Accounting for Human Resources: Implications for Theory and Practice.

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Knowledge workers are an important resource for the typical modern business firm, yet financial reporting ignores such resources. Some researchers contend that the accounting profession has stressed reliability in order to make the accounting appear objective. Others concur, noting that accounting is an insecure profession and adopts strict rules when faced with uncertainty. Accountants have promulgated a strict rule to expense human resource costs, although many know that such resources have future benefits. Some researchers suggest that any discipline must modify its language in order to initiate change toward providing useful social ameliorations. If accounting theorists extend this idea to ... continued below

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Stovall, Olin Scott December 2001.

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  • Stovall, Olin Scott

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Knowledge workers are an important resource for the typical modern business firm, yet financial reporting ignores such resources. Some researchers contend that the accounting profession has stressed reliability in order to make the accounting appear objective. Others concur, noting that accounting is an insecure profession and adopts strict rules when faced with uncertainty. Accountants have promulgated a strict rule to expense human resource costs, although many know that such resources have future benefits. Some researchers suggest that any discipline must modify its language in order to initiate change toward providing useful social ameliorations. If accounting theorists extend this idea to the accounting lexicon.s description of investments in human resources, investors and other accounting user groups might gain greater insight into how a firm fosters and nourishes human capital. I tested three hypotheses related to this issue by administering an experiment designed to assess financial analysts. perceptions about alternative financial statement treatments of human resources in an investment recommendation task. I predicted that (1) analysts' perceptions of the reliability (relevance) of the information they received would decrease (increase) as the treatment of human resources increasingly violated GAAP (became more current-oriented), (2) analysts exposed to alternative accounting treatments would report a lower likelihood of recommending that their clients invest in the company in the task, and (3) financial analysts who ranked reliability (relevance) as a more important information quality would be less (more) likely to recommend that their clients buy the stock represented in the case because the treatment of human resources on the financial statements violated GAAP (was more current-oriented) as compared to analysts who ranked reliability (relevance) as being lower (higher) in importance. Analysts receiving financial statements with accounting treatments of human resource costs that violated GAAP judged such information as less reliable and were also less likely to recommend that their clients buy the stock in the task than analysts receiving financial statements that conformed to GAAP. Also, analysts who perceived reliability as a more important information quality reacted more negatively to a replacement cost approach to accounting for human resources than participants who perceived reliability as being less important. A potential confounding explanation of the results is the varied language used in the audit opinions included with the treatment financial statements. Whether explained by the audit opinion language or the actual differences contained in the financial statements, the results suggest that an important user group, financial analysts, may be subject to the aura of objectivity suggested by Porter in 1995.

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  • December 2001

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  • Sept. 25, 2007, 10:58 p.m.

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  • June 23, 2015, 2 p.m.

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Stovall, Olin Scott. Accounting for Human Resources: Implications for Theory and Practice., dissertation, December 2001; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc3026/: accessed April 29, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .