An audit with a clear purpose, asks the right questions, and applies the proper weighting, is an audit with meaning and value. These audit types provide helpful and actionable information that results in tangible and measurable improvements. Those improvements confirm that the audit is providing a valuable return on the investment made to execute them.
And audit execution is where the proverbial rubber hits the proverbial road.
But even the perfect tool can be misused or unused and be rendered ineffective. There are, after all, out-of-shape folks with active gym memberships. And there are active gym rats who practice with improper form or have poor diets that negate the hard work.
To gain a consistent return on your audit investment, we need to ensure three key actions:
1. Objective Execution: The devil is in the details, and within every audit question, the potential for subjective measurement exists. Often, when we see high audit scores but poor performance, it is not the audit’s fault. The core issue is the evaluations aren’t as stringent as they should be. Objective execution, asking the questions without prejudice for or against, is key to reliable scoring. It can be instructive to have two different groups conduct audits. A district leader and a loss prevention agent, an LP agent, and a store self-audit. These cross-scores help root out potential subjectivity and eliminate it from the process.
2. Consistent Delivery: An audit is a snapshot in time. Taking several snapshots consistently across time creates value. The industry standard for audit value is to conduct a minimum of two audits per location per year. One study demonstrated that the best performance is achieved with three to four audits in a yearly cycle. Regardless, consistent auditing at least two times in a process is critical to accurate measurement of performance.
3. Auto-pilot Action Plans: Identifying an issue is half of the equation. Permanently correcting the problem is the other half. If we find problems and don’t correct them, we haven’t solved anything, and performance won’t improve. An automatic and pre-determined action plan means vital concerns are addressed and corrected with haste. For example, a failed question requires a manager to X by Y and the DM to verify those actions by Z. This process ensures progress continues to move forward.
Implementing these three steps will ensure the audit and results retain their value, and subsequent inspections demonstrate improvement, and we’ve mitigated future risks. The sum of those three outcomes is a continued return on our audit investment.
About the Author
Raymond Esposito is President of Loss Prevention & Compliance for HS Brands Global. He has over 30 years of loss prevention experience and has spent the past two decades building premier LP outsource programs for some of the world’s most well-known brands. He has worked with over 130 retailers within the department store, specialty, restaurant, grocery, and pharmacy industries in the US, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
His articles and interviews have appeared in various magazines and on radio, including Security Source Magazine, LP Magazine, Family Circle, and Small Business Radio.