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How Business Schools Are Teaching Soft Skills

Business schools are still trying to crack the code when it comes to teaching soft skills.

Soft skills, according to the balance, are interpersonal skills such as communication, listening, and empathy. Such communication skills are highly sought after by MBA recruiters and employers. According to the Graduate Management Admission Council, employers rank oral communication as the most important soft skill, followed by writing and listening skills.

User-Centricity Approach

Nicholas Glady, an associate professor of marketing at ESSEC Business School, argues in a Financial Times piece that a “user-centricity” approach should be taken by b-schools to teach MBAs soft skills.

According to Glady, user-centricity involves designing courses that can be adapted to fit the needs of students. In a user-centricity approach, students could be put in a real-life situation where they present their results and findings to managers or executives.

How Schools are Teaching Soft Skills

At ESSEC, according to Glady, business analytics courses involve projects that are based on real-life data sets. In these courses, students analyze data from partner companies and present to top management a solution. In the presentation, students are assessed on hard skills, such as methodological aspects, and soft skills, such as presentation structure and quality.

“The accuracy of technical analyses is the fundamental basis of reliable work,” Glady writes. “However, if it is not convincing, it will not achieve the real objective: transforming the company. Both hard skills and soft skills are a means to an end, which is to improve the company’s ability to achieve its mission.”

At the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business, communication skills development is built into nearly every course, according to lecturer Gregory LaBlanc.

“We put a huge emphasis on the ability to communicate things and not simply to know things,” LaBlanc says in a Poets & Quants interview.

According to LaBlanc, Haas hires teachers with backgrounds in theater, game design, and improvisation in order to teach students how to communicate spontaneously.

“It’s also about being comfortable enough about what they know that they’re concerned more about communicating that,” LaBlanc says.

For Glady, he argues that business school professors should be teaching students skills that will allow them to act in real-life situations.

“For business schools, this means designing courses that can be adapted to the students’ needs — what to learn, how to learn it,” Glady writes.

Sources: Financial Times, the balance, Poets & Quants