The Headaches of Competence Management

More organisations face challenges scheduling auditors, especially in terms of complex competence management. How can you remove these barriers and integrate competence management in your process?

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Why is finding an auditor for the job so hard?

Unfortunately, auditors aren’t a one size fits all solution. These professionals need to have specific skills and accreditations. As a result, they specialize in certain types of industry standards.

This concept sounds simple. Know when your audits are, find an auditor in your industry, and schedule or hire them.

However, certification bodies don’t always keep track of competence compliance rules for auditors. Or if they do, data is often kept in a separate file – meaning planners should check manually before scheduling an auditor. It’s also hard to keep it up to date and to apply in real life. Meanwhile, Accreditation Bodies and Standard Owners put more focus on competence management.

As such, defining the required audits, then sourcing, vetting and approving auditors is a lengthy process that must be done frequently.

For this reason, it’s necessary to keep an up-to-date register with all applicable competence registrations of your auditors. Doing this means your planners can use this register to construct schedules. Those schedules are more likely to be compliant with both efficiency thresholds and audit competence requirements.

The increasing complexity of competence management

But what happens when an audit gets more complex? What happens if you combine audits into combi-audits? No single auditor can work across so many areas.

In these cases, organisations combine auditors into audit teams. Together they should cover the scope, hours and different audit roles – keeping all competence and requirements in mind. This scheduling is called ‘competence oriented scheduling’.

Organisations then build databases of the auditors they have available and their unique capacities, competencies, experience, and specialisms.

So, when an audit requires multiple competencies, it limits the auditors who are available for competence oriented scheduling. To avoid unnecessary strain, organisations need to carefully plan requirements and the available competencies at any one time.

But these registers for auditor selection become even more complex again for three reasons:

Broad data requirements

Testing, Inspection and Certification (TIC) bodies require data on the competencies of auditors. Competence data comes in many forms.

A TIC body would want a few data points on an auditor: standards, categories, EA codes, Nace-codes, Audit-levels, Accreditation body, Training due dates, number of performed audits, number of same site visits. A TIC body must verify this data before they can even think about scheduling an auditor.

Large volumes of auditors

Due to increased globalization, auditors must comply with local standards in multiple territories. TIC bodies hire freelance auditors in the region to do the job to avoid travel fees. These auditors get contracted for a couple of audits per year. For the TIC bodies, with more auditors on their books across multiple territories, they need to do further due diligence to track the validity of the competence of their freelance auditors.

Sharing proof of compliance

While auditors look into the competencies of an organisation, the Standards Organisations require the TIC body, or freelance auditor, to provide proof of compliance to their competence standards. The auditor can share evidence through witness audits, proof of training, or the number of audits performed in a period. Plus, these pieces of evidence need to be maintained in an up-to-date system and shared with the standard owner.

Competence management: Software solutions

Competence management comes down to available data and its structure.

The existing competency data points need to be managed, together with the upcoming training, witness audits, performed audits, Nace codes and EA Codes, which are all communicated with Standards Organisations.

The solution

Certification software featuring Competence Management Tools use digital modules to house and process documentation across auditors and the organisation. For example, one module may allow freelance auditors to keep their competencies up-to-date themselves rather than submitting them to a scheduler.

In another module, you might find data from the acquisition phase to match the right auditor or audit team for the audit automatically.

This automated competence-oriented scheduling considers the competence, travel distance, and the level of utilization of the audit capacity.

Besides the automated option for competence oriented scheduling, a centralized software has all of the data required to reference criteria and warn TIC bodies about triggers for Training, witness audits, and the minimal number of performed audits. This also allows an organisation to schedule all the upcoming audits and calculate optimal schedules for the upcoming audits.

The trick to finding competence management
tools that don’t give you a headache

Using online tools for competence management, you can reduce the strains around the complexity of the register, optimize the scheduling of freelance auditors, provide proof to the Standard Organisations, and enable competence oriented scheduling.

So, using a tool has multiple benefits, but not all tools offer the same range of benefits. Our ground rules for a good Competence Management Tool mean it should:

Distinguish between competence aspects of an audit.

Compile audit team requirements from the data of the audit proposal with the data in your competence register.

Search and reference your auditor database to find a team that is suitable for the audit.

Be able to look up the availability of the auditors, the travel distance and costs, the scope of the audit, and other necessary information.

To comply with the Accreditation Standards, you should also ensure a Standards Organisation formally approves your team. More and more Standards Organizations are building online databases in which you have to upload your complete file – including your team’s details. Building and maintaining your competence register, including the link with witness audits, the number of executed audits, internal reviews, and evaluation, can focus on your organisation’s core business.

Managing competencies in Zertic

Having been in the business a while, we saw organisations needed a customizable but off-the-shelf solution to manage the complexity factors around competence management.

Our software is an all-in-one solution for Tests, Inspections, and Certifications and takes organisations through sales, auditing, processes, and certification.

It centralizes data and helps to structure and organise audits. Especially scheduling audits, one of the biggest headache inducers of competence management can be automated or booked manually. Depending on the complexity of the audit and the preference of the TIC body either option can be chosen or switched between before or during the audit.

If you want to learn more about the full integration of competence management in Zertic please read more about the planning function of our TIC software.