Prior to the pandemic, the standard practice has been to provide face-to-face training in a group setting or one-on-one with members of the audit teams. The biggest challenge commonly faced through both types of training is difficulty to connect with the trainees’ understanding – to make the subject matter relatable to them in both the theoretical as well as practical sense.

The challenge facing the trainees in terms of their understanding of the subject matter is more easily overcome in a one-on-one setting as there is a measure of context that can be provided specific to the client. This enables the trainer to identify precisely what the trainee is misunderstanding relating to the principles of the audit section in question and the most appropriate testing approach.

Unfortunately, the above luxury is not experienced when trainers are providing generic training to a group of recipients, no matter the number of applicable examples we may provide. This is because the trainees are better able to understand the principles being taught to them when they are on the ground and are faced with a real-life problem which they can practically solve. This affords them the opportunity for their understanding to become a “full circle” as they can see the process from the breaking down of the problem right through to the resolution thereof.

There are many factors to consider when determining the best approach for the delivery of training – depending on the type of training. With the global pandemic, we have seen massive changes in many of these factors.

A prime example includes the change in the medium of delivery of both one-on-one and group training, from a face-to-face delivery to delivery via Zoom or Teams. This initially presented a different challenge in that it was very difficult to engage and hold the attention of the recipients of both training types.

Part of the reason for this disengagement was due to the fact that a large proportion of the trainees still suffered from a measure of what they incorrectly perceived to be technological illiteracy manifesting as a lack of confidence and even moments of sheer panic.

This disengagement, compounded by the negative effects of the pandemic on the trainees’ mental health, resulted in restrictions in the recipients’ ability to understand and process the information presented, impairing the trainees’ confidence in themselves and their ability to face the challenges on their own, even after receiving training.

What is most fascinating about the challenges presented by the change in medium of delivery is seeing how these same trainees have adapted and are now comfortable with training presented over electronic media. When giving one-on-one training, I have noticed that many trainees tend to be more receptive to the factual elements of the training when presented over digital media, as if it is easier to commit their attention to a dedicated program on their screens.

I have also noted a general increase in the confidence levels of the trainees as they have successfully adjusted themselves and their perceptions to our “new normal”. Being present in the same room tends to lend comfort on an emotional level and is an easier method to assist them in the building of their confidence, potentially due to a lack of human intimacy when provided over a computer screen.

Unfortunately, the above improvements from a one-on-one perspective do not translate as well on a group training basis, however, we have always had some degree of challenge when presenting generic training. Making use of tools such as Microsoft Forms is assisting us in bridging at least some of that gap, but further research and innovation as to the promotion of engagement will continue to improve on an ongoing basis.

Jordan van der Merwe

Supervisor: Audit Technical Training, Johannesburg

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