4 tips you need to know when auditing your business operations

If your staff feel like auditors are there to find fault in their work, they are less likely to be cooperative. You need to make it clear to them that your audit is not about evaluating individuals...
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Ensuring that a business is operating with optimal efficiency should be a prominent concern for any manager. A business plagued by inefficiencies and without clear guidance from the top is never going to be generating as much profit as it should. Every inefficiency in your workflow represents time and money that you have lost. Identifying these inefficiencies and precisely where they are in your workflow is the first step towards fixing them.

Business operations auditing is the most reliable process of sniffing out the inefficiencies and other issues with your workflow. An audit can take many forms, but they all have the same key objective; to assess how effective your current workflows and policies are generating high-quality work at an acceptable rate. Where there are problems with your current approach, auditing should enable you to identify them easily.

Unfortunately, auditing is not a magic bullet. The simple act of conducting an audit isn’t going to be enough to optimise your business on its own. You will get out of your audit as much as you put in; if you rush the process, you will find that the resulting data is much less reliable and useful. But you can be confident that a well-executed audit is going to reveal any shortcomings in your approach if they are there.

Make sure processes are laid out clearly

You can’t expect your employees to follow the procedures you set if you can’t communicate them clearly. Without clear and unambiguous instructions to follow, your workers will have to fill in the blanks themselves. Don’t assume that other people will intuitively know what you want them to do; set out every stage of your processes in detail so that there can be no confusion about what you expect from employees.

If your operations auditing reveals inefficiencies or deficiencies in your processes, you need to ensure that you have done your bit before you blame your workers. Without clear instructions to follow, you shouldn’t be surprised that they aren’t working at maximum efficiency. The clearer your processes are, the quicker new workers will be able to get up to speed, and the more chance your existing employees have of responding promptly and effectively in emergencies.

Listen to employees and seek their input

Auditing is an opportunity for you to learn more about the health of your business. Part of that process will inevitably involve evaluating your workers’ performance and the contribution they are making to your business. However, you shouldn’t approach auditing as some kind of test of the quality of your staff. More importantly, you shouldn’t present the auditing process to them in this way.

You will get a lot more out of the entire process if you are working with your employees, not against them. They are in the best position to give you helpful, actionable feedback about the way that you run your business. As the people responsible for implementing your policies and overseeing your operations, your workers can offer insight due to their first-hand experience of your operations in action.

One of the most efficient ways of gathering comprehensive feedback from your staff without infringing excessively on their time is with surveys. Surveys are powerful auditing tools because they enable you to ask precise questions and elicit specific information. You can use surveys to gather feedback from your employees on both your operations as a whole and individual components of your overall workflow.

Instead of producing paper-based surveys and handing them out to your staff, you can save yourself a lot of time and money by adopting a paperless approach. An app-based solution like Tapapp is an ideal way of creating and administering reports. It will also make the process of analysing your data afterwards much more straightforward. Tapapp is available for iOS, tablets, and as a web-based app.

Focus on every area of your business

It is better to improve just 1% in 50 different areas of your business than it is to improve 100% in just one area. Your auditing is an opportunity for you to identify shortcomings in your current approach and formulate new approaches to compensate for them. Don’t restrict your audits, or your interpretation of the findings, to just a single area of your business.

Depending on the nature of your business, day to day operations might involve a small team of workers, or they may require staff from multiple areas of your business to come together. The more interplay there is between the various departments that comprise your business, the more of an effect smaller inefficiencies will have on your overall performance.

Think of your workflow as being like a train, travelling from station to station. Each station represents a different department of your business. If the train is held up at any of the stations, it will delay the final arrival time, unless everyone speeds up to compensate. Every time your workflow is held up by inefficiency in your standard processes, it creates a delay that you need to compensate for.

Some people prefer to audit each component of their operations individually. There is nothing wrong with this approach; especially if you have already isolated your problems to a specific area. However, you should always be mindful of how each part of your business impacts another.

Focus on how to improve, not what’s gone wrong

If your staff feel like auditors are there to find fault in their work, they are less likely to be cooperative. You need to make it clear to them that your audit is not about evaluating individuals; there are much more effective ways of doing that. Your business operations audit should focus entirely on your business operations and your general workflow. Where there are issues caused by human operators, you should, of course, make a note of it. But don’t focus on who those operators are as individuals.

With the right approach, a business operations audit should rapidly reveal where the deficiencies are in your current approach. The more high-quality data you gather, the more reliable your conclusions will be. This isn’t a process you should rush into.

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