Young Auditors Are Poised to Leave

Trainees are under so much pressure that their work is compromised.

Young Auditors Are Poised to Leave

The auditing sector could lose over half of its trainees within two years, according to a study from Nyenrode Business Universiteit in Breukelen, the Netherlands. Two researchers conclude that, because auditing firms focus on maximizing profits, trainees are under such high levels of pressure that the quality of their work is compromised.

The study was commissioned by the Royal Netherlands Institute of Chartered Accountants and conducted by Marlies de Vries, an assistant professor at Nyenrode, in collaboration with Bas Herrijgers of NBA Young Professionals, an initiative devoted to new accountants and accounting students in their last years of study. The two researchers surveyed 517 trainees and young auditors working within the sector.

Respondents who said they were considering leaving the profession pointed to heavy workloads, high pressure, and lack of professional development as factors driving their decision. “Scheduling is too tight,” according to one individual. “The commercial budget is used as a basis for the schedule, even though the actual number of hours is higher. This also occurs at the expense of time for activities aimed at personal development and continued growth.”

During the busy season, young professionals might work and study an average of 60 hours a week because of capacity shortage, unrealistic schedules, and high client expectations. “Auditing organizations also reward young professionals who embrace heavy workloads,” making that mindset part of the culture, says de Vries.

Auditing firms should address the root causes of high stress instead of introducing superficial fixes like health-themed weeks and sports facilities, the researchers suggest. “Work pressure has been a neglected topic in the industry,” says de Vries. “It’s time for firms to put better working conditions— which also have a positive impact on audit quality—above profit.”