Often, the certification (be it ISO 9001, ISO 14001, ISO 45001, or any other standard) is tied to the company’s contracts, customer service, and many other vital factors for the organization’s operation. This, in itself, can induce some pressure during the audits.
However, today we fully understand that an external audit (or 3rd party audit) is a natural improvement process. Every company will undergo it, and this is not a cause for tension. Thus, to aid in this perspective, today’s article will discuss some difficulties companies face that can be mitigated.
The intent here isn’t to delve into normative requirements, which are common to all audits, but rather to consider aspects of the audit itself. Thus, the tips here apply to any management system audit, whether based on ISO (International Organization for Standardization) standards or any other management standard. With that said, let’s get to the content!
Traceability: The challenge of finding evidence and other information.
Auditing is essentially a process comparing the audited standard (like ISO 9001) with the organization’s daily operations. For this, the auditor collects evidence to show that routines conform to the standard’s requirements. Much of this evidence relies on analyzing various documents. This involves not only finding documented processes and procedures but also evaluating several other records. If the company doesn’t have an efficient documentation system, this evaluation can become quite stressful. Often, the process might be in compliance, but the inability to locate the appropriate documentation could result in non-conformities. Therefore, it’s worth investing in organizing documentation and ensuring traceability in your company’s information.
Operational Interruption: The issue of time constraints.
Much of the auditor’s role involves interviewing people to understand the system and how it aligns with the management standard. This means employees might need to pause their activities; it’s impossible to audit a process without interrupting people. Consequently, operations may be affected at some point. Typically, audit teams are much smaller compared to the company’s workforce, so the overall impact tends to be minimal. However, depending on the process and the company’s context, pausing just one employee can have significant repercussions. Hence, recognizing that these interruptions are necessary and planning audits correctly is vital.
Human Factors: Pressure, fear, resistance, and anxiety.
Returning to the article’s opening topic, there will always be a certain level of nervousness during audits. However, this can escalate to a point where the audit becomes unfeasible. If the auditor isn’t ethical, calm, and assertive, individuals might become too anxious to respond accurately. Similarly, if people are overly nervous, scared, or resistant, they might struggle to demonstrate compliance. So, it’s beneficial to familiarize everyone with the process before the audit commences, emphasizing its role in bringing improvements.
Turning External Audit Challenges into Opportunities.
In this article, we’ve explored the primary challenges companies face during external audits. It’s natural to feel discomfort and tension during this assessment, but it’s essential to understand that 3rd party audits can be a potent tool for organizational growth and continuous improvement. Effective document management can aid not only in the audit but also in fostering transparency and agility within the entire company. Preparing adequately for the auditor without affecting operations displays planning maturity, enabling the company to face adversities more flexibly. Moreover, properly preparing employees fosters greater human capital growth, with the opportunities highlighted during the audit becoming more significant. Finally, to address these challenges, it’s crucial to hire a trustworthy certifying entity with professional, ethical, and well-prepared auditors.
Remember, external audit challenges can be turned into opportunities. They present a chance to enhance the organization, strengthen compliance, improve internal communication, and raise the quality of offered products or services. Therefore, view 3rd party audits as a means to achieve excellence, not just a hurdle to overcome. What might initially seem challenging can become a springboard to success, propelling your company to new levels of efficiency and quality. Stay prepared, maintain a focus on continuous improvement, and reap the benefits!