Open Minds Wanted for Agile Workforce

What skills do business students need to succeed in the workforce? Leaders across education and industry give business school learners tips on the essential skills they need to develop in order to thrive in the workplace.


Charlotte Blank: [0:05] One thing I learned from my own business school education and a behavior or a skill that I would encourage business school students to pursue is beyond the book smarts, beyond what we get in the classroom and the learning from our classes, is the knowledge that we gain from each other and really building a strong and thorough and broad network that's available to us in business schools I think is one of the most unique and valuable experiences.

David Burkus: [0:36] One of the big problems with professional networking that we find is that as you grow in your career, your network actually starts to look more self similar. Most of us allow our networks to just grow organically. We worked at this company, we're a part of this association, and so whoever we meet, is just people we run into during the course of our daily activities.

[0:56] The problem with that is those people are very self similar, and as they refer you to new people, even as they're introducing you to people you don't know, who are they introducing you to? People who are like them.

[1:05] The similarities compound, and what you can find is you get 10, 15, 20 years into your career and you think that you have a big and diverse network just because it's big, but bigger doesn't necessarily mean diverse.

[1:17] What you end up doing is limiting your ability to see the whole landscape of an industry, or even just limiting your ability to see how a decision you make will interact other people, because you're in such an echo chamber and such a self similar network.

[1:30] As you're going about networking, especially if you're a business student and you're just starting, make sure that you're also spending a disproportionate amount of time with people who think differently than you, people who studied differently than you, because those are the people that are going to allow you to see differently as well, and that's going to affect your decision making for a long time.

Yvonne Hinson: [1:44] In talking to students about the skills that they need to enter the profession, I would say first and foremost probably agility. It's not that you don't need the technical knowledge, you do need the technical knowledge in accounting. That's still important, we're not saying that it's not important.

[2:01] But also that ability to think on your feet, to move from one technology to another, to think critically, to be more of an internal trusted business advisor. What we're finding in the corporate world is that the accounting role is becoming more and more advisory.

[2:21] It used to be that the accounting role was more gathering information, preparing financial statements, maybe pointing out where there might be some anomalies. Now, they've moved forward to being in a more strategic position where they are required to and being asked to sit at the strategy table, come up with solutions for the anomalies that they're seeing.

[2:43] I think that that's what we want to see in the new graduates. We want to see that they are able to take on a greater role right out of their programs and be able to offer value, work at a higher level, and be nimble and agile. That growth mindset is critically important because they will never stop learning.

Nigel DeBussy: [3:04] I think in a word, I would advise them to be adaptable and flexible. The communication skills, the relationship building skills and so on, these are valuable in a huge range of contexts. I would certainly encourage any person going into the field today to really think about how they can apply those core skills in different contexts.

Frank Ghannadian: [3:30] Business is changing all the time, so basically what business schools train business students is learning application, application, application. With application comes the eagerness to learn more, so business analytics is very important for business students to learn. Understanding how business technology works.

[3:54] Technology is going to be the primary backbone of the future business. Obviously, business ethics is something that's ingrained in them and leadership skills are really important because at the end of the day, you have to deal with people. If students can deal with people, have technology behind them, and know business analytics, they'll be successful.

Filmed September 2019 at AACSB's Global Accreditation Conference in San Antonio, Texas, USA.