Welcome to Business School Briefing. We offer you insights from Andrew Hill and Jonathan Moules, and the pick of top stories being read in business schools. Edited by Wai Kwen Chan and Andrew Jack.
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Andrew Hill's management challenge
For all the words spent on the pros and cons of working from home (WFH) by homeworking pundits like me, the majority of workers are still, to a greater or lesser extent, NWFH: not working from home. As I've written this week, once vaccines bring the pandemic under control, employers and employees should have greater choice to rethink the design of jobs and decide where and how certain tasks are done.Recommended
Could some of these NWFH jobs be adapted to take advantage of skills learnt during the enforced period of remote working and lockdown? For my management challenge, send me one way in which a job such as plumber, firefighter, even vaccine researcher, might be redesigned to allow for more remote working. Keep it short and send your ideas to email@example.com.
Last week's call for a slogan to encourage trust in new coronavirus vaccines brought a rich crop, from "End the economic rot, go and get your vaccine shot" (Emmett Minch) to Neil Adams' catchy "GrabAJab". My favourite, though, came from Saloni Munot and played on the moonshot analogy that Boris Johnson, among others, likes to use: "One small shot for you will be one giant leap for humankind".It's important to call out jargon when we see it, but in the absence of my guff-busting former colleague Lucy Kellaway, we mostly have to rely on others to do it. In further reading, Tiffany Hsu and Sapna Maheshwari bring you the New York Times glossary of the worst marketing buzzwords from "humaning" to "phygital".
Jonathan Moules' business school news
The biggest risk to business school finances this year has not been degree programmes but executive education - the short courses teaching specific skills primarily taught in person on campus.Recommended
Developing good quality online versions for executive education has been very important as a result - not least because business schools also do not have a monopoly. Online educators from the UK’s Open University to new training providers, such as Sweden’s Hyper Island, are vacuuming up eager learners with a more flexible way to learn.
Many schools have risen to this challenge, as I wrote about when we published this year’s FT executive education ranking list. The good news is that demand for short courses is strong, but success requires an even better understanding of the technological and logistical requirements.
According to FT data, those who study an executive MBA, a degree for senior working managers, have an entrepreneurial streak, says Leo Cremonezi.
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Top business school reads
Oxford Covid vaccine trials offer hope for elderly Early results suggest group most vulnerable to serious illness and death could build immunityRecommended
UK set to approve Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine within days Rollout of two-shot jab could begin as soon as December 7
Donald Trump tells government to co-operate with Biden transition President instructs officials to do ‘what needs to be done’ but stops short of concession
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CEO and founder of Grokker, the on-demand well-being engagement solution, personalized to match employees' needs and abilities.
2020 has been one of the most stressful years in modern history, but instead of cataloging its challenges — and there have been many — let’s take a few moments to bask in the silver lining and the albeit mixed blessings the year has produced, specifically for employees and their employers.
This Too Shall Pass — And Strengthen Us.
Everything we’ve experienced this past year has given us the gift of resilience, a gift that’s as valuable to a business as it is to its employees. Research examined by Harvard Business Review shows that those who are the most intimately exposed to suffering benefit from higher resilience levels, and — specifically for the workforce — the more changes one absorbs, such as layoffs or furloughs, sheltering in place and change in work hours, the more resilient one becomes.
Resilience en masse, especially when it’s guided by strong leadership and an organizational growth mindset, is what gives a workforce culture a beautiful combination of humility, grit and consciousness that it couldn’t really achieve any other way. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, things have gotten better for employees across several key indicators of organizational (not to mention employee) health.
Personal Connections, Prioritized
When employees had to unexpectedly begin social distancing and many pivoted to working in relative isolation at home, companies quickly recognized the importance — and need — for connection. It’s required for effective virtual collaboration, of course, but social belonging and camaraderie are central to maintaining cultural ties. As a result, companies are exploring new ways to meaningfully connect colleagues using both technology (e.g., video meetings and instant messaging apps) and workday practices (e.g., kicking off meetings with social banter and virtual happy hours).
