Learning the 'Craft' of Auditing: A Dynamic View of Auditors' On-the-Job Learning

50 Pages Posted: 4 Mar 2014

See all articles by Kim Westermann

Kim Westermann

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

Jean C. Bedard

Bentley University - Department of Accountancy

Christine E. Earley

Providence College -School of Business

Date Written: March 1, 2014

Abstract

We investigate how auditors learn the technical aspects of their professional role while performing client engagements, and how that learning process has been shaped by changes in societal, economic and regulatory forces. Prior studies explicitly recognize that auditors need social skills and demeanor consistent with professional norms as well as requisite knowledge, but those studies generally focus on the processes through which new auditors are molded toward consistency with social norms. In contrast, we focus on forces affecting the transfer of technical knowledge from supervisor (guide) to subordinate (learner) in the everyday work setting. Our evidence derives from semi-structured interviews with 30 relatively new and more experienced audit partners at one Big 4 firm, thus spanning multiple "generations" of experience. Results confirm that auditors primarily acquire technical knowledge on the job, through the interactions among individual engagement team members. However, partners express concern about changes in the practice environment that may limit effectiveness of on-the-job learning, including characteristics of personnel, the approach to formal training at induction, supervisors' reluctance to provide candid feedback, regulatory and economic pressures, and the increased distraction and reduced interpersonal contact associated with use of information technology. At the end of the day, our findings raise implications for practice regarding the difficulty of developing effective learning conditions for auditors in the face of these challenges.

Keywords: Auditing, Learning, Apprenticeship, Personnel development

JEL Classification: M42, D83, M14, M53

Suggested Citation

Westermann, Kimberly and Bedard, Jean C. and Earley, Christine E., Learning the 'Craft' of Auditing: A Dynamic View of Auditors' On-the-Job Learning (March 1, 2014). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2404029 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2404029

Kimberly Westermann (Contact Author)

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo ( email )

San Luis Obispo, CA 93407
United States

Jean C. Bedard

Bentley University - Department of Accountancy ( email )

175 Forest Street
Waltham, MA 02452
United States
781-891-2410 (Phone)
781-891-2896 (Fax)

Christine E. Earley

Providence College -School of Business ( email )

1 Cunningham Square
Providence, RI 02918-0001
United States
401-865-2056 (Phone)
401-865-2978 (Fax)

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