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Trends in certification: Assuring quality through decentralised training
With offices in six countries on four continents, and 140 auditors from 42 countries, FLOCERT’s team is spread out all over the world. While this ensures that our auditors and analysts understand the local context in which we audit and certify, it also means that FLOCERT as a company has to go the extra mile to ensure that all personnel is aligned and up to date in order to guarantee fair and credible service to all our customers.
We have established a bespoke training concept to fulfil this crucial mission: A mix of online and onsite sessions and an online platform enable us to regularly bring everyone involved in our assurance services together, no matter where they are in the world.
The training programme ASK (“Align and Share Knowledge”) has two categories: ASK Onsite and ASK Online. Every two years the regional teams meet for an in-person training (ASK Onsite) and twice a year we offer centralised online training weeks (ASK Online). In the online trainings mostly updates and clarifications are shared. The onsite trainings have a focus on exercises and case studies.
Both formats give ample space to raising questions and sharing experiences. The teams from the different regions (including freelance auditors) are a treasure of knowledge and everyone can learn from each other. For example, auditors learn from their peers about best practices, while analysts learn from auditors about the realities on the ground and auditors learn from analysts about the background to changes in the Fairtrade requirements.
The trainings and their set up are essential not only for FLOCERT, but also for the Standards Unit of Fairtrade International who sets and maintains the Fairtrade standards. Its members get direct feedback from the auditors and staff working with the Fairtrade Standards.
In our experience, almost all topics are trainable online, especially with new technology coming with e-learning, and our auditors regularly give us very positive feedback. And yet bringing everyone together in person from time to time is important because of the social aspects of such meetings. They allow to build and strengthen relationships between our auditors and office staff, which is a great help when they are back in the field and need to reach out for support.
To keep everyone up to date in between the trainings, we have established an online platform where all news on auditing and certification are shared with the auditors. This is also a place where they can exchange opinions and experiences.
And we are continuing to improve the online training programme: In summer 2020, we will launch a new Learning Management System. We expect it to bring even quicker turnaround of information and updates, and to allow for more convenient timing of training for the auditors and office staff.
As FLOCERT’s Competence Manager, Katharina Mercier is in charge of coordinating the training programme for assurance staff and auditors. In her free time, she likes reading, dancing, yoga, movies and spending time with her family and friends.