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January 27, 2023

A Word on the Persistent Low Morale of the Audit Profession

We received the following email from a distraught and burnt out Big 4 auditor in the Southeast:

The level of morale in the [XYZ] office is at an all time low. Discussion with low level staff, through managers, have yielded the same opinion of overwhelming expectations without the needed support from the firm. They want us to draw blood from a turnip, and they want it done better, faster, and with less resources than last year. This has caused everyone to start exploring options in the market. A vast majority have started fielding resumes and contacting recruiting firms. The select few who have made it past that hurdle are interviewing with no looking back.

Primarily, people have expressed their interest in holding out any real intentions of leaving until promotions roll around in the later part of the summer. They’re hoping that maybe there will be some juicy 20% raise waiting for them, but the stark reality of a measly 5% raise is what they know is coming. Any fifth year Seniors who are waiting for the promotion to manager are just using it for resume purposes.

Our offices are already using under qualified second year staff at the Senior level, as well as retaining new managers in the Senior position because they are extremely understaffed at that level. This, in turn, is causing all of those people to take measures to leave perhaps after busy season and certainly after the insulting promotions come through in August.

Does any of that sound familiar? It should, it was first published here in 2010.

If you think the things we’re seeing now — understaffed teams, pathetic raises, a critical lack of seniors, and low morale to name a few — are new, they aren’t. Attrition is baked into the Big 4 business model; they expect new hires to start dropping off like contestants on The Bachelor as time wears on. If they didn’t expect you to leave, new hire classes would be much, much smaller and the big intern galas could be held at a strip mall Dave & Busters instead of Disney. Not a single firm leader talking about talent shortages is genuinely shocked to hear yet another staff 2 tendered their two weeks. Firms are hence unmotivated to sweeten the pot for you to stick around, if anything they’re counting on you to leave.

The problem has been brewing for a long time and anyone who says otherwise obviously hasn’t been paying attention. The big difference nowadays is that young business students have a wealth of resources available to them at the flick of a mouse that echo the sentiments of the above email: we’re tired, we’re overworked, we’re underappreciated, and we’re over it. Only a masochist would hear that and think “yeah, that’s something I want to spend my 20s experiencing!”

Solve those issues and voila, you’ve solved the pipeline problem. EZ

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