These connectivity tactics will become entrenched in the “new normal” and won’t simply fall out of favor — because, thankfully, they really work. A Boston Consulting Group (BCG) study analyzing employee sentiment on workplace changes brought on by Covid-19 found that U.S. employees who reported satisfaction with social connectivity with their colleagues were approximately 3.2 times more likely to say they were as productive or more productive than they were pre-Covid-19.
Engagement And Productivity For The Win
Since 2000, Gallup has been tracking the relatively steady metric of employee engagement. They reported that in 2020 — surely to no one’s surprise — engagement levels fluctuated more than ever before. “After a wild summer,” they said, “...engagement has reverted back to pre-Covid-19 levels,” noting that the pandemic-related disruptions to the workplace had a short-lived negative impact on organizations who have shown a commitment to finding and implementing solutions and interventions that enable employees to engage — and work effectively.
BCG also had this to say about new ways of working: “Understanding the drivers of productivity in this new environment and designing appropriate, sustainable working models are crucial to the success of work.” In fact, employees in their study said that during the pandemic, they have been able to maintain or improve productivity on both their individual and collaborative tasks.
We can be thankful that we have new insights into the advantages of remote working and what it takes to conduct business and keep employees supported and productive across their various individual or team-based daily tasks. We will certainly carry these practices— more flexible schedules that accommodate working from home, for example — into an even more productive and more human post-pandemic world.
Well-Being Is Having Its Moment
A workforce culture that values and prioritizes employee well-being, coupled with empathetic leadership and benefits that support the whole person, can actually thrive — not just survive — during these chaotic and uncertain times. We can be thankful for the fact that employers are getting the message that employees can’t (and don’t want to) “go it alone” and are therefore providing more resources to help them cope.
According to Willis Towers Watson, 89% of employers have put measures in place to ensure that employees feel supported during this time, and a Quantum Workplace survey on the impact of Covid-19 on employee engagement found increases in employees’ perceptions that “Our culture supports my health and well-being” and “My job gives me flexibility to meet the needs of both my work and personal life.”
Effective well-being benefits — the kind that employees will thank you for — include providing resources that help make employees’ lives easier, when, where and how they need it. Importantly, they give employees access to self-care tools they can use to manage stress, beat burnout and perform the daily activities that help them feel their best, from doing a workout video to listening to a calming sleep story.
Spreading The Gratitude
Employers are clearly doing the right things at a time when people need all the positivity and support they can get. So, keep it up — it’s making a difference!
• Show your gratitude! As discussed in an article by Forbes, leadership experts Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton see gratitude as “one of the easiest, fastest and cheapest ways for managers to boost performance and employee engagement.”
• Strive to understand your employees — and show you care. Continue to survey employees and informally check in with them. Ask them, hear them and act on their insights by introducing new guidelines and tools that build on your successes.
• Celebrate small wins. With so much doom and gloom all year, people need permission to be OK with what they have accomplished under exceptional circumstances. Recently, when Grokker was named one of the Fortune 100 Best Small Workplaces, we sent out cookies to every employee to thank them and celebrate the achievement.
Moving into the holiday season, keep working toward being an organization that takes action and responds positively, despite the obstacles in our midst — and remember, as long as we have our employees, we have much to be grateful for.
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Strategic advisor at Farone Advisors, working with leaders of companies in marketing strategy and business development.
For the last two centuries, for most young lawyers, legal training in the United States has meant studying at law school and taking courses in civil procedure and constitutional law. What it hasn't provided, until very recently, are lessons in how to operate a business, how to innovate or how to think about delivering legal services in unique ways.
