Newcomer Socialization in Public Accounting Following the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Field Survey of Experienced Big 4 Professionals

33 Pages Posted: 7 Mar 2022

See all articles by Charles D. Bailey

Charles D. Bailey

James Madison University

Derek W. Dalton

Clemson University

Nancy L. Harp

Clemson University

Thomas J. Phillips, Jr.

Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge - Department of Accounting

Date Written: February 4, 2022

Abstract

Public accounting newcomers develop skills and adopt social norms to become a “professional” through the process of organizational socialization. Prior research explores the socialization of accounting professionals in a traditional, face-to-face work environment, where newcomers largely learn from the observation of role models. Extended office closures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic provide an opportunity to examine socialization in a remote work environment. Using a field survey of 109 experienced Big 4 accounting professionals, we explore the impact of remote work on the socialization of newcomers. Respondents report widespread concern across all areas of remote socialization, including a lower ability to learn about firm expectations and a lower ability to form the coworker bonds necessary to work in teams and develop organizational commitment. Responses from auditors (compared to tax professionals) suggest that remote socialization is particularly challenging within the auditing profession, with new auditors less able to develop appropriate client communication skills and appropriate client relationships. Auditors also fear that future audit quality could be compromised by newcomers who will lack the skills to be “good seniors” (due to the shortcomings of their remote socialization). Respondents provide recommendations to mitigate concerns about remote socialization, yet more than 90% of respondents believe that newcomers need to be present on certain days each week. Results and implications are provided to assist accounting firms as they consider expanding remote work arrangements beyond the pandemic.

Suggested Citation

Bailey, Charles D. and Dalton, Derek W. and Harp, Nancy and Phillips, Jr., Thomas J., Newcomer Socialization in Public Accounting Following the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Field Survey of Experienced Big 4 Professionals (February 4, 2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4050702 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4050702

Charles D. Bailey

James Madison University ( email )

Harrisonburg, VA 22807
United States
901 484-0867 (Phone)

Derek W. Dalton

Clemson University ( email )

101 Sikes Ave
Clemson, SC 29634
United States

Nancy Harp (Contact Author)

Clemson University ( email )

Clemson, SC 29631
United States
864-656-0431 (Phone)

Thomas J. Phillips, Jr.

Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge - Department of Accounting ( email )

E.J. Ourso College of Business Administration
2800 Business Education Complex
Baton Rouge, LA 70803
United States

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