The general process of conducting an audit includes seven key steps, each of which is discussed in greater detail below:
1. Determine the scope and type of audit.
2. Develop the audit questionnaire.
3. Collect the data.
4. Benchmark the findings.
5. Provide feedback about the results.
6. Create action plans.
7. Foster a climate of continuous improvement.
Determine the scope and type of the audit
To uncover the needed information, it is important to determine exactly what areas should be targeted for review. If the organization has never audited its HR function, or if there have been recent significant organizational or legal changes, the audit team may want to conduct a comprehensive review of all HR practice areas. On the other hand, if concerns are limited to the adequacy of a specific process or policy, the audit focus should be limited to a review of that particular area.
Develop the audit questionnaire
Whether conducting a comprehensive audit or an audit of a specific practice, it is important to invest sufficient time in developing a comprehensive document that elicits information on all the subjects of the inquiry. A list of specific questions must be developed to ensure that the questionnaire is complete.
Collect the data
The next phase includes the actual process of reviewing specific areas to collect the data about the company and its HR practices. Audit team members will use the audit questionnaire as a roadmap to review the specific areas identified within the scope of the audit.
Benchmark the findings
To fully assess the audit findings, they must be compared with HR benchmarks. This comparison will offer insight into how the audit results compare against other similarly sized firms. Typical information that might be internally benchmarked includes the company’s ratio of total employees to HR professionals, general and administrative costs, cost per new employees hired, etc. Benchmarking might include the number of days to fill a position, average cost of annual employee benefits, absenteeism rates, etc.
Provide feedback about the results
At the conclusion of the audit process, the audit team must summarize the data and provide feedback to the company’s HR professionals and senior management team in the form of findings and recommendations. Findings typically are reduced to a written report with recommendations prioritized based on the risk level assigned to each item (e.g., high, medium and low). From this final analysis, a roadmap for action can be developed that will help determine the order in which to address the issues raised. In addition to a formal report, it is critically important to discuss the results of the audit with employees in the HR department, as well as the senior management team, so everyone is aware of necessary changes and approvals can be obtained quickly.
Create action plans
It is critical actually to do something with the information identified as a result of an audit. The company must create action plans for implementing the changes suggested by the audit, with the findings separated by order of importance: high, medium and low. It actually increases legal risk to conduct an audit and then fail to act on the results.
Foster a climate of continuous improvement
At the conclusion of the audit, it is important to engage in constant observation and continuous improvement of the company’s policies, procedures and practices so that the organization never ceases to keep improving. This will ensure that the company achieves and retains its competitive advantage. On way to do this is to continuously monitor HR systems to ensure that they are up-to-date and to have follow-up mechanisms built into every one of them.
Likewise, it is important to keep track of the audit findings/changes made, turnover, complaints filed, hotline issues, employee survey results, etc. to identify trends in the company’s employment-related issues. Identifying problematic issues, growth areas or declining problem spots can help in the decision of where to allocate time, money and preventive training resources in the future.