By Scott Paton
The traditional personnel certification model has been around for several decades now and it has served the accreditation and certification industry quite well. However, this model is changing, particularly for management systems auditors. What was once a requirement, has become optional and many certification bodies no longer require their auditors be certified, except for specific schemes that still require certification, such as aerospace or automotive.
Although most accredited certification bodies give preference to auditors who are certified, most do not actually require their auditors to be certified. This is primarily due to either a lack of certified qualified auditors with specific industry knowledge or a lack of perceived value of certification.
So, what value does certification provide? Exemplar Global certified auditors must demonstrate their knowledge, skills, and experience as auditors. In addition, they are required to maintain that knowledge, grow their skills, and continue to demonstrate experience through ongoing assessments and professional development.
Exemplar Global auditors are also required to do a self-analysis of their behavioral attributes as auditors through Exemplar Global’s Work Style Assessment. This is done upon initial certification and upon recertification every four years.
The Work Style Assessment is a psychometrically valid behavioral assessment. It’s an objective way for auditors to learn about their unique personality traits and how they manifest on the job. This knowledge leads to a true understanding of capability and performance, and how they can be best utilized.
In essence the Work Style Assessment:
- Highlights an individual’s strengths
- Provides self-coaching recommendations
- Details cultural-fit considerations
- Provides insights on how to best utilize the individual’s work style
Additionally, the data gathered by the Work Style Assessment creates a comprehensive database that will show the behavioral trends of auditors, identify coaching opportunities, inform organizations about auditor hiring decisions, and help identify and validate new auditors. Exemplar Global will use this data to inform our partners about trends we identify to help our industry work more effectively in building talent and capability for the future.
It’s no secret that certifying organizations to ISO standards such as ISO 9001:2015 has almost become a commodity business. Certification bodies compete against one another for customers, auditors, and market share. Most certification bodies no longer employ auditors, but instead contract with them to conduct audits on an ad hoc basis. In fact, most auditors contract with multiple certification bodies and must meet each certification body’s auditor requirements.
In addition, all accredited certification bodies must demonstrate the competence, knowledge, skills, technical knowledge, and experience of their auditors as outlined in ISO 17021-1 (or the version specific to the scheme being audited against). This means that even though an auditor may be certified by a personnel certification body such as Exemplar Global, the certification body must still meet the requirements of ISO 17021-1 and pass an audit from an accreditation body such as ANAB.
To help certification bodies meet the challenges of competing in this commodity market, to provide a single point of contact for their auditor certification programs, and to aid in the professional development of auditors, Exemplar Global has created an entirely new type of certification. This new model turns the traditional model of individual auditor certification upside down. Instead of certifying auditors individually, Exemplar Global can now certify all of a certification body’s auditors against the certification body’s own requirements to demonstrate auditor competence, knowledge, and skills.
Under this group certification model, Exemplar Global will work with certification bodies to certify all of their auditors to whatever scheme and grade the certification body determines is best for each of its auditors, given the particular validation the certification body has done. Exemplar Global will also administer the Work Style Assessment to each auditor and provide a certificate in the name of the certification body and Exemplar Global for each auditor.
The data from the Work Style Assessment can be used by certification bodies to aid in onboarding, professional development, coaching and mentoring, and for industry analysis.
Best of all, under the group certification model all of the certification body’s auditors will get access to continuing professional development, knowledge assessments, behavioral assessments, events such as webinars and virtual conferences, and The Auditor Online at no cost. Plus, the certification body will be able to promote its services and job postings through The Auditor Online and the Exemplar Global Career Center, also at no cost.
The cost of the auditor certification is a fraction of the traditional individual certification model. Instead of hundreds of dollars per year plus the cost of assessments, auditors will pay just $99 per year (or less, depending on the size of the certification body), including required assessments. This cost will be borne by the certification body, but the certification body may at pass that cost along to their auditors, probably through a deduction from an auditor’s invoice for services.
The group certification model is designed to complement rather than replace Exemplar Global’s existing certifications. There will always be a need for individual certification. The development of the group certification program shows Exemplar Global’s support for the auditor and certification body community, which we see as a deeply entwined partnership. The group certification program gives auditors and certification bodies the flexibility to choose the model that best fits their needs.
The group certification program is still new and developing. There will be more information about the group certification program posted to the Exemplar Global website soon. I welcome your feedback about the program and how it might be improved. I am also happy to answer any questions about the program and how it can be tailored your organization’s specific needs. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the author
Scott Paton is global certification manager for Exemplar Global.