Opinion by Scott Paton
Exemplar Global certifies auditors—primarily management systems auditors who conduct third-party audits on behalf of certification bodies against standards such as ISO 9001:2015.
All of Exemplar Global’s management systems personnel certification programs are based on ISO management systems standards. For example, our QMS auditor certification is based on ISO 9001:2015 and our EMS auditor certification is based on ISO 14001:2015.
Our certified auditors are expected to demonstrate their knowledge, skills, and competence as professional auditors, including understanding the standards that form the basis of their certification, the standards against which they are auditing, and ISO 19011, “Guidelines for auditing management systems.”
ISO regularly reviews its standards and periodically updates them. A good example of this was the 2015 update to ISO 9001 (quality management). Another example is the 2016 update to ISO 13485 (medical devices).
Exemplar Global requires its certified auditors to demonstrate their knowledge of the standards that form the basis of their certification at the time of their initial certification. This is done through an examination of their knowledge through either the TPECS or RTP training certification.
Additionally, our auditors are expected to demonstrate their knowledge of these standards as they are updated. This knowledge is demonstrated through transition assessments conducted by Exemplar Global or through training by a third party.
Every time we require our certified auditors to demonstrate their knowledge of these revised standards, we receive a significant amount of feedback from auditors who tell us they have no need to comply. Surprisingly, many tell us that they haven’t even read the revised standard.
When ISO updated the ISO 19011 standard, which is a guideline for auditing management systems, Exemplar Global asked our certified auditors to complete a transition assessment to demonstrate their knowledge of the revised standard. The feedback was so negative that we were forced to drop the requirement. Why? Surprisingly, many auditors had never heard of ISO 19011 and few wanted to take the time to read it.
I understand that standards are expensive. Exemplar Global must buy them too, and we get no discount. Without reading the standard you’re auditing against (and the related standards), you’re not getting a complete understanding of what is expected of the organization to be audited.
I admit that these standards aren’t the most exciting reads, but I urge you to do so. There are also numerous books on almost every standard that can help with a better understanding of the standard and updates to it.
Conducting an audit to ISO 9001:2015? You should have read and understood the ISO 9001:2015, ISO 9004:2018 (a fantastic and widely underutilized document), and ISO 19011:2018 standards.
Not sure what to read? Check with the certification body you are working with. They have staff who can advise you on what to read.
Perhaps it’s because most auditors are self-employed and acting as contractors to certification bodies that they chafe at restrictions imposed upon them from outside bodies. However, Exemplar Global certification is designed to demonstrate to the global marketplace that our auditors are knowledgeable, skilled, competent professionals.
Yes, auditing is a profession, and a good one too. It offers good pay, travel opportunities, and the ability to set your own hours. But it is a profession. As professionals, Exemplar Global auditors are expected to abide by our code of conduct, to demonstrate a knowledge of ISO 19011 and the standard(s) that form the basis for their certification(s), and to engage in ongoing professional development.
Exemplar Global provides plenty of opportunities for our auditors to engage in professional development through our free online webinars, conferences, and The Auditor Online. We also offer a terrific behavioral attributes assessment, the Work Style Assessment, that provides a guide to your strengths and weaknesses as an auditor. We’ll soon be providing even more opportunities for development with the release of some exciting new products and services.
Many auditors are currently unable to work due to COVID-19. Now is a great time to take an honest assessment of your knowledge. How well do you know the standards you audit to? How well do you understand ISO 19011? It may have been quite some time since you had your initial auditor training. Why not invest some time in personal professional development?
Visit the Exemplar Global website to view our free on-demand webinars and to sign up for our free online conferences.
About the author
Scott Paton is global certification manager for Exemplar Global.