Posted by Fiona Macintyre on Mon, Aug 26, 2013
Audit. A small but highly significant word. A word that can illicit so much fear and dread throughout an organization. There is an automatic negative response to the thought of an audit, it’s seen as something negative, something designed by those in authority just to catch you out. It is easy to see audit as a negative if it is viewed in this way or as just another tick box exercise designed by authorities.
An audit can be conducted internally, by an external regulatory body or by a supplier. Regardless of who is conducting the audit, all employees need to be on board with the audit process. To do so, an organization needs to turn any negativity on its’ head and have an audit seen as a positive. That means all employees adhering to standard working practices at all times and not just for the audit.
So how does any organization turn negativity and doubt into positivity? This may be one of the hardest things any organization will do. Indeed, in any walk of life there will always be those that are negative for the sake of it and will never see a positive in anything, ‘every silver lining has a cloud’!
Company culture can contribute greatly to all employees being on board in an audit process. How do management convey to their staff that an audit isn’t designed to find out what they are not doing and pull them up for it but rather it is designed to highlight areas across a business that are working well in an attempt to replicate those across the rest of the business? Highlight the positives and identify the areas that require focus, while also conveying that this is ultimately for the good of the business and subsequently for them as employees. Organizations successful in doing this have an established learning and sharing culture. In practice this is not an easy culture to create.
There are many benefits in the audit process that should be promoted. In terms of aviation, these benefits extend to how the audit process is built into the overall Safety Management System. An effective and efficient SMS is underpinned by System Safety principles and Quality Management and a large part of that is audit management.
Audits ensure all policies and procedures are working, to verify that processes adhere to standards and regulations and to maintain a level of competency. Performed regularly, audits contribute to complying with regulatory standards as well as identifying shortfalls and areas of improvement. Audit Management provides a closed loop system from scheduling, planning, conducting and following up of audits in a manner that supports organization-wide improvement.
The key point in the above statement is – “supports organization-wide improvement.” Promoting that fact can turn the negative views of an audit into a positive. By that, I mean ensuring that people understand the reasons for the audit, everyone is on board and fully appreciate the importance of auditing to improve all areas of the business and ultimately as a result reduce their suspicions that the audit is merely performed to catch them out.
To achieve this goal, an open learning and sharing corporate culture is required. That has to be organization wide and that comes from the top down and vice versa.
In conclusion, it is the culture of an organization that dictates whether employees will view the audit process in a positive light or not. In saying that, there is no accounting for the naturally negative minded people in life and it wouldn’t matter what type of corporate culture they were working under – they will always moan regardless and I have no answer for getting them on board – that’s a completely different topic.