Certification Auditors - Employee or Subcontractor?
There are many pros and cons about the fraternity of certification auditors, not the least being whether they are an employee or a subcontractor of the certification body. Here are a few thoughts. In the first instance, make sure you know whether they are an employee or not. Why? It is just good to know, especially with regard any conflict of interest that might occur or be perceived. If you don’t know, ask. There is nothing quite so wrong that your auditor is also a consultant for your biggest competitor. A little checking via LinkedIn and Facebook could also help.
Employee auditors are less likely to have control of their forward planning. This means that you cannot plan an audit 1, 2, 3, 6, 12 months in advance. For project management focussed people like me, this is very important. If they cannot plan in advance, you best find out who in the back office is the keeper of the calendar and try to book through them. But of course, if you are one of the smaller players in the certification client pool, don’t be surprised that your date gets bumped as the audit approaches. Just keep the communication up to the operations people and cross your fingers. The employee auditor tends to have a little less customer focus. This is because their billing machine back office does not like idle days. This means they do not have planned customer relationship time which results in no coffee chats, update phone calls, etc. They just turn up on the assigned day.
Subcontractor auditors are normally more flexible with their time and as a consequence have a little more flexibility when it comes to rescheduling and usually, at no extra cost. Employee auditors are normally blissfully unaware to schedule changes and any forward planning. But if you want the specific date, that normally means a new auditor. Consequently if you hold out for the desired auditor, that normally means a change in date to suit them, not you. Subcontractor auditors also get a break from auditing. If they audit full time, they can become a little stale and a little cynical. If they are exposed to the rigors of designing, implementing and consulting in quality management systems, it will keep them keen and keep them flexible in the auditing phase.
I don’t pick a certification body based on the employee status of the auditor, but you should take it into consideration as part of the overall process.