Closing the B-School Skill Gap
It only takes one bad experience.
That’s certainly true in retail. Units may be defective in the box, but customers will blame the store anyway. If retailers’ service and resolution isn’t perceived as fast, fair or friendly, they can expect a word-of-mouth ( if not a social media) nightmare on their hands. It only takes one person’s one moment of bad judgment to unravel a brand’s credibility.
It’s comforting to think that some employers’ caution towards MBAs stems from unrealistic expectations and skewed perceptions. But behind every stereotype is a nugget of truth. In a 2014 EdAssist study, 93% of managers and 75% of employees agreed that skills like communication and problem-solving should be taught in higher education. In other words, who you are is becoming as important as what you know.
This perceived skill gap was recently addressed in an article appearing in Chief Learning Officer. And it made a pretty sweeping judgment:
“According to professionals and academics, business schools excel at teaching theory and basic principles related to leadership and problem-solving, but the foundational ideas aren’t enough. Writing and communication skills, technical know-how, understanding organizational structure, critical thinking and social intelligence are most noticeably absent.”
In particular, Michael Arena, chief talent officer at General Motors, observes that some graduates don’t fully grasp social dynamics, such as developing influence and driving change within a hierarchy. And Martha Soehren, who serves as Comcast’s chief talent development officer, notes that some graduates struggle with big picture thinking. “We spend a lot of time with employees trying to help them connect the dots. Teaching better strategic and conceptual skills would help grads relate to why and what they’re doing, why that’s important to the overall business.”
And these issues have real world implications. The skill gap forces companies to devote more time and money to onboarding employees. Even more, it stunts company growth, forcing them to write off a return until employees gain confidence and master these social intricacies.
So what’s behind this disconnect? For starters, Jay Titus, EdAssist’s director of academic services, tells Chief Learning Officer that many schools don’t involve the employers who hire their graduates in formulating the curriculum. “That’s where there could be significant change, if the higher-ed institution making these decisions on the types of programs they’re going to offer engages corporate America in that decision before the program is built.”
Here’s another factor: The continued emphasis on assessments that measure book learning. “Knowledge is a commodity these days,” says Arena, “and with MOOCs [massive open online courses] and anything you can find on YouTube, students can be lectured anywhere virtually. My concern is we’re not teaching social dynamics and critical thinking skills from a critical standpoint, and that’s in the approach more than the content.”
The skill gap may also be a reflection of a continued misinterpretation of millennials. “There are generational gaps that tend to exaggerate what we think skills gaps are,” Arena argues. “I’m frankly very optimistic on what the new generation is bringing to the world and businesses.”
Still, many schools are taking steps to nourish these sometimes-neglected skills. For example, Neil Braun, dean of Pace University’s Lubin School of Business, requires “each graduate to complete an internship and hold a campus leadership role, run a student business, complete a second internship or participate in some other hands-on application of skills before he or she can receive a diploma.”
Meanwhile, Soehren, who relied heavily on practical exercises for evaluation when she taught at the college level, points out that colleges should hire more facilitators who “teach by night what they do by day” to reinforce process and people skills critical to workplace success.
While schools are ultimately responsible for the graduates who enter the marketplace, that doesn’t leave employers off the hook according to Soehren. “When we hire these people, we have to be willing to go extra steps to make them successful. We have to invest in them, and we have to recognize where they need help.”
To read the full article, click on the link below.
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Source: Chief Learning Officer