ISO 9001 Competence, Awareness, and Communication: DOs and DON'Ts

Little man - Competence - Awareness.jpg


Practical advice on ISO 9001:2015 Clause 7.2, 7.3, and 7.4 

ISO 9001 Certification will not be achieved unless your effective management of the human resources of your organization can be demonstrated. But, before getting into the DO's and DON’Ts of implementing ISO 9001 Clauses 7.2, 7.3, and 7.4, let’s look at the practicalities involved with each of these terms:

ISO 9001:2015 Clause 7.2: Competence

The competence of persons can be based on their education, training, and experience.  A suitable combination of these three aspects is what’s required.

The organization should determine competence requirements by either an activity or job position/role.

Certain tasks can require a specific level of competence before they can be performed properly or safely (e.g. internal quality auditing, welding, or non-destructive testing).

It might be necessary for persons to be qualified for some tasks (e.g. steel welding, forklift or truck driving). Competence requirements can be determined by different methods, such as through defining job descriptions, or by carrying out job evaluation exercises, when jobs are analysed.

ISO 9001:2015 Clause 7.3: Awareness

Awareness is attained when persons understand their responsibilities and authorities and how their actions contribute to the achievement of the organization’s quality objectives. Many organizations create awareness through communication.

ISO 9001:2015 Clause 7.4: Communication

The organization should determine those relevant internal and external parties with whom they need to communicate, to ensure the effective operation of the quality management system.

This can include relevant persons within the organization at all levels and relevant interested parties (such as customers, external providers used to source products and services, or regulatory bodies).

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Do's and Don'ts of Implementing Competence, Awareness, and Communication Clauses of ISO 9001:2015


  • Do create an Organization Chart.  If this has not been done before, expect this to be a challenging task and involve your colleagues – people are sensitive about their jobs especially when they’re ill-defined.

  • Do create Job Descriptions for each position on the Organization Chart.
  • Do ensure that the Job Descriptions include specifics. These include:
    • Job Title
    • Qualifications and experience required (minimum)
    • Role, responsibilities and duties
    • Authorities

  • Do make sure that all personnel are aware of their responsibilities and authorities. This includes those engaged on a contractual, temporary, voluntary basis,

  • Do make sure that all personnel are trained in their Job Descriptions (and create corresponding records).

  • Do make sure that all personnel are trained in the principal Procedures and methods applicable to their job descriptions (and create corresponding records). This is a frequent omission found in external audits.

  • Do use your Training Records to record Competency Checks. These are more credible if the check is done by someone other than the Trainer, say, the Supervisor or Manager of the Trainee.

  • Do include essential, routine internal and external communication in the Job Descriptions.  For example, who is responsible for communication plans to those who will implement them; who is responsible for communicating with customers on commercial matters; who is responsible for communicating with suppliers on technical matters; and so on.


  • Don’t omit Authorities from your Job Descriptions – another frequent omission.

  • Don’t ignore the checklist, a) through d), of clause 7.3 Awareness.  Include it in your internal audit.

  • Don’t ignore the implications of not conforming to the quality management system requirements. Personnel need to know the consequences for the organization, at least in general terms, of not following procedures, of exceeding their authority, etc. External auditors frequently use this as a check of the level of Awareness.



For successful ISO 9001 implementation, training records are not sufficient to demonstrate competency, awareness and communication. 

The consequence of the 2015 version of the Standard having separate clauses for Competence, Awareness and Communication is that external auditors will seek objective evidence that each of the three requirements is being complied with.  So, you will need to address each separately and have evidence, in each case, to back up your claims of compliance.

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Note: First published in Sep 2018; revised and updated Apr 2021.

Written by Dr John FitzGerald

Director & Founder of deGRANDSON Global. He spent 15 years in the manufacturing industry and 25 years training, consulting & auditing management systems

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