Are training offices prepared to re-evaluate their structure to incorporate the ‘cute and fluffy’, thereby creating a friendlier, more supportive work environment for trainees while ensuring efficient and effective performance?
If we talk to trainees in the audit environment, be it in small, medium, or large firms, the environment is often described as unsupportive, hard, emotionally draining and even toxic.
Upon further inquiry, trainees would note that they are often left to figure out what to do on their own because the seniors are not approachable, that they do not receive the appropriate training for what is expected of them, and that deadlines are often inflexible and impracticable with repercussions if not met, even when the trainee’s concerns were previously discussed.
Trainees would note that they work long hours without compensation and that this is justified as ‘training’ even when they are not learning new skills and techniques or improving their knowledge in this time. Sick leave is subject to work having been completed, which leaves trainees reluctant to take sick leave and care for their physical, emotional and mental health.
Qualified professionals often note that they had experienced some sort of emotional, mental, or physical breakdown during their time in training because of a harsh work environment.
Then we ask why trainees are so eager to leave the audit environment after qualifying …
Audit is a ‘time is a money’-driven environment where every minute is accounted for through the submission of timesheets. Deadlines are there to help seniors, managers and partners reach their clients’ expectations, address concerns in an appropriate and timely manner, and prevent a backlog of engagements from occurring. This contributes to an effective and efficient work environment.
The long and strenuous hours can take a toll on a person, especially you find yourself in a repetitive cycle where most of your training comes from review notes because you did not receive appropriate training before attempting the work.
When I raised the question about finding a balance between providing training, formally or on the job, while considering reasonable deadlines and providing trainees with support to reach their deadlines, training goals and objectives, I was told I was describing a ‘cute and fluffy’ training environment and that there was a difference between ‘cute and fluffy’ and ‘effective and efficient’.
But why is providing your trainees with sufficient training and support to reach their deadlines ‘cute and fluffy’ when appropriate training can lead to enhanced work performance? This will result in fewer review comments and less follow up with the client, enhancing the efficiency of the audit team and contributing to deadlines being met.
Trainees without the appropriate training and guidance are often left to rely on what was done in the previous year, without understanding what they are doing or why. Because they are left to their own devices, considerable time is wasted, and this leads to gaps in follow up. This, in turn, translates into more review comments − even more so following math inquiries with clients − and this often leads to deadlines being missed or unfinished work.
While ‘cute and fluffy’ is meant to be sarcastic, it is in fact the ideal training office environment for ensuring high-quality work and the effective and efficient completion of work in a timely manner, all the while ensuring trainees receive the necessary support and training to deliver high-quality young professionals when they are signed off.
Author: Chantal Potgieter AGA (SA) is Senior Audit Consultant at SAPRO