I’ve always felt that, in many business roles, interpersonal and transferable skills can be as important as formal or specialised knowledge (albeit I’ve no empirical evidence and I prefer my surgeon, dentist, optician etc. to be expert rather than charming). There was an interesting article in the FT yesterday on the skills that MBA employers regard as most/least important.
It’s good to have a survey rather than anecdotal evidence. The amount of times we get told after someone has met an employer over several glasses of prosecco…Your students need to be better at answering the phone/Excel/spelling/attention to detail etc. or that they need to know more about leases/valuation (Argus)/planning/sustainability/infrastructure or they need more commercial awareness/business knowledge/market nous. I suspect that different types of employers want different skills and knowledge and often they want a range of stuff.
It also raises the hoary old issue of the blend and balance between vocational training versus an academic education. Are academics who often have little commercial experience and who have typically specialised in narrow, niche research topics really best placed to transfer broad, close-to-market, vocational knowledge and skills? There are few academics who have both academic and commercial expertise. Even if they have, their commercial experience and expertise is often specialist. I sense that some real estate schools are becoming more like vocational training schools staffed by former practitioners who preach what they practiced rather than academic institutions staffed by researchers and specialists.
I found the results of the FT’s survey pretty dispiriting.
The five most important skills were not core MBA subjects, such as finance and marketing, but more loosely defined qualities, or so-called soft skills, such as the ability to work with a wide variety of people (cited by 76 per cent of employers) and the ability to prioritise (cited by 72 per cent). Of these, employers said the ability among MBA graduates to manage their time effectively was the most difficult to find
The least important skills were marketing, statistical, programming and financial skills and environmental management and CSR. Financial and marketing skills are the least important to MBA employers! You don’t need to do a degree to learn how to manage time, network, work in a team etc. Is this what an academic institution should be about? While I’m ranting, in my experience I don’t tend to get a lot of positive feedback from students when they’re set complex problems.
I’ve just remembered that Cass Business School appointed a Professor of Networking a few years ago.