Audit at the crossroads

No-one it appears, neither current audit professionals nor prospective entrants, sees audit being a proper career choice unless they can achieve a work-life balance, are paid proper money, and work in a supportive environment.

Audit professionals also want to see transparent career pathways and inclusive work environments.

Hardly surprising then that many young audit professionals plan to leave their current employer either within the next 12 months or within a few years.

A new extensive study by ACCA and the Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand found audit at a pivotal junction, with professionals expressing concerns about the lack of career satisfaction and concerned about the prevailing practices currently found in audit firms.

And, it was achieving a work-life balance that mattered most. Survey respondents suggested too that there was an urgent need to address at times unsupportive cultures within firms, which can impair wellbeing and work-life balance.

The study said firms may be taking steps to address these problems, but their initiatives may lack “visibility”.

Remuneration ranked as the second most important factor in the study, reducing the attraction and retention of talent in the audit profession in most regions.

Auditors felt that the intensive workload during busy seasons is not adequately compensated for. This was in turn demotivating, and if it remains unchecked could further impact the attraction and retention of talent in the future.

And, as the authors of the report said pay will always be considered inadequate if the impact of a poor work-life balance is not addressed.

There is also a perception of a lack of variety of work for auditors. The rise in regulatory requirements and standards has heightened the demands of the job, often causing audits to feel more like a compliance exercise rather than a value-adding service.

However, the authors of the study said the interest in sustainability reporting and assurance presents opportunities to attract, develop and retain staff.

Technology can also play a part in attracting people to the profession. Survey findings reveal a strong interest in advanced technologies as many individuals considering entry into the audit profession.

Antonis Diolas, head of audit and assurance at ACCA was concerned that the study found an absence of a common understanding and unified purpose with the audit profession. He went on: “This not only inhibits perspective candidates from entering the profession on the first place, but it also hinders current professionals from recognising how their work generates value.”

Read the full report at: