As an audit professional, you face many challenges — including rising staff turnover and fast-changing standards that make it difficult to stay in compliance and stay competitive. Let’s examine three of these pressures, along with some solutions to help make your audit practice a healthy and happy one!
Problem: An Unstable Workforce
It’s more challenging than ever to establish a stable and productive team — from hiring, training and retaining qualified staff to resolving inefficiencies so employees can access data anywhere, anytime (and, increasingly, on any device). In fact, larger firms are experiencing over 20% staff turnover and fewer hiring candidates are sitting for the CPA exam, according to the most recent Rosenberg Survey. Further complicating matters, Deloitte reports that millennials are more likely to change jobs four times in the first decade of their career (more than any other generation). So firms have to train new hires more often — and with fewer CPAs entering the profession, it’s a real challenge to attract the most sought-after candidates.
What’s the Solution?
There’s isn’t a magic answer when it comes to solving staffing issues, but here are three things you can do to help position your audit practice for success.
- Conduct “stay” interviews: What if loyal employees were given a chance to tell you why they stay? And what if they were given a risk-free zone within which to describe what it’s like to be an audit team member at your firm? A stay interview can give you great insight into what might be the most impactful ways to improve the employee experience at your firm.
- Connect with a local college or university to find some interns: This is a great way to get some bright young talent into your firm at minimal risk — and getting fresh energy and perspective (even at the cost of experience) can result in some very useful insights about how you manage your firm.
- Get everyone at the firm involved in strategic direction: People want to do more than just collect a paycheck. They want to feel like what they do matters — that’s a big part of where professional fulfillment comes from. So it’s important that you manage your firm transparently, including employees in discussions about how the firm operates and what kinds of changes can be made to improve your customers’ experience.
Problem: Compliance Uncertainty
Standards are changing at a breakneck speed, and many audit professionals hesitate to change their procedures from the previous year for fear of non-compliance. But a “same as last year” approach could put your firm at risk. In fact, the AICPA reports that 16% of firms did not pass peer review in 2015. And FASB alone issued 74 new Accounting Standards Updates from 2012-2016, and issued another 7 ASUs in the first 3 months of 2017. All of these changes put you in a precarious position, making it hard to keep up while still maintaining high quality standards and realization rates.
What’s the Solution?
First, take a look at your current process for keeping up with changes. It’s helpful to ask yourself some questions. For instance, do you attend update webinars or events? Are you using technology like Thomson Reuters Checkpoint to ensure you don’t spend a significant amount of time looking for answers (especially when you need answers you know you can trust)? How well equipped is the entire audit team for what they need to know? Is there consistency from one person to the next? How did your last peer review go, and what did you learn from it?
Second, how automated is your process for updating audit procedures each year? Are you spending a lot of time reassessing risk in the context of new regulatory changes? One major step in the right direction that helps solve this problem is getting a trusted partner like Thomson Reuters, who has an internal stronghold of knowledge — including several hundred CPAs on staff — and the ability to tie this knowledge to relevant technology.
Problem: Fallible Technology
A firm is only as powerful as its technology — and any vulnerability that affects efficiency, innovation or security can be devastating for the firm. Conversely, the ability to truly innovate in your firm is tied to your technology. According to the KPMG Global Technology Innovation Survey, the two most important factors identified in enabling technology innovation in a company are availability of talent and access to technology infrastructure. And 71% of CIOs find it challenging to find the right balance between business innovation and operational excellence, per an IDG Enterprise study.
What’s the Solution?
Technology alone isn’t enough, but it’s where you should start. Are there places where your workflow is held back by your technology? What does your team have to say about the technology you use? When is the last time you really evaluated new technology?
Another great exercise to see how well your technology assists your workflow is through a journey map. If you’ve never journey mapped a process before, the basic idea is to have a meeting with all of the people who have a part in the process (in our case, auditing) and walk through each piece of the process together. What happens at each step? What parts involve manual processes, and which could be automated through technology? And by including all people in this meeting, that would ideally mean having a client participate, too, so you can find out more about their experience as they interact with your firm. Journey mapping provides excellent insight into how you operate, and it will also help you uncover opportunities to improve how you work.