Research Roundup: August 2021
Research approaches affect research findings, diversity training benefits from additional actions, and corporate recruiters look to hire new MBAs.
Same Data, Different Findings
Are research findings influenced by the scholar’s analytical approach? Yes, quite a bit, according to a study led by Martin Schweinsberg, assistant professor of organizational behavior at ESMT Berlin. He worked with almost 180 co-authors around the world who independently analyzed the same dataset to test two hypotheses. The researchers came up with 29 different results, some of them radically different.
“Our findings illustrate the importance of analytical choices and how different statistical methods can lead to different conclusions,” says Schweinsberg. “An academic research question can sometimes be investigated in different ways, even if the answers are derived from the same dataset and by analysts without any incentives to find a particular result.”
To conduct the research, Schweinsberg recruited analysts to test two hypotheses regarding how gender and professional status would affect scientists’ participation in group conversations. Using the online academic forum Edge, researchers analyzed group discussion data of scientific debates between 1996 and 2014. The dataset contained more than 3 million words from 728 contributors and 150 variables related to the discussions, the contributors, or the textual level of the transcript.
Using the new platform DataExplained, researchers analyzed the data using the R programming code to identify whether there was a link between a scientist’s gender or professional status and that individual’s level of verbosity. DataExplained was developed by co-authors Michael Feldman, Nicola Staub, and Abraham Bernstein of the University of Zurich.
Because analysts used various sample sizes, statistical approaches, and covariates, their conclusions were variable but defensible.
Because analysts used various sample sizes, statistical approaches, and covariates, their conclusions were variable but defensible, says Schweinsberg. By using DataExplained, Schweinsberg and his colleagues could understand precisely how these analytic choices varied; by studying the R-code used by participants, he and his co-authors learned the psychology behind the data analyses.
Schweinsberg says, “Our study illustrates the benefits of transparent and open science practices. Subjective analytical choices are unavoidable, and we should embrace them because a collection of diverse analytical backgrounds and approaches can reveal the true consistency of an empirical claim.”
He and his colleagues say that the findings stress the importance of open data, systematic robustness checks in academic research, and transparency. The researchers also suggest that scholars show humility when communicating research findings and caution in applying them to organizational decision making.
When Diversity Training Is Not Enough
During the racial unrest of 2020, many organizations rolled out training programs designed to address issues of diversity and inclusion. But training alone can’t reverse longstanding organizational failures, according to recent research published in Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences.
The study’s three co-authors include Ivuoma N. Onyeador of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois; Sa-kiera T. J. Hudson of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut; and Neil A. Lewis Jr. of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. After reviewing the literature on diversity efforts in organizations, they identified six key takeaways for companies pursuing diversity goals:
Prepare for bad reactions. Some employees may feel aggrieved that certain groups get “special treatment,” and they may worry that they will be passed over for promotions or punished for “saying the wrong thing.” Organizations should be realistic about these challenges and have plans to address them. Says Onyeador, “We do this in other arenas—we would never launch a product without anticipating potential snags in the process.”
Facilitate two kinds of social interaction. Studies show that when majority group members interact with members of underrepresented groups, their attitudes change. For instance, interracial interactions help white people perceive and combat inequality. But the authors warn that intergroup contacts may place a burden on the underrepresented group members, who may feel exhausted, singled out, or responsible for teaching others. That’s why it’s essential for organizations to also create dedicated spaces that allow members of underrepresented groups to gather, socialize, and network.
Treat diversity as you would any other organizational goal. Appoint chief diversity officers or create financial incentives for employees who participate in inclusion efforts.
Messaging matters, but action matters more. It is important for companies to openly state their diversity policies—but it’s even more important to back up those policies with real change.
Treat diversity as you would any other organizational goal. Leaders should appoint chief diversity officers or create financial incentives for employees who participate in inclusion efforts such as diversity councils. “I suspect that if bonuses were tied to diversity metrics, we would see things shift,” says Onyeador.
Collect and analyze data on diversity programming. Organizations must measure the results of their diversity efforts so they know which initiatives are working and which ones need to be improved.
Realize that none of this is easy—but it’s not impossible. “As organizations, as companies, as universities, we’re used to doing hard things by putting our heads down, figuring it out, being really careful, and thinking through everything,” Onyeador says. There’s no reason, she says, that the same level of effort can’t be applied to diversity.
Demand Is Strong for New MBAs
Corporate recruiters project a robust demand for business school graduates in the next five years, according to the 2021 Corporate Recruiters Survey from the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC). Nine of 10 recruiters expect recruiting to increase or remain stable during that period of time. Fifty-four percent of European recruiters expect demand to increase, while 32 percent of Asian and 34 percent of American recruiters share the same view.
Among the other key findings:
MBA salary and hiring are expected to rebound. In 2020, the projected MBA median salary reached an all-time high of 115,000 USD before COVID-19 severely disrupted the global economy and caused it to drop down to 105,000 USD three months into the pandemic. However, the median MBA salary for 2021 is projected to recover to its pre-pandemic 2020 level of 115,000 USD. Similarly, 91 percent of today’s recruiters say they are planning to hire MBAs in 2021, compared to 80 percent who actually did so last year.
The technology sector is embracing MBA graduates for hiring and promotion. According to survey respondents, demand for MBA graduates by the technology industry is anticipated to increase by 10 percent in 2021 compared to pre-pandemic 2020. In fact, with 96 percent of tech recruiters expecting to hire MBA graduates in 2021, the demand for MBA graduates tops the previous three years. Sixty-eight percent of recruiters in the technology sector agree that leaders in their organizations tend to have graduate business school educations—an increase of 11 percent from 2020.
Ninety-six percent of tech recruiters expect to hire MBA graduates in 2021. Sixty-eight percent agree that leaders in their organizations tend to have graduate business school educations.
Perceptions of online programs are mixed. Results from another GMAC initiative, the 2020 Application Trends Survey, show that online programs are gaining popularity with schools and students. For instance, 50 more online MBA programs accepted GMAT scores in the 2020 testing year than in the 2016 testing year, and 84 percent of online MBA programs reported an increase in applications. However, only 34 percent of corporate recruiters agreed with the statement “My organization values graduates of online and in-person programs equally.”
While online programs are clearly a fast-growing area of graduate management education, demand for them will only be sustained if employers show a higher level of acceptance. This could be particularly true given GMAC’s latest candidate research, which suggests a similar disparity in terms of perception of online versus in-person programs.
This year’s survey was administered in partnership with the Association of MBAs (AMBA), the European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD), the MBA Career Services & Employer Alliance (MBA CSEA), and career services offices at participating graduate business schools worldwide. It received 529 responses between February 25 and March 31, 2021.