Certified ISO Auditors need further training - it's about Competency

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Question: What do all internal auditors, external auditors, audit programme managers, ISO consultants have in common?  Or should have?

Answer: Competency.


Repeatedly, ISO management system standards tell us that true competence has four elements, namely,

Element 1. Auditing Skills,

Element 2: Knowledge of the standard

Element 3: Technical expertise appropriate to the processes being audited, and

Element 4: Practical experience in auditing.

But does this apply to your Internal Auditors?  Are there any benefits arising for your organization? And do your auditors need formal training?

The Importance of ISO Auditor Certification Training - Elements 1 and 2

Time and again, as a Certification Body auditor, I have found training records for internal auditors and for audit program managers/management representatives that claim competence but satisfy only one of the four criteria, the third one – technical expertise. 

It’s as if the others don’t matter and one can learn as much as is required by mimicking colleagues who are ‘experienced’ auditors. 

No one ever seems to recognize that this approach will perpetuate bad habits as well as good ones. And I have never seen an internal audit of an Internal Auditing Procedure that included interviews with the internal auditors to check their competency.

I say: Get your auditors trained!  But then again, I would – I have a vested interest. But don’t let that blind you to the real benefits that should accrue to your organization.  These include …ISO 9001 Implementation Infographic

  1. With good auditing skills, your auditors will record a variety of evidence types, not just checks that records exist, and have a credible body of evidence to confirm that the management system is adequately implemented and maintained.

Benefit: External auditors, including those from customers and potential customers, will have far fewer nonconformities to find during their audits.

  1. With an adequate understanding of the Standard in question, your auditors will be able to …
    1. confirm compliance not only with the documentation of your management system manual but also,
    2. To check that all the requirements of the Standard are adequately addressed and
    3. To seek out applicable regulations, standards, and contractual requirements.

Benefit: Customer satisfaction and regulatory compliance is not left to chance.  You’ll have objective evidence of the fulfilment of requirements here.

  1. Be aware of the opportunity to identify improvements that internal audits provide. Too often audits are a useless box-ticking exercise done to satisfy external auditors and not to benefit the organization. What better time is there to discuss improvements than when interviewing the very persons who are doing the work.

Benefit: Step-change improvements are rare. But, with the myriad of small improvements that internal audits can provide, significant reductions of waste, and improvements in efficiency can be achieved.

Historically, finding training courses for internal auditors has been problematic especially if standards other than ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 are involved.  No more. With our online Auditor Training Courses, you can plan training to suit your own schedule.  And the cost savings versus traditional training methods are significant too.

So, perhaps it’s time to reconsider training for your internal auditors?

Technical Skills and On-the-Job Experience - Element 3

An appropriate combination of technical skills (such as a relevant university degree, apprenticeship or other third level qualification) and of experience within the sector being audited is essential if an auditor doing internal audits, supplier audits or managing an audit programme if that auditor is to understand the context, processes, methods and the culture of the organization concerned.  Three years experience would be an absloute minimum here.

And then there's Competency - Element 4

Since the 2010 version of ISO 19011 an ISO Auditor Certificate cannot be considered to bestow competence on the holder.  Competence being defined in terms of one's ability to apply knowledge and skills has meant that since 2010 Certification Bodies have been required to keep records of the auditing practice and participation of their Lead Auditors that is the basis of the claim of their competency.  

ISO 45001 e-Book

Note: This Post was first published in Dec 2017;  revised and updated in May 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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