Thankfully, there are a handful of law schools that are changing things, including those at the University of Pennsylvania, Vanderbilt University, Harvard University and Indiana University. These schools have expanded their curriculum to help teach students how to think more broadly about how to operate in a changing world of innovation. At other schools, knowledgeable adjunct professors bring their real-world experience and judgment to the fore. Legal education is changing, but it is taking some time.
There is, however, one area of training where I find most lawyers are woefully behind: the area of client care and business development. Once law firm-bound lawyers graduate and pass the bar, they will be expected to bill a number of hours and take instruction from partners on how to do a merger and acquisition (M&A) deal or to litigate a matter, but few will be trained either directly or by role modeling in how to build a book of business.
As a consultant, I see a generation of talented and brilliant lawyers who, after working as associates for seven or eight years, make partner and have no idea how to build a practice. They've spent the last seven or eight years with their nose to the grindstone, billing hours and increasing short-term revenue for the firm. They've not learned how to retain the contacts they made in law school, or the skill set they will need one day to grow their own practice.
With the legal profession becoming even more competitive, lacking this ability becomes a deficit not only for the lawyer but also for their firm. Business development ability is a necessity, not a nice-to-have.
To train your young professionals on these needed skills, here are a few techniques:
When entering a firm, lawyers and other professionals should be taught the basics of client care. While a firm may not call it client development or business development training, whatever it is called, training should involve imparting the key skills of a well-rounded professional.
Knowing how to be empathetic, to listen and to understand how a client thinks are basics of good lawyering. The ability to lead teams and to innovate are also essential keys to successful rainmaking and adapting to a new and ever-changing legal environment. Young lawyers should be encouraged to network with one another and their peers at their firm's clients. To wait until a lawyer becomes a partner means that the associate enters partnership without the skills to develop business or drive innovation.
Run Several Sessions
The one-and-done approach for training does not work. There are still firms that limit their business development training for associates to an annual talk from the marketing department or from one or two partners, but this is an antiquated approach. Instead, a firm needs a curriculum. The way to design it is not difficult. By understanding the skill set you think you need in a well-rounded partner and aiming to provide it, a firm can design an impactful program.
Learning how to develop a business cannot be taught in the same way one would cram for a test. No one can drink from the water hose, so teaching a variety of classes, workshops and lectures is a good approach. Shake it up and offer various types of programming in order to keep it interesting. And by spacing the programming, you give lawyers a chance to learn in pieces, applying what they learn to the real world, and then coming back together where the lessons are reinforced. Combining a mix of exercises (to increase the actual learning that takes place) with examples from the firm's rainmakers and other real-world input can engage professionals and ensure that the program content is relevant.
Use Role Models
Some of the best training sessions for lawyers involve panels of rainmakers, each of whom will have their own stories. In advance of this type of session, I generally meet with a small number of the firm's rainmakers, representing various levels of seniority and practice areas. Together we create an interactive moderated panel to be presented before a group of lawyers.
The discussion highlights how each rainmaker develops clients and what steps they advise for other lawyers in their own business development journeys. By using the format to tell stories and give real-life anecdotes of what has worked and what hasn't, the audience members are likely to remain engaged.
These sessions provide role modeling and precedent, which I find are two of the most effective ways of educating lawyers. While the lawyers in the audience (of any age range) may not find each panelist's style or tactics right for them, it is the variety of approaches that allows them to find their own style.
Creating programs that incorporated elements of design thinking can be very helpful. Breaking up a large group into smaller workshops where professionals can create a persona and solve a problem together can be a great way to get lawyers involved in both innovating and learning new skills.
Through this method, professionals apply what they learn and understand how they can use the thinking in their own practices. I've found this program works well for various levels of associates, for relatively new partners and at firm retreats.
For more senior partners or professionals with untapped potential, a one-on-one approach may be best. Coaching, when done right, can be highly customized, focusing on understanding the individual’s objectives and developing concrete goals.
There are many ways to create a culture of business development and client care, but the most important thing is to have a plan and then to execute it.