Inviting a Certification Body in to your organisation to assess your management system is a very daunting prospect, and those who probably fear it most are the staff who have not been involved in it’s development day-to-day.
Here are some tips to prepare for an ISO audit.
1. Communicate the Purpose of the Audit.
Ensuring that all staff are aware of the purpose of the audit will help you achieve its objectives. Tell staff who is coming, the reason for their visit, which aspects they will be particularly interested in and why it is important that the organisation presents itself as a well managed, compliant entity.
Remind them which standard it is they are auditing and what the numbers mean for example: “The Auditors will be assessing our ISO 9001 Quality Management System.”
2. Remind People of Your Policy Statement.
All management system standards have a requirement for a policy to head up the system, and in Annex SL based standards it’s no coincident that this requirement falls within Clause 5 for Leadership.
The policy statement provides concise strategic direction from the ‘top management’ and is therefore a key document for all staff to be aware of during an audit.
3. Tell them where their name is referenced.
If individuals are named within the management system, make sure they know about it!
There are various places actions and responsibilities might be assigned to someone in particular, such as against objectives, measures, KPIs or as Risk Owners. Where this is the case ensure they know the details of their responsibilities.
4. Don’t Make Things Up
When people are put on the spot they can often try to please the auditor by telling them what they ‘think’ the auditor wants to hear, even if there is no evidence to back it up. This is a bad strategy, as it will fall part quickly and seem in-genuine.
Be sure that staff know where to find the relevant policies and who to go to for more information.
There is no shame in not know an answer, if you know where to find it.
5. Consider Improvements to the System
Most external auditors consider themselves to be on your side, using their audits to highlight improvements that will ultimately benefit your organisation in the long run.
So don’t argue an auditor’s findings without giving it proper consideration first. It may seem like they are raising a negative ‘thing that hasn’t been done’, but usually they are asking you to take a closer look at a part of the management system.
It might be that the way work is right for your organisation and you can justify that, but equally there may be a better way to do it that an external party can see clearly from a distance.
Take some time to thing about the auditor’s comments before becoming defensive.
Want to know more or have any questions?
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