By Mike Richman
This regular column in The Auditor is intended to shine a light on the people, standards, and events that mean the most to auditors and registered organizations.
In this segment, we chat with LeAnn Chuboff, the vice president of technical affairs for the Safe Quality Foods Institute (SQFI), and Skip Greenaway, the president and CEO at EAGLE Certification Group.
They are teaming up to offer a presentation titled, “Finding the Future: What Can We Do to Attract New Auditors?” during Exemplar Global’s forthcoming Future of Auditing Expo.
Mike Richman: LeAnn, let’s start with you: What are the high-level issues involved with finding auditors qualified to audit against highly technical and sector-specific standards such as SQF?
LeAnn Chuboff: Mainly what we run into are individuals who don’t have a university degree in science or microbiology. That’s where we find the obstacle, as it relates to the technical part. What we have are potentially good auditors who have competencies such as interviewing skills, general auditing knowledge, and professionalism, but who may lack technical experience. For us, it’s trying to find how we can get them that technical knowledge, because if we want these good auditors with good foundational skills to be in our program, where can they go without having to get a university degree? Are there short courses they can take? Mentoring? Shadow audits? How can they gain that technical knowledge so they can audit against a particular product or process?
MR: Skip, more general standards such as ISO 9001 have their own issues in terms of auditor recruitment. Can you talk to those a bit?
Skip Greenaway: We have to remove the concept that auditing is a second career; even though it can be a second career, we really need to turn it into a career path. One of the things we’re starting to do for the first time is to talk to some high school classes and make them aware of our industry. Nobody really understands what our industry is. Somebody recently asked me what I do, and I explained it, and he said, “Oh, you’re a CPA.” And I said, “No, we’re involved with business systems auditing.” So for us, that recruitment has to be more of an awareness in terms of where a person is from a career standpoint. To me, the diversity of who we are, what we’re about, and what we touch really is a selling point. Most people think that it’s just a narrow focus, but we touch almost every business, every industry that’s out there, and that really gets people’s attention. Plus, because of the level of competency that’s necessary, and more important, because of the fact that we appeal to professionals with engineering, math, and science backgrounds, we’ve had the luxury of establishing a pay criteria that shocks people. That pay, at the entry level, is $45,000 up to $175,000 a year, with an average of $110,000. That gets a lot of people’s attention and raises some eyebrows.
MR: For both of you, what is the “pitch” to professionals to encourage them to pursue auditing as a career? And then, on the flip side, what are the reality checks that those considering this field should consider?
LC: I started out in manufacturing, and I was one of those who didn’t even know that auditing was a career, until I ran into a potential job in the supplier approval program for Long John Silver’s corporate. Then I started auditing and I thought, “This is so cool!” I loved the travel and I loved going into different operations and seeing how the different processes functioned, from french fries to cheese to on the farm to cocktail sauce. It gave me an opportunity to learn more about how different foods are made and get a perspective on addressing risks. It was very exciting. I loved every moment of it—I enjoyed the supplier relationships, I enjoyed looking at the different processes, I enjoyed tuning in my critical thinking skills. The beauty of being an auditor, for me, was looking at all those different perspectives. The downside is that it’s a lot of work. You have audit reports and you’re traveling a lot if you’re a good auditor. The follow-up to the audit is the reality, so it’s not all a bed of roses.
SG: There are two aspects with regard to this career and how we can improve our appeal. The first is what I describe as a balance of life. In today’s environment, particularly with Millennials, that balance is even more important. We need to make sure that we’re working toward the future. We don’t want that “Road Warrior”—the auditor—to have to leave home every Sunday night and not arrive back until Friday. I was involved in manufacturing, just like LeAnn, and my experience was being part of a sales team with 150 or 250 members. These people would also leave home on Sunday night and return on Friday, and that led to alcoholism and divorce. The desire for the future is a balance of life, and part of that balance is to accept, for example, remote auditing where the capability exists. The second piece of this, for me, having come from the financial world, is that I believe business systems auditing can replace banking as the career of choice for people coming out of college. When I went to school, most people who weren’t sure of what they wanted to do chose banking because it gave them some diversity in terms of a job. They knew that a banking background could be transported to any opportunity in the future. If you think about who we are, whether we are in the food industry, automotive industry, or aerospace, we touch so many different businesses. We have that diversity of activity, which includes critical thinking and thinking on your feet. It means that we can get away from checklist audits and instead take a process approach.
Exemplar Global’s Future of Auditing Expo will take place October 14–31. Click here to register.
About the author
Mike Richman is the principal of Richman Business Media Consulting, a marketing and public relations company working with clients in the worlds of manufacturing, consumer products, politics, and education. Richman also hosts the web television program NorCal News Now, which focuses on social, economic, and political issues in California. He is a contributor to (and former publisher of) Quality Digest.