of a sudden taken away as you're stuck in the office recalling everything you did over the last week.
It's annoying, frustrating and also worrying (are you going to get caught for that 2 hour lunch break with your friends), but reality is, those timesheets are actually very important.
For everyone who has worked in practice, timesheets had the connotation of being used as evidence against you come your year end performance review. It also showed formed a critical part in how much was billed to the client. Yet for in house internal audit, the same thoughts of timesheets don't need to exist, and here's why.
1. They help with annual planning
By recording time, we are able to see how much time it actually takes to complete an audit. Too often do audit functions present a plan to the audit committee which is a little bit blind. We assume how much time it'll take to complete a review, and this in turn come sometimes lead to poorly scoped audits in an attempt to deliver the entire plan, or informing the audit committee that some reviews are now going to have to be dropped.
Once we know how much time it actually takes to complete a review, we can build a more appropriate annual plan which can be achievable and realistic.
2. It shows where we can improve
If we're spending too long on audits or we're consistently missing KPIs, this will be reflected through our time reporting. For instance, if we regularly struggle to have audit reports signed in a timely manner and our reporting phase of an audit has a lot of time charged to it, it could reflect issues in our report writing or finalisation processes. Once we know this, we can then offer tailored training to help the audit team write better reports and finalise reviews quicker.
3. It supports resourcing constraints
Budgets are always sensitive topics, particularly if requesting more money. But timesheets can show how under resourced your team may be, and provide evidence to support your need for headcount. Furthermore, it'll show where you need additional team members; junior level, middle, or manager level... timesheets will help you with your decision.
However there is also a more sinister side to timesheets. It's my personal belief that timesheets should note be used for this reason.
Where there is an under performer (or performers), in the team, timesheets can be used as supporting evidence for performance management. Personally, I understand the benefits of this, however it should be used as a last resort. As soon as team members become aware that their timesheets are being used top monitor performance, the value abs insights from the timesheets become eroded. Team members will begin recording "fair time"; a concept of reporting how long the task should have taken rather than how long it actually took. As soon as this happens, we begin to develop a false picture of how long an audit takes. From here, we then use the false information to prepare a plan which is not achievable, adding to the stress load of team members and creating a vicious cycle. The outcome is neither good for the employee or for the morale of the audit team. As such, whilst timesheets can be used to monitor performance, they should be done so very carefully so as to avoid the consequences.
We have developed a set of templates (including instructions), which can help you to implement a simple yet effective timesheet and reporting process in your audit team. You can view the free templates here or you can purchase the editable template here.
Timesheets are a tricky thing, and that is why it is extremely important that timesheets are introduced in a sensitive manner. It is important that team members are aware that timesheets are to help better plan, and that monitoring their hours is not the primary purpose.