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Carrying out an audit Part 2: Communication & people skills

Read Carrying out an audit Part 1: Have you considered these things?

Having the appropriate interpersonal skills is essential for the audit to be successful. All auditors have their own preferred style; know what your style is and check before each audit if it is appropriate for that particular auditee.

Image credit: Toa Heftiba

The following are some communication tips:

  • Use language and terminology the auditee will understand. Remember that effective communication is achieved when a message is both received and understood. You may be familiar with audit terminology but the auditee may not. Also, use terminology the auditee uses during the course of their work.
  • Many communication problems can be directly attributed to misunderstandings and inaccuracies. To overcome this, use feedback or reflective/summarising questions to ensure both you, as the auditor, and the auditee have understood each other.
  • It isn’t only words that convey a message; body language can speak louder than words. As an auditor you need to be mindful of appropriate eye contact, body posture, physical proximity to an auditee etc. So, practice talking in front of a mirror and watching your movements.
  • Your dress code for an audit could impact on an auditee, for example, wearing clothes suitable for the corporate office at a work site may intimidate an auditee and they could ‘clam-up’ during the audit. The reverse can be said if an auditor turns up to corporate head office in work clothing suitable for remote sites/outdoor work. It can be seen as not being professional, and therefore the auditee will be reluctant to speak with you.
  • Taking notes to record your evidence can put a barrier between you and the auditee. Explain this process and why it is very important you record information to reflect the status of a process and that this information will be summarised in your audit report.

Stay tuned for Part 3 of Carrying out an audit: Handling conflict situations

Christine Brown is founder and managing director of Potential Unlocked, a market leader in the design of management systems that meet compliance and business requirements. She holds a Bachelor of Arts (double major in Political Science and Public Sector Management); RABQSA Lead Auditor, DiSC 5 Behaviours of a Cohesive Team accreditation; Everything DiSC accreditation, TAE 40110 Cert IV Training & Assessment & TAELLN 411.

Due to her extensive knowledge and experience, Christine is trusted by her clients for her patience, understanding and her ability to interpret compliance requirements in a straightforward, uncomplicated way. She regularly facilitates in-house and public workshops, sharing her knowledge of designing simple processes and systems, communicating effectively as an auditor, building and leading teams, and risk management.

Christine’s clients range from small business and start-ups to large organisations and government departments. Covering a broad range of industries, her clients include Boral, BAE Aerospace, Geobrugg, Tenix, West Australian Police, and the Victorian Ambulance Service.

Christine’s new initiative, The Business Performance Program, assists businesses with all major areas of business that are essential for success

For any further information on contracting in an internal auditor to conduct your audits or auditor training please refer to more Audit Tips.