By Michellana Jester & Chetan Bhargava,
The pandemic has altered the way we live. While the immediate aftermath was spent in making sense of the new normal, it is now time to assess how the future will be shaped by the learnings we have gathered over the past two years. It is imperative to remember that across industries, fundamentals have shifted. To address those altered fundamentals, organizations and leaders must create and offer greater value to all its stakeholders.
With the increased presence of technology in every domain of our lives, organizations are displaying a keenness to integrate tech-enabled engagement with their operations. For instance, universities are experimenting with shorter, more content precise modules and credentials which can be completed within a few weeks. Offering inter-disciplinary options is no longer just an intellectual indulgence, but an urgent necessity that students are more aggressively pursuing.
In a recent Meaningful Conversations webinar, Amita Maheshwari, Human Resource Head, APAC of The Walt Disney Company, shared the process by which she leads the recruitment of several thousand personnel on a daily basis. Maheshwari described her pre-pandemic efforts of traveling to university campuses and identify candidates through in-person group discussions. The benefit of this in-person introduction helped launch the company’s informal onboarding process. This recruitment and informal onboarding design led to increased business participation bringing in agility as well as a faster business turnaround. However, with the move to virtual recruiting due to pandemic restrictions, she noted how scheduling job candidates for multiple virtual calls proved challenging. Hence, Disney pivoted their recruiting approach, asking recruits to upload a 60-second video about themselves to Disney’s secure online portal. This move eased the burden of scheduling calls, while allowing candidates to display their agility and creativity to the recruiting team. Virtually on-boarding employees pushed Maheshwari’s team to think of other creative ways to use technology to make the entire hiring process smoother.
This type of transition is possible because candidates, like Maheshwari and her team, are willing to adapt to the demands of the environment and adopt new recruitment and onboarding processes. Access to a greater pool of talent, thanks to remote hiring has helped organizations expand their geographic reach. Additionally, the transition from fully ‘work from home’ to a home/office hybrid set-up has also created the need to adopt newer methods of learning, evaluation and performance management. The focus has shifted from looking at the unidimensional employee productivity to examining the larger spectrum of their learning capabilities. In the past, mid and senior level roles required advance skills that could not be easily encapsulated or captured by performance measurement metrics. New, sharper performance and assessment tools are required.
Beyond the traditional classroom
It is important to incorporate real-world challenges within the business school curriculum. These experiences help students understand the demands and opportunities organizations face, and how they navigate those challenges to help move businesses to action. The pandemic has further demonstrated that impactful learning experiences don’t only happen within the classroom. Institutions can create relevant and meaningful learning experiences using approaches such as internships, project-based assignments, role play and simulations- to assist students in testing and using knowledge from their course work towards a real-world application of their skills. Students move beyond theoretical concepts towards developing a more holistic, interdisciplinary skill set that is more agile and responsive to environmental changes.
The singular focus for higher education institutions remains developing, augmenting and strengthening skills for an uncertain and unpredictable world. Higher education institutions have a tacit and explicit mandate to teach students skills that will adapt to any future work environment because we are unable to fully imagine what the jobs of the future will look like. Because they are meant to prepare for future jobs that have yet to be defined, there is little agreement among business schools about the best approach for teaching and learning. Most agree that skills must be defined as measurable units that enable a person to reach a specific goal. As skills evolve and transform, they must be named, outlined and framed. These skills of the future have a dual focus: managing people’s expectations and creating value. They must be, as coined by Prof. Loredana Purdurean of Asia School of Business, “sharp” (rigorous and analytic) and “smart” (human centered and emotionally intelligent).
The renewed discussions on the importance of soft skills or human skills such as empathy and compassion surged during the pandemic. Universities are finding that the best way to inculcate these skills is on the job. Education institutions and businesses have drawn from their respective pandemic experience the insight that the future will favor dynamic thinking and those with the ability to collaborate and lead effectively across geographies and cultures; have the willingness to pivot to and adapt emergent technologies, and have the ability to fuse flexibility with efficiency while embracing agility.
(The authors Michellana Jester is Global Economics and Management Lecturer at MIT School of Management and Chetan Bhargava is Co-Founder at Wisdom Tree and MIT Sloan Fellow. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of FinancialExpress.com)