Internal audits are a great quality management tool for evaluating and improving your business-critical processes. They clarify what’s working well and what needs improvement. This article shares our Top 10 tips to help you successfully implement your next internal audit.
Why even bother with internal audits?
Internal audits are inspections or assessments conducted within an organization to determine how well or reliably its operational processes and procedures are working. As their name implies, they’re performed by someone employed within your own organization.
What’s more, they focus on one or more processes and require a systematic, structured, and disciplined approach.
It’s worth your while conducting internal audits for several reasons:
- The insights that internal audits generate provide you with tangible opportunities for improvement.
- Because they serve as an additional quality control step, you’ll be able to pinpoint the root causes of any operational and strategic problems. Knowing this, you’ll then be able to take your processes to the next level.
- They often help you identify ways to save time, money, and effort.
- By conducting internal audits on a regular basis, you’ll be demonstrating to your staff and the outside world that your organization takes issues such as quality, health, safety, and/or the environment seriously.
Read how internal audits work and how they can benefit your organization.
Tips for successful internal audits
Ideally, internal audits should be more than just a quick quality control check. If you take them seriously, they’ll serve as a powerful tool for ongoing improvement. Take advantage of the tips below to successfully implement your next internal audit.
1. Set a clear goal
The clearer the goal, the more valuable an internal audit becomes. If you’re clear about what you’re looking to achieve, then creating a solid plan becomes a lot easier.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What am I going to do?
- Why am I conducting an internal audit?
- And am I looking to improve processes, mitigate risks, or cut costs?
2. Create support and establish authority
Good internal auditing is so much more than simply paying lip service to quality control. You’ll need to create genuine support throughout your organization, from senior management to shop floor. One way to achieve this is to appoint an auditor with sufficient clout or authority. It has to be someone who is open, honest, diplomatic, culturally sensitive, perseverant, and resolute.
Internal audits involve sifting through a whole pile of information. To keep a grip on things, it’s important to set priorities. Determine which process components or risks demand your immediate attention based on the audit’s objectives.
4. Ask the right questions
It’s vital for the success of an internal audit that you ask the right questions. Think carefully about these issues in the early planning stages.
- What are we currently doing?
- How are these processes running? From start to finish.
- Where are the main bottlenecks, problem areas, or risks?
- What production objectives have we set and how are we achieving them?
- How are we monitoring and safeguarding the agreements we’ve made about our processes?
- What procedures and instructions have we provided to ensure that operational processes proceed according to plan?
- According to our staff, what’s working well and what’s not?
5. Identify stakeholders
Determine who is involved in the internal audit before you begin. These stakeholders can then take your pending internal audit into account. Who you involve depends largely on how many employees, departments, and sites there are within your organization.
Identifying the stakeholders also allows you to determine the scope of your audit and how much time it will take to talk to everyone involved.
6. Be appreciative and constructive
Internal audits are more than just an inspection. And they’re not supposed to turn into examinations. If you come across too rigidly or pedantically, then you’ll start to focus solely on what’s wrong. This will eventually create a negative feeling about internal audits, forcing staff to withdraw and become less open to answering questions and accepting valuable feedback.
Being appreciative and constructive is generally a far better strategy. This involves asking about positive things and encouraging staff to think about ways to change and improve procedures or processes still further. Ultimately, this will result in improvement and retention of existing strengths.
7. Adopt the right tone
“It’s not what you say, but how you say it.” This also applies to conducting internal audits.
Phrase any criticisms or suggestions for improvement in a constructive fashion and reflect carefully on what you say. It’s with good reason that standards bodies state that it’s the auditor’s task “to pass professional judgment and not to focus too rigidly on the specific requirements of every chapter of the standard being assessed.”
8. Formulate suggestions for improvement in context
It’s important to put forward suggestions for improvement based on clear evidence and demonstrable findings and in such a way that staff recognize and identify with the context. This will improve your chances of success enormously.
9. Split internal audits into themes
Internal audits often have a wide scope. The common tendency is to try and cover as many bases as possible, but this can sometimes become a pitfall. If you make your internal audits too broad, they’ll lack any substance or depth.
One way to avoid this pitfall is to assign a theme to your audit. Splitting your audit into several themes allows you to address different issues from various angles and to go into far greater depth. What’s more, you’ll have greater opportunities to probe deeper, as will your staff.
10. Use the right tools
When you use the right tools for conducting your internal audits, you’ll notice just how smooth the process can be.
A great way to do this is to use AG5’s skills management software. All the information auditors need (all your employees’ skills, tasks, and certificates) is available from within a single centralized system. You’ll no longer have to sift through piles of documents to find the information you need for your audit.
Here’s to a successful audit!
Good internal auditing has many benefits. To get the most out of this tried‑and‑tested form of quality control, you’ll need to plan carefully and get the right mindset, support, and tools in place throughout your organization. Take advantage of the tips we’ve provided above to successfully implement your next internal audit.