The New Evolution of ISO Lead Auditor Training

We all have a lot of experience of the new normal. We have experience washing our hands, keeping our distance, being at home, living with partners remote working, children experiencing remote learning, and, yes, remote working ourselves. It's not a huge leap to realize that pretty much everything has been delivered remotely, and that includes ISO auditing.

Remote auditing can be delivered exceptionally effectively – it's like anything; you review it, define it, and create the solution to be as good or better than in-person auditing. You develop the processes, put in place controls, and do what you need to do to ensure that when delivered, it is every bit as good as you designed. Remote auditing can be every bit as good as in-person auditing.

Changing the approach in a process (going from in-person to remote) often changes the compromises. Some things that were good with in-person are not so good (even poor) with remote. And some things that we did not realize were not great with in-person become excellent with remote. But the achievable goal is to make sure that the overall outcome is better, and this is the case with remote auditing.
But there is an even better solution, a better approach to auditing. Better than in-person auditing and better than remote auditing. The solution that is likely to be the future in ISO auditing is a hybrid. Both in-person and remote auditing.

Probably the big driver for this will be the cost savings associated with lack of travel expenses. When organizations realize that remote auditing works and do not have to pay expenses, they are likely to default to this. Whereas in the past, organizations would only select local auditors because of travel expenses, they can now focus on ensuring access to great auditors – and they can still please their management. But it's likely to be the new norm.

Given the potential importance of remote auditing in the future, should not it be part of auditor training? Yes. It should. The key auditor training accreditation organizations are IRCA and EG. They set curriculum, training delivery, and management system requirements for organizations to adopt in exchange for recognition. IRCA focuses on auditing content, training professionalism and effectiveness, and robust training development and support processes. EG has a lot of different categories of auditor training courses. Neither has given any indication that they recognize this. Yet, although it's likely, they would both say that the content development, while it must meet minimum requirements, is up to the organization to include in training. Good luck finding a lead auditor training class that will seriously teach you to do remote auditing.

Does remote auditing impact how auditing is conducted to such a degree that companies should update their training? Here are a couple of examples of why you need to have these topics included in your training.

Social interaction is a part of auditing. The lead auditor is responsible for everything in the audit, starting with the pleasant incidental conversation upon the first meeting. There may not be a conversation between the reception area and the conference room. Still, the lead auditor must handle the interaction from the initial meeting on the video conference till everyone shows up and pleasantries and dispensed with. They are different, and thinking about them before they happen to you is essential for success.

Scheduling. Planning a schedule for a remote audit presents several challenges; timing is always a challenge. Still, the allowances you make for an in-person audit may not be appropriate because the approach is different. Teams can complete some things quicker, and others might take longer. There are also logistical challenges – what communications tools are you going to use, are you going to test them, what are the impacts on security, and do risks change (yes, they do). Can the client handle multiple auditors from a technical perspective as well as a resource perspective? And finally, how do we bring all of this together in planning and scheduling a hybrid solution. These things are going to affect the tools used, the approach, and the outcome.

A good training class will include a discussion of these and many other points as the remote concept is threaded throughout the training. A couple of PowerPoint slides is not going to cut it. And your instructor needs to be experienced with both approaches and optimistic about them.

This is the future of auditing, and it's high time that training caught up.

Cavendish Scott is an IRCA Approved Training Partner and has been working with ISO for over 35 years. We got remote ISO auditing, consulting projects, and training right! Click here for more information.

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