by Denise Robitaille
I’ve got this pet peeve. Well, I’ve got several, but this is probably the single biggest one when it comes to auditing. I often get asked about the amount of training internal auditors need. Actually, the question is more like: “What is the absolute, ABSOLUTE, least amount of training we can get away with and still have auditors who’ll be considered ‘qualified’ by our ISO auditor?”
First of all, the person asking isn’t reflecting on the fact that that he or she has addressed the question to an auditor. That’s kind of like asking a fashion designer how few courses you need to take to claim you’re as good as she is—or complaining to a master electrician that anything more than a few weeks of apprenticeship is absurd overkill and outrageously unnecessary. The individual has basically just intimated his or her disdain for the auditing process and for the auditing profession. Frankly, the question is, at best, disrespectful.
Of even greater concern, however, is what the question bodes in terms of the success and effectiveness of the organization’s internal auditing program. Considering the fact that the question usually comes from senior managers, it’s clear that their opinion of internal audits reflects their failure to perceive any value. That’s unfortunate and shortsighted. I want to ask them: “If you consider auditing to be so worthless, why bother at all? Save your money. But, also, forget about being ISO-compliant, because you won’t be…or you will be for only a short period of time because your system will fall apart.”
Auditor training: Professional perception
I have a colleague who contends that internal auditors will not be fully valued and respected until they are accorded the same regard as financial auditors. Despite the fact that internal auditors do for the organization’s management system processes what financial auditors do for their accounting processes, there is enormous disparity in how the two professions are perceived.
Consider: If you don’t manage your processes well and periodically assess how well they are managed, there will be fewer beans for the bean counters to count and proportionally less records for the CPAs to audit.
We expect financial auditors to be trained. In fact, we expect them to be well-educated. If we found out that their credentials came from some two-bit diploma mill, we’d fire them. We expect thorough and reliable audit results. Why, then, do we not bring at least a modicum of the same expectations to our internal auditors?
Internal auditors who are well trained and have been afforded the time and resources to conduct thorough audits provide their top management with a wealth of information about the status of the organization. They can objectively report what’s working well, what risks have been perceived, and what problems need to be addressed. They present management an unbiased and balanced assessment of how things are running. This can be used to make decisions relative to strategic plans, allocation of resources, and prioritization of projects.
There’s significant responsibility inherent in the auditing profession. Good auditors take seriously their charge to make an objective assessment of the organization. Their reports reflect deliberation and thoughtfulness that can only come with good training and practice.
It’s just like any other aspect of an enterprise. The willingness to invest in this organizational asset should pay dividends. You can’t reap those rewards if you’re trying to do it on the cheap.
Invest in your auditors’ training and development and grant them the respect they deserve. Given half a chance, they’ll repay your confidence and trust by proving themselves to be a great asset to your organization.
About the author
Denise Robitaille is the author of several books on various quality topics. She’s an internationally recognized speaker who brings years of experience in business and industry to her work in the quality profession. As the principal of Robitaille Associates, she has helped numerous companies in diverse fields to achieve ISO 9001 registration and to improve their quality management systems. Robitaille is vice chair of the U.S. TAG to ISO/TC 176, the committee responsible for updating the ISO 9000 family of standards. She’s also a RABQSA-certified lead assessor, an ASQ Certified Quality Auditor, and a fellow of ASQ.
Her books include The Corrective Action Handbook, The Management Review Handbook, The Preventive Action Handbook, Root Cause Analysis, Managing Supplier-Related Processes, and Document Control, all published by Paton Professional. She also co-authored The Insiders’ Guide to ISO 9001:2008.
Her newest book, 9 Keys to Successful Audits, is available now.
Tags: auditor training.