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BW Businessworld

The Post-Covid Manager

Business education has been an attractive option during recessions and job market uncertainty – a trend likely to persist through the downturn brought on by the pandemic.

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Business Schools that qualify as the crèmede- la-crème, are set to develop future leaders equipped with skills to combat the challenges thrown up by Covid-19. Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated many new trends in business. It is poised to alter the dynamics and protocols of some industries across the world. These trends are redefining the roles and responsibilities of both wannabe managers and professionals in the higher echelons of management cadres. 

BW Businessworld reached out to some corporate honchos, who were unanimous in their belief that “problem-solving” is at the heart of innovation, and that the ongoing crises presents conditions for innovators and entrepreneurs to analyse the challenges and respond to them effectively. Even a second rung B-School graduate is expected to have key attributes like creativity, critical thinking, teamwork, civic responsibility, ethical and human values, resilience and adaptability and emotional intelligence to name a few. The institutes grooming these managers will be zeroing in on competencies such as resilience, managing under uncertainty, collaboration, agility, and communication. 

Says P.B. Venugopal, President, Lexus India, “Managers have always been a crucial link between various stakeholders in the organisation and in the future, will need to adapt to the changing environment and equip themselves with relevant skillsets spanning technical knowhow, practical knowledge, digital proficiency as well as soft skills.” He went on to add, “The pandemic has taught us that challenging times can  come in any form and we need to continuously remould and remodel ourselves at all times. Managers need to constantly keep themselves abreast of the latest technology available and at the same time be open to self-learning.” 

Jayaram Philkana, President and Global Chief Human Resources Officer, Glenmark Pharmaceuticals Limited, corroborates these views. “Aspiring managers need to reinvent themselves by focussing on continuing education in digital domain skills which are relevant to one’s profession,” says he. “They should also have the knowhow to lead effectively in virtual teams where we do not have the benefit of informal chats around the coffee machine to feel the pulse of the team. They should also come up with new ways of getting work done in a virtual world, manage performance of team members with more emphasis on quantitative metrics, ability to make time for ‘real human conversations’ over ‘a cup of virtual coffee’ as often as required,” he says. 

While corporate enterprises are adopting Work from Home strategies to cope with the pandemic, institutions are experimenting with blended teaching delivery options to be able to stay functional in times when Covid-19 restricts movements. 

Deans and professors of prominent institutions say that next-gen technologies like artificial intelligence, data analysis, cloud computing, Blockchain, etc., will become as important as traditional business school subjects like marketing and accounting. There is general consensus, however, of a consistent demand for business education. Even so, business  schools will have to adapt their offerings to the requirements of the changing times. 

The uncertain times have made decision-making difficult, points out R. Raman, Director, Symbiosis Institute of Business Management (SIBM). He believes that Covid-19 threw up an opportunity for B-schools to reinvent themselves in the academic delivery process and accept the new normal that has forced management institutes to use technology in a much bigger way. “Re-inventing academic delivery, reinventing methods to share knowledge with students, reinventing the way technology is used for communication can help B-Schools deal with a similar uncertainty,” says he. 

Arindam Banerjee, Professor of Marketing and Quantitative Methods, is of the firm view that the content of the MBA progamme will not change significantly as the academic curricula are robust enough to be able to withstand contextual turbulence. However, he went on to say, the delivery model may undergo some changes. “Physical interactions will be replaced somewhat by online group conversations (people have tasted the benefits in degrees). Professors will get accustomed to teaching to ‘empty’ classes (at least for some of their classes). Efficiency will go up at some expense to effectiveness. But that is alright since the MBA has become somewhat generic,” predicts Banerjee. 

Historically, business education has been an attractive option during recessions and job market uncertainty – a trend likely to persist through the downturn brought on by the pandemic.

It is safe to assume that business schools that seize the opportunity to rethink their modes of delivery and offer more flexible admission processes could prosper through the crisis. Students who leverage on the revised curriculum and new pedagogical structure will rule the roost in the corporate world. 

Ramesh Bhat, Dean of the School of Business Management of NMIMS University, believes that the landscape has changed and so have the assumptions. He asserts, “There will be scope for new types of job skills, requiring significant digital footprints, understanding, and implementation of data analytics tools and techniques, understanding behaviours, and developing and designing resilient and agile structures  and processes that can adapt fast, jobs that need a growth mindset.” R. Raman says, “Starting from the second half of 2021 it is going to a brilliant economic boom that the world will witness. The importance of hygiene, the need to have a robust and agile supply chain, the need for networks to carry the huge volume of data at a very high speed, the new business models built around Work from Home, the innovative business models which will make several businesses look at the online mode, will create an economic boom and hence will generate huge employment and jobs for many.”