Saturday 31 May 2014

Who Got Talent?

Ask any leader of organisations on matters which concern them and the chances are talent would be high on their list. It is amazing that in the world where information is readily available and educational institutions are mushrooming, recruiting and retaining talent appears to be one of the key challenges faced by organisations. This is not a phenomena faced by Malaysia alone, many countries around this region are having the same challenge, notwithstanding the strength of their currencies.

Where have all the talents gone?

Maybe I can start by considering talents at the entry point, the graduates. Despite the differences in approaches taken by organisations in assessing talents, the top scorers would certainly be preferred. However, this group would be only around 20% of graduates entering the job market. Most of the time, the kind of employers who are able to recruit these top talents would be large organisations which have allocations to train and nurture the talents that they recruited.

What will happen to the rest? For those who are at the bottom 20%, regretfully, they would find it difficult to be employed. Those who are stuck at the middle, on the other hand, may ended up with less resourceful employers which may not have comprehensive programmes for talent development.

We could see from the above the kind of "mis-match" between skills and competencies and further talent development. Those who are good will be further nurtured which those who displayed moderate results may not be provided with the same opportunities. Perhaps this is none of the reason organisations which employ graduates from the middle segment would be complaining about the "quality" of graduates without admitting that they themselves may have not made adequate investment in their own people. Organisations at the end of the scale would only be able to employ the remnants of students, based on their inferior grades. I am sure you would be able to anticipate the outcome of such situation.

We may have also heard about the issue relating the quality of graduates. Depending where you are on the supply chain, this issue could be viewed in many perspectives.

Employers would always demand for the best, which to my mind is rightfully so given that through their organisations, economic activities are created, which eventually contributing to our economic growth and providing employment opportunities. On the other hand, those at the institutions of higher learning may not necessarily share the view that graduates that they produce should serve the need of industries. They would argue that our education policy is a holistic one which attempts to equip graduates with knowledge and humanistic values, not necessarily serving the need of employers. 

I do not see any problem with the two views. The only question that I may want to ask is why those who are nurtured to have both education and values could not adjust quick enough when they are employed? In fact, many employers would be complaining about the graduates' thinking' and problem solving skills. I am not sure whether thinking and problem solving are not part of the holistic policy? Or, could it be that the standard set is pitched towards the standard of thinking and problem solving of their educators?

As a taxpayer, I would certainly like to see that money that I contributed towards nation building is well spent. Since many of our institutions of higher learning are funded by public funds, they should not ignore the expectations of people who are funding them, the Rakyat!

Employers should also play their role in nurturing talents and cannot expect all graduates posses knowledge, skills and values which fit exactly with their requirements. For the accountancy profession for example, many accountancy firms will require their staff to complete professional accountancy qualifications, to ensure the baseline standards for accountants are achieved. This is not cheap as it requires investments in terms of money, time and efforts in the form of guidance and mentoring. However, the outcome of such investment would certainly make them more effective and competitive.

Graduates should not expect employment as something which does not require them to further work on their competencies. At the early stages of employment, the focus would be on skills and competency development. At the later stages, their management and leadership skills will determine how far they can grow in the organisations.

I suppose the talent issue will remain with us for a long time. However, this should not deter organisations to review the processes which they deploy to develop talents. Graduates should also not expect everything would be given on silver platters, they need to work harder to fit into the organisations which employ them.

Tuesday 13 May 2014

AOB Annual Report 2013: Oversight focus on internal monitoring systems

Audit firms are reminded to perform the necessary audit procedures to evaluate whether the overall presentation of the financial statements is in accordance with the applicable financial reporting framework, according to the Audit Oversight Board (AOB) in releasing its fourth annual report.
The report highlighted that while the presentation and disclosure of financial statements is the management’s responsibility, there are specific ISA requirements that need to be adhered to by auditors.
The AOB Annual Report 2013 has captured its oversight focus in the past year on activities that reinforced the quality control system of audit firms in Malaysia and encouraged best practices which enhance the quality of their audit work.
The oversight board’s inspections activities stressed on key elements including the tone set by leadership of audit firms, consistency of performance of partners within an audit network and the effectiveness of their internal quality monitoring systems.
Audit firms’ internal monitoring processes were given added focus during inspections to allow AOB to have a better picture of their scope, implementation and effectiveness. In his Chairman’s statement, Nik Mohd Hasyudeen Yusoff, Executive Chairman of the AOB said, “Based on our findings, we believe audit firms need to enhance this component of their quality control procedures to ensure better effectiveness.”
AOB’s 2013 Annual Report also lists down potential root causes to audit deficiencies for major firms.
Lack of resources due to continuous high attrition rate, amount of involvement and insufficient supervision and direction by engagement partners, failure of the firms’ monitoring control mechanism to surface relevant issues and lack of application of professional scepticism in evaluating audit evidence continue to be top potential issues.
Meanwhile, the potential major root causes in other audit firms were weak messages on audit quality by their leadership, lack of understanding of the business of audit clients, inadequate technical competencies in both accounting and auditing, insufficient technical support to safeguard audit quality which includes consultation process and internal monitoring reviews, lack of application of professional scepticism in evaluating audit evidence; insufficient involvement, supervision and direction by engagement partners and ineffective Engagement Quality Control Reviewer (EQCR).
“More honest and holistic approaches in identifying root causes and devising appropriate remediation plans to address the actual drivers of the deficiencies would strengthened audit firms’
system of quality control, and position audit firms in better footings.,” Nik said.
In enforcing auditing standards the AOB took enforcement actions against 6 auditors in 2013, mainly for their failing to comply with the requirements of auditing standards in the performance of their audit.
“While the AOB has always been focusing on working with audit firms to enhance their performance, we would not hesitate to take enforcement actions against serious deficiencies and breach of ethical conducts which will affect confidence on the audited financial statements in Malaysia,” Nik said.
The report also found that audit fees charged by top 10 audit firms had increased by 6% and 9% in 2011 and 2013 to compensate for the increase in salary cost which rose 18% and 13%, respectively, in both years, and an increasing trend has been observed in audit fees since 2010.
The AOB was set up by the Securities Commission in 2010 to oversee the auditors of public-interest entities (PIEs), protect investors’ interest and promote confidence in the quality and reliability of audited financial statements of PIEs.
In 2013, the number of audit firms registered with the AOB went down to 53 in 2013 compared to 67 in 2012. However, the number of registered individual auditors has gone up from 293 compared to 302 in the previous year.
The AOB 2013 annual report can be downloaded here