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Sandra Alamo: 5 Strategies to Attract and Retain Audit Team

Most would agree that recruiting and retaining top talent in ANY industry is important to the growth of a business.  My interview with Sandra Alamo, Director of Internal Audit for Clean Energy, hits home with five key strategies to attracting and retaining top internal audit talent. Here’s my top 5 HIT list:

I. It’s about the work dummy!

“Interesting work weighs more than just compensation”

When trying to recruit auditing professionals you should always be honest about both the hours, including any travel and the type of work. Never sugar coat the travel. I have always told staff there could be travel to both China and India on ALL manufacturing clients we serve. Let’s face it, the nature of our global economy will require us to travel outside of the US.

Be realistic about the room for promotion and tell them why it takes three to four years to be a manager or the next level up. Mrs. Sandra Alamo has been successful at attracting stellar professionals by offering them a great mix of interesting work and compensation. Let’s be real.  Most of your staff already know the salary calculator offered by RobertHalf. They know what a recruiter and other employers will offer them if they leave. But what they really don’t know is what it’s like working for you! So yes, you do have to expound about your own background and what they will learn under your leadership.

Now that the recession is over, we are no longer flooded with empty resumes and recruiting A-Players is more challenging.  Sandra Alamo has already shifted her focus less on SOX compliance and more on growing the business at each organization she’s heading. That’s the fundamental attitude and mix A-Players want to work for.

You can also attract, motivate and retain employees by offering them a desirable work-life package which includes at least three of these key areas:

  • Competitive Salary
  • New Projects
  • Partnerships with management (think about analytics for Marketing/Sales projects)
  • Volunteering as a team in exchange for time off
  • Flexible work schedules
  • Opportunities to work at home during certain months


II. Frequent and Interesting Learning

After a conference or training session, it can take only three days to lose approximately 50% or more of what you learned, especially if you don’t put it into practice. Of course you remember those wonderful humorous moments in the training if there were any, but most of us forget the details of the tactics offered in a training course. That’s way having frequent and more interesting learning opportunities is a must to keep great employees. Ensure you have a mix of both live training and online. Have your associates write down the top three outcomes of each training session before they go and collaborate on when you get a 10 minute debrief of how the session went.  Were the outcomes achieved and how does it impact their regular 9-5 activities with you! You’ll not only get more accountability from your colleagues, you’ll also provide get them motivated to pick better training sessions because they know you’re going to ask for RESULTS!

I recently interviewed a fellow church member who we met during our church’s quarterly bible study courses and during the last three years, he finally left his “safe” retail job for a career in selling insurance with a prestigious insurance carrier. After a morning meeting after church, I soon realized that his office was led by what I call a “Sales Spiker,” which is my code for those outliers and true anomalies that are on the far right of the bell curve. This insurance office is always in the Top 3 of all offices nationwide and there are hundreds of them! I reversed engineered his weekly and monthly time schedule to only conclude that three contributing factors to this office’s #3 position had to do with Training, Culture and Accountability. Training in this office was not only done weekly but also included annual 2 day training sessions that dealt with personal beliefs. In short, his office offered training to help an insurance sales agent stop or minimize the negative voices in your head! Imagine getting training on Life Lessons that you can use at home with your loved ones. It’s not only impactful and meaningful, it’s also something you’ll appreciate your boss cares about you being the best you possible! In conclusion, technical training should be 75% of your budget, but leave 25% for leadership and personal growth training sessions.

III. Praise your people, like your higher power intended you to!

Over the years, I have found praying and just being at Church a special time away from my office and work environment to “reflect.” It really has allowed me to focus on the NOW! I’m closely watching how I’m communicating withteammates because after all they are my neighbor too! I should treat them like I would want to be treated. Auditors weren’t programmed in college to writreview note. You learned this behavior from your supervisor. Auditing can be quite frankly “mean1” Early on in my career, I felt bad for getting so mreview notes and somewhere quite harsh. I’m thankful for my thick skin. But in the field with new generation auditors, it doesn’t fly well when don’t write a note of thanks and a “good job” comment here and there on work papers. Remember workpapers are NOT final documents until the auditover, and yes, you can write a complement to your staff in a workpaper. It goes over much better when you sit next to them and discuss all your revnotes on “why” they are there and yes, expound on your “good job” review notes too! I can promise you, your staff’s demeanor will change overnight when you praise them like you should!


IV. I See All of U!

How many of you know if your co-worker is married? How many of you knowthey have kids? How many of you know what your co-workers last meal request would be if they knew they were exiting this planet tomorrow?

By understanding each person’s background and goals, you can tailor position to meet their needs.For example, some may enjoy travel. Others may want to be surrounded by stellar professionals from whom they can leand grow professionally.Or they may want the opportunity to work with a new company or industry.  Some employees may want to acqunew skills, such as data analytics or IT auditing.  By offering team members work that fits their values and goals, they will achieve greater satisfaction and you will gain their continued commitment.

V. Experience Matters to Everyone

Those who have been in the field a long time may have a different set of priorities and values.Sandra offered a unique perspective to attract this type of talent and gain their loyalty. She recommended that you fiunderstand what their professional goals are and ask them how that balances with the rest of their other goals outside of work. Getting to know an experienprofessional is like rebuffing a gem that was lost at sea. It got a few scratches from either bad bosses, horrible work culture or maybe eungrateful boards. These professionals need to feel that when they walk in the office, their experience to the team matters to everyone. Most seasoprofessionals do better with an OPEN meeting where gratitude is expressed in a special group meeting. Don’t forget to politely brag about the great thiyour company does. Seasoned professionals often want to work with a company that has a good reputation. Sandra has also found that she is ato attract and retain top talent by sharing her management style and reputation in the marketplace.

Summarized Retention Strategies

Interesting Work

: While we may be motivated by different things, many seasoned professionals value the opportunity to learn new skills and tackle new challenges.

Learning Opportunities for Technical and Personal Growth

: Work with your colleagues in developing a mix of training sessions that have both technical and personal growth courses.

Meaningful Praise


Our profession is already a bit harsh and we don’t need to rub in someone’s learning curve with harsh criticism. It’s best to offer objective feedback and include meaningful praises of their hard work.

Knowing your people


Professionals value having a friend in the workplace.  A recent Gallup poll suggests that having a “best friend” in the workplace, especially if it’s your boss, made a huge difference in job satisfaction.

Experienced professionals attract better quality


High performers who come from Public Accounting are used to being highly compensated and may be accustomed to 10-12% raises and bonuses.  Invest time to set up employee’s compensation expectations and “perks” at the interview stage.

  • Having trouble keeping staff?
  • Can’t attract the right talent?
  • Tired of getting empty resumes?


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Listen to Entire Sandra Alamo Interview

More about Sandra Alamo

Sandra is Director of Internal Audit at Clean Energy, the largest provider of natural gas fuel for transportation in North America.  She seventeen years of experience in the Internal Audit field, in the past she has served as the Assistant Internal Audit Director with Volt InformatSciences, Inc. and Senior Manager with Ernst & Young.  Sandra started her career in the corporate accounting department with Texaco Refining & Marketing, Inc. Sandra is a CIA, CRMA and holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Accounting from USC.