Principles for building a modern audit profession
The below five principles should be at the heart of audit reform. They call for serious attention to purpose, identity, community, education and mindset.
They could help to advance the policy debate and guide the audit profession on its journey towards a better future.
Articulate, communicate and uphold social and economic purpose
The social and economic purpose of audit underpins the social contract and legitimacy of the profession and provides direction and meaning to innovation and improvement of services. Most
importantly, understanding the purpose behind an individual’s tasks is essential for their motivation, commitment and quality of work. A vibrant and socially relevant audit profession can inspire, attract and retain responsive and talented people who are seeking work with meaning and relevance.
The audit profession can better crystalise its purpose by facilitating dialogue with stakeholders across the wider ecosystem in which it operates — and beyond. Such deliberate engagement with society will demonstrate leadership and initiative and will enable trust and accountability.
Develop and promote the distinctive identity of the audit professional
A distinctive professional identity is linked to how individuals see their work. It influences how they contribute to the purpose of their profession and how they communicate its value. The cultivation of identity is a continuous journey throughout the various steps of professional preparation and is reinforced through lifelong learning and practice. A modern profession needs to consider more systemically the elements of this journey and how they underpin professional identity, culture and practice.
It is important to plan the resources and design the conditions that foster auditors’ moral and intellectual qualities, as well as the beliefs and ideals they should hold for the profession. This systemic approach will help attract and retain talent with the needed values, behaviours and commitments. Professional identity entails virtues and world views that are largely reinforced and promoted by the underlying ethos of the profession.
Foster a collaborative learning community for the professional practice of audit
A modern profession should facilitate learning between firms and create precompetitive spaces that advance its knowledge and promote its social and economic role. Audit firms of all sizes would benefit from collaborating in practice areas where each could perform better and where there are new challenges to resolve. The value of "collaborative communities of practice" has already been demonstrated by practitioners in various sectors and professions.
Practitioners need physical and mental spaces where they can learn and deliberate. Doing this within and across organisations, allows individuals to develop agency and mechanisms for solving complex problems. Safe spaces allow for experimentation and learning that could unite the profession around a common purpose in serving the public interest.
Commit to holistic professional formation and education
Powerful educational experiences can foster a sense of liberation, curiosity and commitment. A modern audit profession needs a level of formative preparation and ongoing training that will inspire, build and sustain its professional workforce. This requires holistic attention to the conditions, theory and approaches to learning, in order to cultivate capacities of judgement and qualities in aspiring auditors.
Formative education and training should, ideally, broaden capabilities and perspectives that are beyond the required technical excellence and skillset. Approaching professional formation more holistically would help to increase attention to developing curiosity, scepticism and critical thinking.
More meaningful professional education and training could be built on three interwoven aspects: excellence (pursuing a "good" that is internal to the practice of audit); engagement (the ability and motivation to critically engage with the purpose and function of audit); and ethicаlity (a broad understanding of ethics that emphasises "being" rather than doing).
Adopt a "design mindset" to think and work differently
A modern audit profession should reach out beyond its traditional stakeholders. In order to be trusted and responsive to the evolving needs of business and society, it has to find ways to engage more widely and deeply.
Adopting a design mindset could help the audit profession to expand its ideas of what is possible and desirable, and to find a way forward — to innovate. It will benefit from applying different perspectives and lenses to problem solving and from embracing iterative developments to drive change in an agile way and with pace. Design approaches have helped innovators in the arts, sciences and business to think differently about purpose, experience and services.
This people-centred approach has the potential to foster different ways for the audit profession to think, work and support continuous learning and improvement. Attending to the experiences of auditors and other stakeholders could empower the profession to evolve and to adapt to the complex, changing reality of its ecosystem.
Building a modern audit profession
Download a copy of the complete audit manifesto with its focus on the five principles.
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