If you’re like most organizations, a compliance audit falls somewhere between a root canal and a visit to the DMV on the list of things you can’t wait to do. Audits can be scary. They interrupt your real work. They take too long. The auditor is out to get you. And so on.
While a compliance audit will never share a spot with cat videos or the next Marvel movie premiere, there are things you can do to have a less painful audit. One of the biggest difference-makers? Turn your auditor into your ally instead of your opponent.
Most auditors don’t actually want to catch companies doing something wrong—they want to help you achieve your compliance goals and confirm things as being in place. But the reality is that the auditor-auditee relationship isn’t always a bed of roses. Sometimes it’s just a bunch of thorns.
While you can’t guarantee a great relationship with your auditor every time, there are some things you can do to help. Want to make your auditor your ally? Follow these tips.
Communicate Early and Often
Open communication creates trust and dispels wariness. You need to trust your compliance auditor, and they need to trust you. After all, this could be a long-term relationship, so you want to set yourself up with a successful foundation for years to come. The more you communicate with your auditor, the less you’ll see them as a threat—and they’ll be less likely to see you as an adversary.
Get to know them:
- Ask questions about their process.
- Engage in small talk.
- Thank them! Showing appreciation is one of the most powerful ways to break down barriers.
- Find out what you can do to make their job easier.
- Be honest about your feelings. Feeling nervous or anxious? It’s natural. Do you have misgivings? Say something. Give your auditor the chance to ease your fears and clear up misunderstandings.
Know What to Expect
Many people have never been through an audit before. Even if you have, there are people at your company who haven’t. They don’t know what to expect, and it’s got them on edge. I guarantee that more than one person in your organization expects to get reported to their boss by the end of the audit.
That puts your auditor in a no-win situation, because now they have to deal with people who are unprepared at best, and self-protective at worst. Now your auditor has to deal with unnecessary resistance, and that puts them in an adversarial frame of mind.
The easy way to avoid all that, of course, is to simply ask the auditor what everyone should expect from the audit. Find out what the process will be like: How many days will the audit take? What kinds of questions will be asked? What will the auditor be looking for, and why? What happens if a nonconformance is found? What is the final deliverable? Who can you contact if you have more questions?
The more you know about the audit beforehand, the more you’ll be able to work with your auditor instead of against them. And that sets you up for making your auditor a helpful ally.
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Hire a Quality Auditor
There’s a quick and easy way to find an auditor you can’t stand working with—hire cheap. Most businesses see compliance audits as nothing but an expense and a commodity. So why on earth would you pay more than the minimum for an audit?
Don’t think of your auditor as an expense, but as a trusted advisor. While external auditors can’t actually give advice, they’re a lot more like a CPA or an attorney than a vendor. You need an auditor who is well-prepared, highly experienced, and skilled at explaining complicated regulations clearly. A high-quality auditor takes the time to understand your unique situation and adapt their approach to your needs.
You wouldn’t trust your business to the cheapest accountant you can find—don’t settle for low-cost auditors, either.
Do Your Due Diligence
Have your act together. You won’t make it easy for your auditor to help you out if you’re not prepared. If the audit is scheduled, make sure everyone in your company knows about it and is prepared. Have your documentation organized and ready, know who the auditor will need to talk to, making sure everyone is readily available.
It’s natural to want to gloss over problem areas and steer the auditor in another direction. But if you’ve hired a quality auditor (and you have, right?), they’ll pick up on your evasiveness. Now you’ve triggered their B.S. detector, and they’ll be on the lookout for any trace of stonewalling. You’ve put yourself under the microscope, and your auditor sees you as a blockade rather than a partner.
But if you’re transparent about your issues and ask for clarifications or helpful resources, you’ll win your auditor’s trust. Talk about your problem areas and show the auditor that you want to work with them to resolve any exceptions. Since you’re not keeping them from doing their job, they’re more willing to help you be successful in yours.
Get the Most Out of Your Audits
There’s no magic formula for a perfect auditor-auditee relationship. But these best practices will set you up for a more rewarding compliance audit, and they’ll give you a better chance at making them your ally.
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