How to Transform Operational Audits into Valuable Teaching Tools

I think we can all admit hearing the word “audit” doesn’t make us light up with glee. The term has gained a generally negative connotation for being a show of untrust––an inspection into our actions with the presumption that we’re doing something wrong.

While many will point to a group of folks in Kansas City as the main culprits behind the audit’s infamous reputation, the blame can certainly be spread around.

I’ll admit, I was once among those who winced at the mention of the menacing audit, that is, until I had the power to shape its meaning as a field leader. It wasn’t until completing operational audits became a part of my job that I saw the opportunity to change its meaning to fit within the culture of positivity and trust our company was building internally. 

After seeing my efforts pay off, I thought it’s only right to share my experience with others trying to reshape their own teams with a new approach to auditing.

Reinventing the store audit as a tool rather than a test

Most field leaders are responsible for 30, 60 or 90 day operational audits of their locations.

Typically, these involve long checklists, clipboards, laptops and a four to six-hour time commitment on the part of these multi-unit managers as they assess locations one-by-one.

As any field leader knows, carrying out store audits isn’t optional––they’re required by company executives to guage both unit level and company-wide performance. As with most required tasks, it’s easy to approach auditing as a checklist item itself.

“It needs to get done––I’ll just make sure the boxes get checked and move on.”

But this mindset can totally blind field leaders to the value auditing can offer when the right dose of ingenuity is applied. Instead of being another task to cross off the to-do list, smarter auditing tools and a modern approach to task management give companies a huge opportunity to make their in-store experiences more enjoyable for customers in two big ways:

1. Revealing the areas your local teams have limited knowledge in

2. Taking the necessary steps to be proactive in filling those gaps.


Better “taught” than “caught”

It’s not hard too see why teams learn better when managers are proactive in teaching them to do things the right way rather than waiting for mistakes to be made.

After all, concepts are better received when they’re taught rather than when they’re caught not being carried out.

As a field leader, I clearly remember the cringe-inducing anxiety and nervous anticipation wash over me as I waited for the results of my first few corporate-sponsored audit.

Instead of crippling field leaders with fear of repercussions, auditing can and should be a process that everyone can look forward to. For me, they turned into opportunities to learn what my teams needed more from me. For my teams, they became a valuable way to not only learn what they were doing well and what needed improvement, but what kind of improvements would actually result in noticeable improvements for the customer.

Store audits, when combined with today’s more efficient task management software systems, give multi-unit managers the ability to start managing their teams proactively to prevent problematic trends from getting worse rather than relying on their ability to put fires out when they spring up.

Over time, this new approach reduced the fears and stresses associated with auditing and lead many teams to actually look forward to beating their previous scores from month to month––a positive trend that has just as big of an effect on the customer’s experience as it does on the staff’s ability to make the improvements that matter most.

The Control Manager's Guide to Highly Effective
Log & Task Management
Log & Task Management