The auditing sector could lose over half of its trainees within two years, according to a study from Nyenrode Business Universiteit.
Auditing firms' focus on maximising profits puts high levels of pressure on overstretched trainees, compromising the quality of their audit work.
The research, conducted by assistant professor Marlies de Vries in collaboration with Bas Herrijgers of NBA Young Professionals, a special commission of the Royal Netherlands Chartered Accountants, surveyed 517 trainees and young auditors working within the sector.
One respondent, a trainee at a mid-sized audit firm, commented: 'Scheduling is too tight. 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."
Other respondents cited heavy workloads, high pressure and lack of professional development as the top reasons to leave the profession.
Marlies says: "During the busy season, young professionals spend an average of 60 hours per week working and studying. This is because of capacity shortage, unrealistic schedules and high client expectations. Auditing organisations also reward young professionals who embrace heavy workloads, which has caused this to become part of the culture as well."
"This study shows that because of the high pressure they face at work, young professionals routinely do not spend enough time on studying and training. The attention paid to 'coaching on the job' at senior trainee level is alarming and in other job levels is barely adequate. This is leading over half of trainees and young professionals to consider quitting the profession within two years."
The researchers suggest tackling the root causes of high work pressure instead of introducing superficial fixes like health-themed weeks and sports facilities.
Marlies continues: "Work pressure has been a neglected topic in the industry, with only lip service being paid to tackling the issues that young professionals are facing. Professional development is not a priority within the sector, which is impacting the abilities and performance of those in one of the most impressionable and important stages of their careers."
"If the auditing profession does not tackle these problems soon, its attraction and retention of trainees could fall even further. It's time for firms to put better working conditions – which also have a positive impact on overall audit quality – above profit."