What Makes a Good Auditor?

By July 18, 2018Did You Know?
What Makes a Good Auditor?

Fairness Starts on the Front Lines

A strong certification program treats its farmers and ranchers fairly. At GAP, we know that fairness starts with auditors accredited to our program. They are on the front line, assessing compliance on the farm, which ultimately leads to a certification decision. It’s important that your farm is assessed in the same way as every other, so no one is held to a higher or lower mark.

GAP auditors are hired and trained by our third-party certification companies, AusMeats Ltd., EarthClaims LLC, and IMI Global, Inc. Through our Certifier Accreditation Program (CAP), we work with the certifiers to make sure auditors who visit GAP farms and ranches have the right backgrounds and qualifications.

“A good auditor is able to bring their knowledge and background to an inspection and use these qualifications to communicate both neutrally and effectively with the farmer or rancher.”
Sarah J. Dorward, chief of audit services, EarthClaims LLC

So, what makes a good auditor?

A farm animal background. With only two percent of the US population involved in farming, it’s important to find someone who is knowledgeable about farm animal management. Since GAP has standards for eight different species, finding someone who has experience with the species they will be auditing is also important.

Consistency. We expect every farm to be audited in the same way both between auditors and by the same auditor as they visit different farms. Though some auditors have their own style for conducting audits (for example, they might like to review the farm records before looking at the animals, or vice versa), they should all be assessing each standard in the same way. To help aid in audit consistency, GAP has written our standards so that they are descriptive and will be interpreted in the same way by anyone who reads them. You can learn more about why we do that here.

“A good auditor should never apply their own interpretation to the standard.”
Andrew Little, general manager – certification services and customer programs, AusMeats, Ltd.

Proficiency in the standards. Being proficient with the standards also goes a long way in terms of consistency. As a farmer, we know that you’re busy caring for your animals and might not have time to learn the in’s and out’s of the GAP standards and how they fit in with our Policy Manual requirements – so that’s where our auditors come into play.

“It’s very important that an auditor have a basic understanding of what the standards are. That being said, it is not my expectation that the auditor be an encyclopedia of the standards. But it is important to know where to find the answers.”
Kelly Crymble, GAP program manager, IMI Global Inc.

Good communication skills. Even though farmers and ranchers may have similar ways of caring for animals, you might use different terms to describe what you do. A good auditor will ask a question in different ways to make sure they really understand how you manage your animals on your farm.

“An audit is a stressful time for the auditee, and therefore the auditor must be able to very quickly create rapport and put them at ease.”
Andrew Little, general manager – certification services and customer programs, AusMeats, Ltd.
“Being able to ask questions in a manner that is understandable to the producer can be the difference between a good audit and a really bad experience.”
Kelly Crymble, GAP program manager, IMI Global Inc.

Sharp eyes and ears. While visiting a farm or ranch, it’s important that auditors record exactly what they observe. They should be looking at animals, facilities, and records and listening to not only what the farmer, rancher, and employees have to say, but also what the animals have to say. When they record their observations, they should be as descriptive and objective as possible.

“It is important to make sure that only the facts are recorded and reported, and that opinions do not come into play at any point.”
Melinda Birkeland, customer verification specialist, IMI Global Inc.

We always strive for continuous improvement.

In the spirit of continuous improvement, we want to hear your thoughts. What are some positive qualities you think are important for GAP auditors? Post your thoughts below.

Gabbi Simon

Author Gabbi Simon

Gabbi grew up as a ranch hand on her family’s farm in Michigan, where she developed her love for many species of farm animals, especially cattle and pigs, at an early age. She was tempted to go to vet school like others in her family, but ultimately decided studying animal behavior and management suited her better than medicine, as she wanted to pursue ways to work in farm animal welfare. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Animal Sciences from Michigan State University and Master’s degree in Animal Biology from UC Davis, where she developed, tested, and applied a comprehensive welfare assessment for conventional cow-calf operations.

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