7 Tips for Making it Through an Audit
You have spent weeks (if not months) preparing and planning for the big upcoming audit. As the Management Representative, you are ready to answer questions and point the auditors to evidence, and help guide your colleagues through the process.
However, audits can last for days, or even stretch over a week or two. This can be exhausting even for those who are well-prepared. This is not even taking into consideration the “normal” obligations which form part of your management system that need to meet during the audit.
Here are 7 tips on how to survive and thrive during an Audit.
1. Set up Schedules For Your Management System Team
Not all members of the management system team will be present during the entirety of the audit. The “normal” obligations of the management system need to be met as monitoring, meetings, and reports cannot be put on hold.
If possible, assign a team member to oversee these tasks.
2. Schedule in breaks
Taking breaks through an audit is essential. Many auditors would have scheduled time to write up a quick set of notes on what they have observed, what they need to observe, or even to collaborate and confer with their team members. If they don’t need you or the entire team for this process, step aside and take a break. But let the auditors know where they can you if they have questions or need clarity.
While setting up the schedule in tip 1, rotate team members allowing them to gain audit experience while others take a break from the audit.
3. Take Notes
Be prepared to take notes during the audit. All management system team members should be taking note of what evidence they are being asked for, interesting questions the auditors ask (especially if the auditor has a different point of view on the audit criteria in question, legislation or standards which are forming part of the audit), or even comments that the auditor(s) have made. Both positive and negative comments.
Keep in mind that audits are also a time of learning. Auditors may share tips for improvement, offer different points of view, or even know of upcoming changes in standards or legislation that you may not know yet.
4. Arrive Early and Plan for the Day
Arriving well ahead of the auditors allows you and your team to not only catch up on important tasks that need to be completed, but it allows you to double-check on preparations for the day.
5. Tidy Up the Audit Space at the End of the Day
After the auditors have left for the day, take some time to tidy up. This can mean tidying up the filing (if you use hardcopies), packing away cups, plates, or just clearing away the clutter or packing away anything that will not be necessary for the next day. This helps in the early morning preparations for the following audit day.
6. Daily Debrief with the Management System Team
It’s not uncommon for the management system team to be split up during an audit. Once the auditors have left the team should gather and have a debrief of what happened. This includes the run-down of any possible findings, opportunities for improvement, the mood of the auditors and organization, as well as what will be covered the following day.
This debrief should be shared with Top Management. This can take place in an informal meeting, a phone call, or an email to keep everyone in the loop of what is happening.
If Top Management doesn’t require a daily debrief, shooting off a courtesy email on progress will make sure they are not blindsided in the closing meeting.
7. Set up an “Out of Office” Message and “Away” Modes for Communication Software
This notifies anyone who is trying to contact you via email that you are currently not available to answer emails immediately and that there may be a delay to your response, with appropriate means to contact you or your team members for urgent situations. You can also set your statuses to “away” or “busy” on your calendar.
If your organization uses Slack, or other communication software, remember to change your availability and status. Similarly, you can set up text message responses for phone calls you need to decline during an audit.