How to Prepare for an Audit – Four Important Tips

…and three pitfalls to avoid!

Audits are nearly always a nerve racking affair. Almost without exception, as so much depends on their outcome. Hence, the importance of proper preparation. This is why I asked a senior auditor with extensive experience in these matters to summarize the most important issues.

John Sevenstern is highly experienced in auditing emergency response team skills on behalf of the Dutch fire brigade and police force. Proficiency in certain skills and tasks is incredibly important for these bodies, and sometimes even a matter of life and death. This holds equally true for skills in commercial companies, where proficiency needs to be retained in order to maintain safety and operational continuity. Hence, my eagerness to share these insights with you below.

John formulated four tips and three pitfalls for anyone preparing for their next audit. First the tips:

  1. General Documentation
    By this, I don’t mean what you’ve detailed for each individual person. Instead, I mean your training programs, learning opportunities, exercises, incident experience, etc.
  2. Qualitative Assessment
    Not just quantitative. As often as not, I just see a check mark denoting exercise attendance. It seems as though there’s some sort of taboo with regard to qualitatively assessing one another.
  3. Administration
    Another important issue is administration. How is this organized? Check who has access to which information. Also check carefully who records what information.
  4. Reporting
    And last, but not least, reporting. How is this organized? Does senior management have access to proficiency level data? This is important because they need information at a job or team level, rather than at an individual level.

These are useful tips that I believe you’ll be able to implement right away. In addition to tips, John also listed three pitfalls to avoid at all costs:

  1. Organizations often start recording data without stopping to think what they want to do with all this information. First, set clear goals and then determine the relevant action.
  2. They often underestimate the sensitivity surrounding staff appraisal and assessments. You can improve matters by making clear agreements with staff about how information is going to be used. For example, senior management doesn’t need access to individual details; it only needs job and team level information. Of course, line managers do need individual-level information.
  3. Maintaining proficiency levels needs to be part of the administrative cycle and an issue that you can discuss with your staff, i.e. what can they do to improve their strengths and weaknesses?

If you’ve taken these tips and pitfalls on board, I’m certain that preparing for your next audit will be far simpler and less nerve racking.

If you have any comments or suggestions based on your own experiences, we’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.

Perhaps our white paper ‘The Numerous Benefits of Skills Matrices’ would also be of interest to you? It discusses in depth how to manage your staff’s skills and proficiency levels using skills matrices.


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