It’s time to think differently about how we view audits, how we treat the external auditors, and how we review and evaluate our operations. Audits and Auditors come in all types and skillsets. They range from the traditional auditors, who are simply there to check a box, to auditors who are there to help both sides form better partnerships, to those who are on a mission to find every flaw and hold businesses accountable for them.
Auditors also come from a lot of different places, such as clients, states, and even, sometimes, from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The individuals may be outsourced auditors from a firm, employees of the client, or government employees who are sent out to conduct a review. Auditors (one or an entire team) are representatives of the organization or government body that sent them. They are coming to your facility to perform an evaluation and an important rating or scoring of your organization’s operations and business processes.
Why don't we treat auditors like clients?
So, why don’t we treat auditors the same way that we would welcome a prospective or existing client? I’ve heard about auditors being put in basements, messy storage rooms, small rooms, and rooms with poor lighting, heating, or cooling. In addition, employees won’t talk to (or are even afraid of!) the auditors, so the auditors may be ignored. Water, coffee, tea or even a small bowl of snacks are common niceties for guests, but for an auditor? Forget it. As you can imagine, being an auditor is a hard enough job, and this type of treatment at a worksite makes their job much harder. Auditors are human, so this type of neglect can affect them and their impression of our businesses.
It’s time for all companies in our industry to realize that audits, reviews, and evaluations are here to stay, and are an accepted and integral part of our new business norm. In fact, the number of findings in audits and their severity ratings is now an increasingly important metric in determining competitive bonus rankings, and even market share allocations, especially for larger creditors.
How forward-thinking should we be?
We know it’s time to change the way we think about audits and auditors, but how forward-thinking should our audit and auditor playbooks be for the best results? Audits should be viewed as ways to improve our businesses, as well as our policies, procedures, and processes. Auditors should be treated with the same respect and professionalism as any other representative because they can impact our businesses in a positive or negative way.
One simple, tangible way to ensure better treatment of auditors is to assign them a parking space close to the main door, not one in the far back corner of the lot -- or even worse, saying nothing and leaving them to find a space on their own. There should also be a sign at the front desk welcoming the auditors, as well as a decent office or working area. One or more representatives of your business should be dedicated to helping schedule meetings and ensuring that the auditors’ requests for information are fulfilled. For large audits, preparation should be completed in advance so that everyone’s time can be optimized.
As an example, usually, the auditors or audit team will provide an outline or details of what they want to see while on-site, so take the information to be reviewed and put a summary into a PowerPoint deck and present it to the audit team. This approach is far more effective than engaging in a back and forth exchange across a table or even waging a war of words about what things mean. The goal of the deck is not only to educate the auditor or audit team about your company, but to illustrate your compliance clearly, and how you are directly addressing the areas they are there to audit.
Overall, this proactivity, preparation, and attentiveness to the audit and auditors shows that you respect them professionally, that you respect their time, and that you care enough about your business to explain it to them. Thinking differently about audits and auditors will catapult you and your business far above your peers--which they will also be visiting, auditing and rating.