Andrew Crisp has been tracking trends in graduate business education for many years. When the pandemic hit the world, Crisp was completing a new piece of research on the changing face of working and learning.
“Inevitably the start of the research is the impact of the pandemic, both on working and learning,” says Crisp, co-founder of the educational consulting and research firm of CarringtonCrisp. “The pandemic has spread around our connected world, disrupting work in a way that no technology has managed to do.”
The evolving nature of work is now top of mind for virtually everyone in the workforce, making Crisp’s findings even more timely and topical. The Executive MBA Council (EMBAC) sponsored the project in cooperation with the Working Professional Task Force, a group of associations, boards, and groups that focus on the education of working professionals.
EMBAC and the task force wanted to learn more about upcoming shifts in the world of work for working professionals, as well as the ways lifelong learning and business schools fit into the emerging picture. As part of the research, CarringtonCrisp interviewed 100 employers in North America, Europe, India, Hong Kong, China, Africa, and Latin and South America.
What do employers see on the horizon? The following five key changes in the world of work emerged from the survey.
Flexibility, flexibility, and flexibility
As a result of COVID-19, many organizations are likely to embed flexible working in their organizations: 44 percent of surveyed employers agree that flexible working options are here to stay in their organizations.
For example, in pre-pandemic Australia, only 5 percent of the workforce worked from home. During the pandemic, that number increased to 45 percent.
“Flexible models of working will be much more to the fore,” says Crisp. “For many, the pandemic has been an unexpected experiment – doing things that wouldn’t have been anticipated just six months ago.”
The vast majority of employers in the survey – 86 percent – were most likely to agree that future employees will need to upskill and reskill throughout their lives to remain employed. Half of the surveyed employers also agreed that employees should expect to be working into their 70s, reinforcing the need for lifelong learning. In addition, 62 percent believe employees are likely to spend some of their career working for themselves or in a small business or start-up.
Technology alone is removing some jobs, creating new ones, and requiring new skill sets, says Crisp.
Employees clearly expressed a move to digital learning and development post-pandemic: 44 percent of employers anticipate incorporating flexible learning as part of future operations, and 46 percent say online learning will become the standard approach to development.
Eight out of 10 employers in the survey expect more of their management and executive development to involve blended learning, including online learning, in the next three years. “The pandemic will undoubtedly grow blended learning,” says Crisp.
On the flip side, employers are not seeing a corresponding increase in funding to match the need for upskilling and reskilling. About one-third of those surveyed believe learning and development spending will be reduced for the next few years.
New (and old) skills
Leadership remains a key skill for development, as well as the ability to communicate effectively, according to the employer survey.
Managing a multi-generational, diverse workforce continues to grow in importance. “Employers will seek staff who can lead across generations, geographies, and diverse workforces to deliver effectively.”
Surveyed employers also have an eye to the future. More than a quarter of them selected the following five areas as priority learning needs over the next three years: Digital transformation, equality and diversity, artificial intelligence, productivity and operational efficiency, and data analytics and data-driven decision making.
No matter the skill, surveyed employers want their employees to apply what they learn as soon as they learn it – to benefit their organizations and reinforce their employers’ investment in development.
“Employers need individuals quickly to be up-to-speed on new technology and skills – to learn something and then apply it in the workplace.”
EMBA Programs throughout the world continue to offer what business leaders need to meet the needs that employers identified in the research, says Michael Desiderio, EMBAC executive director.
EMBA Programs design their formats for working professionals, making them among the most flexible types of educational opportunities, says Desiderio. They also have invested in technology, with almost 75 percent of programs now incorporating distance learning.
EMBA Programs commonly develop some form of continuing education opportunities for alumni, supporting their quest for lifelong learning. And EMBA Programs sharply focus on leadership development, whether through personalized coaching or hands-on leadership experiences.
“Alumni repeatedly report their ability to take what they learn from their program and apply it almost immediately to their workplace,” says Desiderio.
“While that is an immediate benefit to their organizations, the EMBA experience also has staying power, thanks to its attention to building skills in communication, negotiation, global awareness, emotional intelligence, and more. It’s clear that EMBA Programs are positioned well to prepare business leaders for the changing world of work.”