Whilst the prospect of being audited may be daunting for some, adequate preparation can reduce pressure associated with the process. Follow these tips to prepare for and ensure a smooth and efficient audit, that will ultimately add value to your organisation:
- Arrange an adequate space for the auditor to use. As auditors usually work electronically, a desk and power source will be required.
- Clear your diary so you can provide the Auditor with your undivided attention on the audit date(s).
- Confirm that Senior Management are available to attend the audit opening and closing meetings. Auditors are looking for evidence that management support the management system and attendance at these meetings demonstrates some evidence towards this.
- Make certain you or other attending staff can locate everything you will require during the audit. Inability to find information within a system wastes audit time and suggests that the system is not effective. A good directory or table of contents will assist with this.
- Confirm that key staff members are available for the duration of the audit, and that the date does not coincide with holidays or company events.
- Ensure that staff have been briefed about the audit. Anyone who might be able to help the auditor should be on standby and everyone who is planned to talk to the auditor should be prepared.
- The auditor will need to see evidence that your organisation has an effective management system in place and procedures are correctly followed. Plan and make sure that access to all documents, records and databases will be available on the day(s).
- Ensure staff members prepare for the audit by reviewing documentation and records they are responsible for.
- Check that you are referring to the current Standard(s) requirements within your management system(s).
- If you have been working with a consultant on your management system, make sure you have received all documents with adequate time to read and understand them, prior to the audit.
- Be aware that the auditor may arrive early to set up and nominate a representative to be the point of contact whom will meet and greet them into your premises or office.
- It’s important to make sure the workspace is clean and well-organised. Managers should do a work site or premises inspection before the audit to identify any areas for improvement and housekeeping prior to the audit.
- Be open and honest, remember that the process aims to help improve the effectiveness of your organisation.
- If you do not understand a question that the auditor is asking, ask them to rephrase or clarify the question. They will be able to do this. Rephrasing questions and assisting people to understand them, is part of an auditor’s training.
You will have been provided with an audit plan in advance which will set out the structure of the audit, including areas to be reviewed, people to be met and timings. Auditing is strictly regulated so the auditor will have specific things they need to do, in a specific format, starting with an opening meeting and ending with a closing meeting. Do what you can to make it easy for them by providing access to the relevant documents and resources as quickly and smoothly as possible.
There is usually a huge amount of pressure built up before the audit and once it’s over the relief can be enormous. It’s very easy to regard audits of a management system as a one-off project that is now over. But the audits are scheduled annually or sooner if required, to check that you have carried on running the system as required, so you keep the momentum and motivation going follow you audit day.
Certification is really a starting point rather than an end result and hopefully as time goes by your management system will mature and improve and start to provide more value to the organisation.