Internal audits are often experienced as something boring. As a must, an unwanted intrusion into everyday activities. But the moment you stop seeing auditing as a chore, great opportunities arise for your organisation.
An audit is primarily intended to check whether your organisation meets specific standards, conditions and requirements. By performing internal audits, organisations ensure that they are compliant when faced with external controls. Whether it concerns the environment, safety or health. On the other hand, the requirements from external bodies and stakeholders are constantly changing. Continuous auditing is therefore increasingly becoming the way of life.
Unfortunately, auditing is still often seen as policing. ‘Again, another person is coming to tell me what is not going well, and especially what I am not doing well.’ This is a culture that we have all been able to create over the years that does not benefit effective auditing. Employees take the audits because they have to; it is part of their job description. Therefore, they will not do it because they think it will do them any good. Furthermore, they are often not keen on having to present the results to management.
You can ask yourself what this way of auditing delivers. Are the results objective? Are desirable answers filled in instead of actual observations? If auditing becomes a chore, chances are you will get answers you could have filled out yourself without an audit. If you treat an audit this way, you will miss out on the benefits that regular auditing can bring. You can read about the benefits in the next paragraph.
How can conducting an internal audit benefit your organisation? First, let’s refute the idea that auditors move through the organisation like police officers. Auditing is not about finding mistakes. It is about establishing facts.
So, what could be better, but also: what is going well? And we mean ‘better’ in the broadest sense of the word. It does not have to be that something can only be improved if something is wrong. Better can also mean: is this still the fastest, most efficient or cheapest way? And if not, how are we going to tackle it?
An audit is an opportunity to improve things. For example, to work faster, smarter and more efficiently. But also to take a critical look at procedures and instructions and to assess whether they still meet the standards or the wishes of the professionals who have to use them. But audits can also prevent technical problems. An audit may reveal, for example, that a machine needs maintenance or replacement or that parts will soon need to be replaced. You can prevent machine failure in the (near) future by tackling this now.
So far, we have emphasised why the perspective on internal audits needs to be changed. But to do so, the auditing process also has to be made more appealing. In the upcoming post, we will provide tips on how to optimise your auditing by making it fun and efficient.
In our last post, we discussed why the perspective on internal audits has to be changed. Following this reasoning, in this article, we will provide tips on making the auditing process more appealing. The goal is to make it more fun and efficient, but how?
It is good to involve other departments and employees in an audit to prevent an auditor from habitually failing to see what could be improved. They provide a fresh view, are not yet audit tired and ensure that an audit can be instructive for all parties. This way of auditing can be done, for instance, with the Brown Paper Audit.
An internal audit is only helpful if good feedback can be given. But how do you provide feedback so that someone does not feel personally attacked and is willing to do something with that feedback? In recent years, organisations have tended to focus more and more on the positive points. Negative points are no longer seen as mistakes but as opportunities to improve. We see a similar movement in incident and risk management. This is also referred to as Safety-II and means that we also look at what is going well, for example, which measures have prevented a more serious incident.
An internal audit will irrevocably reveal points for improvement. 100% perfection is an illusion, just as 100% safety is. We can, however, try to come close to 100%. Auditing is a good tool for that. But how do you process all that feedback?
A tried and tested method for giving personal feedback is the sandwich method. You always start by expressing one or more positive points. Make sure that you do not throw everything on the table straight away, but save at least one positive point for later. Then the less positive points follow, with advice on how to improve. Do this not by saying: ‘this is how it should be’ but by saying: ‘you could do it this way or that way’. Or ask the other person how they think things could be done differently and thus better. Then conclude with at least one more positive point. You can also structure the output of an audit in this way.
We have already given tips on making auditing more fun and efficient. By involving other people, you create a fresh look and new enthusiasm. Providing feedback through a more positive approach creates less emotionally charged moments. But there are different ways to make auditing feel less like a chore.
First of all, an important tip: make sure people get the time to audit! It is still too often seen as extra work, for which little time is given. And that while auditing is so important. Make it a priority at work. The place where audits take place also matters a lot. Don’t put auditors in an office or a small room, but let the audits take place on the shop floor. Create an atmosphere where employees feel free to share their experiences. This way, auditors can ask questions instead of just checking things from a distance. This provides so much more information than just a ticked-off list.
In addition, provide training and education. The world is constantly changing, and auditing with outdated or insufficient knowledge is neither fun nor effective. Moreover, training challenges people, and many need that extra stimulus to get out of the rut.
Finally, ensure that audits can proceed according to a fixed pattern. Process-based auditing is much more valuable than just random auditing. Plan internal audits with some regularity and provide good material. Innovative audit management software helps plan and execute audits efficiently and makes the work of professionals easier.
Wondering how you can audit more effectively and efficiently? Our experts are happy to discuss this with you.