Company-based store audits are a widely used practice in the retail industry. Whether they are operationally based or loss prevention specific, most companies have a schedule of audits completed on behalf of the organization. The company-based store audit should be a component of your program, but should it be the only audits that are conducted?
Instead of waiting for a company conducted audit to occur and determine how a store “measures up” against company expectations, companies should take the proactive approach and implement store self audits. This process, if done correctly, will highlight operational strengths and weaknesses and may actually prevent a potential risk and loss from occurring and/or becoming worse over time.
Complacency is the Enemy
“We shall have no better conditions in the future if we are satisfied with all those which we have at present.” – Thomas Edison
The days (or months depending on your corporate audit schedule) between your official company audits are many, so setting the expectation and creating synergy amongst a team sends a strong message that complacency is not an option. By placing high importance on an audit program and inspecting what you expect, ensures that the operation is running properly and efficiently.
To get the process started, some advanced preparation and planning is necessary as well as participation from the entire staff. This should definitely be a collaborative effort with buy-in at the store level.
Here are some simple tips and strategies organizations can use to get moving in the right direction:
Ensure employee understanding of the established loss prevention or operational audit and any related instructions on what is expected from each question in order to be compliant. Written instruction guides provide consistency across the organization and remove any questions on how best to answer audit questions.
Determine the specific time frame (i.e. completed within a day or over the course of time) when the audit will be completed.
Set up protocols and procedures that requires self auditing at least once a month.
Encourage District/Regional Management participation.
Participation in a self audit in crucial; and should be divided and involve the entire store team.
Present the findings to the entire store team and discuss what was done correctly and where improvement is needed. Management should include everyone in how to improve.
Create an action plan and set goals for the next self audit (i.e. 95% or higher on the next self audit). Provide guidelines on how stores can better improve their scores.
Reward those who make the difference. Recognition of one’s contribution goes a long way.
For self auditing to be successful, everyone needs to participate and understand that an audit is basically an “open book” test on what is already expected through standard operating procedures. It is how well these procedures are executed. That is the question to be answered during the course of the audit process.
Why wait to be evaluated when all of the tools to accomplish this on-going task are at your fingertips. Moving towards that goal of operation excellence as a group can energize a team and help employees realize that anything is possible when everyone contributes.
Don’t Lose Focus
Why is focus important? Because companies with a lack of focus can send the wrong message to their teams and lead to low morale, which could create a culture of poor habits and little attention to detail. Focus on team accountability and changing poor behaviors. Changing behavior requires discipline and ownership from anyone who leads a team. Awareness is a key component to behavioral change, so focus your efforts there. It is better to over-communicate your requirements instead of assuming everyone is on the same page. Frustration at the store level can easily derail one’s efforts. Inspecting what you expect within your organization sends a powerful message and is a critical tool for long term success. From cash handling procedures to physical security standards, it allows for transparency at all levels and the long term benefit can be measured through operational excellence and higher profits. Set the bar high and you may be surprised to see just how many people make it over.
Bill Angiolillo, CFI- Director of Client Services