It’s probably a fair assumption to state that nobody really enjoys being audited. An audit is a disruption to the working day. Managers and supervisors are concerned that there might be non-conformances; and employees are nervous about being asked difficult questions.
There are 3 types of audit – internal audits, supplier audits and 3rd party audits (e.g. by customers, certification bodies such as the BRC, or Environmental Health Officers). If you’re responsible for performing an audit, whether it’s of your own company or an external company, the way you conduct yourself can have a huge impact on the amount and quality of information you can gather.
Here are some simple pointers to help your audit run more smoothly
Don’t create unnecessary barriers.
First impressions count, so don’t go in acting like a stern headmaster! You’ll find that people will respond far better if you appear relaxed and professional. Smile, shake hands if appropriate, make eye contact and be polite and confident.
Accept hospitality during your audit
It’s a small point, but if you’re offered tea, coffee or biscuits by an external company on arrival or in the opening meeting, accept them. It helps to set a relaxed tone.
Don’t be a space invader
Remember – auditing is a two-way process. People can become intimidated if you invade their personal space. If they are backing away or leaning away from you it’s an indication that you’re standing too close. Keep a reasonable distance. You don’t want them to clam up during open questions or you might not elicit all the information you require.
Think about your body language
Body language can say a lot about you or the situation. Making eye contact with your auditee is very important, but do take care not to stare or it could make them feel self-conscious. We’ve already mentioned space invading, but at the other extreme try not to slouch or look around when the auditee is answering your questions. You need to make them feel fully engaged in what they’re telling you.
The single most important skill you have when auditing is listening and speaking. You have two ears and one mouth. Always aim to use them in that ratio.