What Do Employers Want From Business Schools In 2018? Dave Ulrich Explains Everything

Dave Ulrich— professor at Michigan Ross, management guru, and the founding father of modern HR—says business schools need to adapt

Dave Ulrich’s resume puts the rest of us to shame: number one-ranked management guru by Business Week; top-five coach in Forbes; and one of the world’s leading business thinkers, recognized in Thinkers50 Hall of Fame.

If anything, it’s a modest assessment. Dave is a professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, a partner at the RBL Group HR and leadership consultancy, and co-author of over 30 books.

When you ask the question: what do employers want from business schools in 2018? He should know.

While functional skills are still important—finance, marketing, economics, all the hallmarks of an MBA degree—increasingly, he says, employers want business schools to foster social and emotional skills among their students.

Speaking with me prior to a keynote speech at the MERIT Summit on executive education in Lisbon, he highlights four ‘soft skill’ areas where future employees need to demonstrate competence: goal setting and delivery; relationships; information and communication; and adaptability and flexibility.

“Social competencies imply that new hires learn how to learn, work together in teams, get things done, and have emotional intelligence,” Dave explains.

“Increasingly, technical competencies are table stakes that can be learned in many ways; social competencies are the differentiators that make sure future employees not only know what to do, but how to do it.”

Business schools, naturally, are adapting to employers’ needs. At Michigan Ross, a focus on action-based learning runs through the MBA curriculum. On the school’s signature MAP course, first-year students spend seven weeks working on a team-based, real-life consulting project for a real firm.

MBA students have the opportunity to spend an exchange semester abroad at one of Ross’ 15 global partner business schools—including HEC Paris, Copenhagen Business School, HKUST, LSE, China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) in Shanghai, and Sydney’s Australian Graduate School of Management.

The results are clear to see: 97% of the Ross MBA class of 2017 got job offers within three months of graduation; 87% were career-switchers; the average post-MBA salary was $146,000.

“In the business school, mastering social competencies is less traditional coursework-driven and more experience-based,” Dave explains. “So, working in teams on action-learning projects, doing internships, participating in learning forums, and other experience-based learning helps students learn how to learn.

“Increasingly,” he continues, “business school training does not end on graduation, but really begins. Business schools become platforms for lifelong learning where alumni can return for updates through executive programs.  

“Traditionally, business schools have 95% of their learning impact during the one or two-year degree. I anticipate that, over time, the largest impact will occur in the 30-year post-business school career of the alum.”

As technological change sweeps across industries, jobs disappear, and change, upskilling has never been more important. Human Resources and Learning and Development departments have a huge role to play. Dave, an industry leader whose model forms the basis of modern HR, says HR is changing too.

“First, the HR field is moving to recognize that HR is not about HR, but about delivering business value,” he explains. “This requires pivoting from merely an employee experience to an employee experience so that the business wins in the marketplace. This means linking HR to customers, investors, and communities.

“Second, the focus of HR is not just about talent but also about organization—capability, culture, and workplace. We found that organization has four times more impact on business results than talent.

‘’So, HR creates value for employees, customers, investors, and communities through talent, leadership, and organization.”

Business schools need to create value for their students in the same way.

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