Audit profession at crossroads in fight for talent

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An ACCA report calls for a concerted effort to address longstanding talent challenges and reshape the dynamics to achieve sustained growth and impact.

Major challenges that the audit profession faces in attracting and retaining talent are set out in the latest report by ACCA and Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CAANZ).

A recent survey by ACCA and CAANZ, supported by a series of global roundtables, revealed persistent challenges facing the auditing profession in its battle to attract and retain talent, implying declining numbers entering the audit profession.

Insights from more than 6,500 finance professionals around the globe revealed a sector whose workforce is demanding flexible working and equitable remuneration in the face of increasing concerns about individuals’ work-life balance.

Antonis Diolas, head of audit and assurance at ACCA, said: “A compelling insight from our study highlights the absence of a commonly understood and unified purpose within the audit profession. This not only inhibits prospective candidates from entering the profession in the first place, but also hinders current professionals from recognizing how their work generates value.”

More than half of the survey respondents were Gen Y/Millennials aged 25-42, with 37 per cent current auditors, 33 per cent former auditors and the rest considering audit as a future career.

Amir Ghandar, reporting and assurance leader at CAANZ, said: “The research clearly shows the need for empathy and respect in the workplace recognizing employees’ multifaceted lives. People also need to be able to see themselves in their leaders, to visualize the opportunities and career possibilities in a way that feels real.”

While audit firms are implementing initiatives to address concerns, the persistence of the core issues signals the need for transformative change.

For instance, the survey revealed enthusiasm for sustainability reporting and assurance among existing audit professionals and potential entrants to the profession. This presents a unique talent attraction opportunity for audit firms to capitalize.

Five themes emerged from the research to solve the current crisis:

Work-life balance is the key issue: Unsupportive workplace cultures need to be addressed, with more emphasis on supportive working environments which recognize personal needs and well-being.

Fair remuneration: Intensive workloads during the peak audit season must be remunerated and if not addressed, could further affect the attraction and retention of talent in the future.

Career ladder and variety of work: The traditional career ladder is unappealing to young audit professionals. Firms need to look to develop a “career lattice,” to offer a greater variety of roles and to work to accommodate auditors’ preferences and outside interests.

Sustainability assurance and reporting: This work is seen as purpose-driven and offers a clear hope for the audit profession, with 48 per cent of non-auditors saying such work could tempt them to join the profession and 40 per cent of auditors saying such a career could tempt them to stay.

Embrace technology to remain relevant: Those considering entering the profession wish to embrace advanced technologies. While the big four and mid-tier firms can fulfill that wish small firms are lagging. Bridging the technology gap is a strategic imperative for the profession.

The report recommends that new entrants experience advanced technologies from the outset. Diolas said: “Audits serve as the backbone of financial reliability, ensuring accuracy and transparency while building trust and accountability. With robust audit practices, businesses not only thrive but also attract investment, bolstering the stability of capital markets and contributing to a prosperous economic future for all.”

Communicating this message so that it resonates with prospective and existing audit professionals should lead to positive outcomes in talent attraction and retention.


"Audit profession at crossroads in fight for talent"

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