How to conduct an internal audit without alienating your staff

We all know how important it is to measure your personal performance against standards you’ve set for yourself, and it’s equally important to be able to evaluate your business in a similar way. Internal audits play a huge part in successful businesses. Whether you’re trying to measure up to the standards set by ISO 9001:2015, or simply trying to find out how you can do business better as part of your game plan, it’s essential to conduct regular internal audits properly. With this in mind, here we offer some actionable advice to help you audit – and therefore perform – better.

 

Have a Plan and Stick to it

Never “spring” an audit on your staff. Internal audits should be planned for and written into your calendar for all to see. They’re not meant to put staff under undue pressure, but are simply there to measure the current performance and identify opportunities to do things better.

Notify your staff of any internal audits well in advance, and be prepared to answer questions they may have – especially if their role has never been audited before. Ensure you let them know that an audit isn’t meant to lay blame if things are found not to be perfect, but to find ways of improving efficiency and quality, which will benefit them in the long run.

 

Ask the Right Questions

Presumably, this won’t be the first time you’ve looked at the inner workings of your business in some form, even if there hasn’t been an “official” audit, so you’re sure to have a good idea of the workings of a specific department. (Hopefully in writing as part of your SOPs). Use this to come up with a list of questions to ask the person whose department you’re auditing. If this isn’t your first audit, review previous findings and use these as a basis for what needs to be looked at.

 

Don’t Demand Structured Answers

Often, those in a quality control role forget that an audit can be a source of much worry to members of staff that have never experienced them. Don’t forget the reason any employees were hired was to fulfil the needs of their role, and they doubtless have the experience and knowledge to do so. However, this doesn’t mean, that they expect to be the focus of an audit, so it’s likely they won’t respond as per the expected written processes.

Drawing information out of auditees should be done with care. Instead of asking how their work measures up against written procedures, try suggesting scenarios and asking them what they would do based on those situations – you’re more likely to get a detailed answer, and your auditee will be happiest talking about what they do, rather than what’s written down. When asking about the processes flow, ask leading questions, like what happens next, rather than resorting to questions that can only be answered “yes” or “no”.

Having completed audits on almost every type of business niche, here at Synergos we’re adept at putting people at ease, whilst finding out all the information we need to put a great plan of action in place that will improve the way a business operates. Whether you’re considering ISO 9001:2015 certification, or you want a quality management system that works for your business, we can help you get there – without alienating your staff. Simply call us on 01484 817 444 or email info@synergosconsultancy.co.uk and we’ll be happy to talk you through how we can help.

 

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Jenny Kilburn
Jenny Kilburn
Completed my Masters in Business Administration (MBA) in 2012 I was looking to start my own business. With over 10 years improving and streamlining business systems, I grasped an opportunity to assist a local business to improve their quality and communication processes by researching the requirements of a quality management system based upon ISO 9001 and conducted my first internal audit that resulted in 97 improvement recommendations. After a successful outcome, I was recommended again and again with glowing reviews and in February 2014, Synergos Consultancy was born. I now have the role of regularly reviewing and planning the strategic direction of the business to ensure that Synergos continues to develop, whilst at the same time, still actively working closely with some of our clients. In my spare time I love to attend the theatre to watch musicals, dance productions and plays. In 2019, I attended the theatre a whopping 24 times. I follow a plant-based diet which I absolutely love. A keen tick-tock follower, I have picked up a lot of interesting recipes. A firm favourite is Brussel sprouts and sriracha sauce baked in the oven. Delicious!
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