MBA Research

Action Briefs

We learn a lot from the business community and want to share that with you in our Action Briefs that highlight business trends and their impact on the workplace and curriculum.

Business Trend

In our ongoing conversations with the business community, we asked them to identify business trends impacting the workplace. One of the most frequently identified trends: volatile and invasive political environment.


Workplace Implications

Although people joke about being “politically correct,” it has become a defensive strategy used in business. It’s employed to manage the risks posed by the increase in political polarization which makes consensus-reaching more difficult, and by the decline in respect for others’ opinions. In many cases, its use results in strained leader and staff relationships and in more guarded internal and external communications. Business leaders adhere to “political correctness” to avoid the potential for costly lawsuits and damaged reputations.

Polarization has also increased mistrust between business and government leaders. The environmental uncertainty created by delayed decision-making, increased political intervention in business, the fear of nationalization of businesses in various countries, the imposition of tariffs, and more severe fines and penalties for non-compliance are all concerns businesses are grappling with today.

Business leaders are trying to balance government’s and society’s demand for more transparency with a litigious environment that seeks to assign blame. The tensions are worsened by media hype and social media activism.


Classroom Implications

Teachers need to help students develop an understanding of the political process, the political shifts that have occurred over time, and how these shifts impact business both domestically and internationally. They should provide students with opportunities to passionately, but respectfully, discuss politically sensitive topics from differing viewpoints that have been well-researched. Teachers should have students examine issues from both a short-term and long-term perspective to increase students’ ability to think through the consequences of different political agendas. The role of social media in the political process should be integrated into the lessons.

Business Trend

In our ongoing conversations with the business community, we asked them to identify business trends impacting the workplace. One of the most frequently identified trends: decline in relationship building skills.


Workplace Implications

Business has become all about developing relationships. Employers, however, are increasingly finding that employees lack the skills needed to do that. The use of technology results in less face-to-face communication. Emails and text messages deliver communication that was once handled person-to-person or face-to-face. Employees find it easier to shoot off an email rather than having a conversation with someone. Faceless communication on social media has become the norm. This has the effect of reducing personal responsibility in communications. Research indicates that there is a need for deeper/honest thought vs. three-word twitter comments. The ability to deal with constructive criticism has dwindled as has knowledge of etiquette rules, both old and new.

As employees increasingly work from home, they have less exposure to different personality types, thereby becoming less able to deal with conflict in relationships. They miss out on the day-to-day interactions with others and on feeling “part of the team.”

Managers are training and coaching employees to help them identify when it’s more effective to call customers rather than email them. They’re encouraging staff to walk over to someone’s desk to talk through issues rather than relying on email, text messages, or social media conversations. Managers are finding ways to bring distance-based employees into the office on a regular basis. They are using cross-functional teams to tackle projects more innovatively and to break-down communication silos.


Classroom Implications

Teachers need to stress the use of interpersonal skills through their instruction as well as through their classroom activities/projects. They can use teams to complete assignments, having each team member discuss her/his contribution to the project. As a team, students can prepare simplified project plans, identifying each person’s role in the project. Teachers can also have students provide peer feedback to project members, instructing students as to how to provide effective feedback. To emphasize the importance of interpersonal relations, teachers can make that an integral aspect of rubrics and students’ grades.

Business Trend

In our ongoing conversations with the business community, we asked them to identify business trends impacting the workplace. One of the most frequently identified trends: unrealistic and non-sustainable expectations – pay, benefits, and advancements.


Workplace Implications

In the panel members’ opinion, Gen Y exerts less work effort while expecting more rewards than older generations. They want more time off from work than allotted to their positions. They expect instant gratification. The panels indicated that this generation expects to be rewarded for basically doing their jobs, and they felt that this was probably due to being rewarded for everything while growing up—even for coming in in last place. Gen Y needs to know “what's in it for me.” This attitude is evident in the workplace as well as in community-service activities tied to work. Gen Y expects to have significant responsibility without having significant experience. Speed of advancement and their competitive pace are inconsistent with needs.

This trend challenges supervisors, managers, and HR. They need to be sensitive to recognizing Gen Y’s accomplishments—without going overboard. When selecting community-service projects, they need to determine what activities Gen Y is interested in—not just make a top-down decision on the matter. They also need to communicate career paths so that Gen Y understands their options for skill development and advancement. More frequent, less formal performance reviews and greater transparency within the compensation adjustment process also aid in engaging Gen Y. 


Classroom Implications

According to research and panel input, people in this age group need to be better grounded in realistic work expectations in terms of salaries, job responsibilities, and employer expectations. They need to understand career progression and that a degree does not entitle them to a job or company leadership. They should explore the importance of experience when handling different situations. Teachers should encourage job shadowing and other methods of getting students into workplaces. Teachers should also involve the business community in classroom projects on a regular basis so that employers can talk about their expectations.

Business Trend

In our ongoing conversations with the business community, we asked them to identify business trends impacting the workplace. One of the most frequently identified trends: instant information.


Workplace Implications

The saying that “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” needs to be changed. What happens in Vegas can now be shared instantaneously with the world. Immediate access to information impacts all aspects of business and can make it difficult for businesses to differentiate their services. As examples:

  • Employees are expected to constantly be in-the-know and be able to provide instant answers.
  • Customers comparison-shop for the best prices and ask businesses to meet competitors’ prices.
  • An uprising in the Middle East can cause stock prices to fall in the U.S.
  • Customers expect immediate action.
  • Investment information can be obtained in real-time rather than filtered through the media.
  • Negative company experiences appear immediately on the Internet for the world to see.

 

All of these situations result in the need for businesses to exhibit higher levels of transparency. They need to be clear about their intentions, their actions, and their communications.


Classroom Implications

Students need to understand that what they say and do can have far-reaching implications when they are representing the company, whether in the workplace or at a company-sponsored event or activity. This applies to face-to-face interactions, telephone communications, and all virtual interactions. They need to recognize that they are the company. Workplace ethics and ethical decision-making must be stressed in the curriculum. Students need to understand that there are consequences associated with their words and actions. They need to understand that they can sink their careers with careless comments and thoughtless actions.

Business Trend

In our ongoing conversations with the business community, we asked them to identify business trends impacting the workplace. One of the most frequently identified trends: professional-development challenges.


Workplace Implications

The five generations of employees that will be in the workplace by 2020 have different values and work ethics. Knowing how to engage each of the generations is a challenge for supervisors, managers, and human resources management. The various generations will require different types of professional development and workplace assistance. As an example, the Baby Boomer generation may need programs dealing with disability management, mental health and wellness issues, and succession planning.

Younger generations move from one company to the next to advance in their careers. This, in effect, eliminates the traditional career ladder. By job jumping, the younger generations do not have the opportunity to develop deep, strong, domain-specific experiences with a company. Although many Baby Boomers do not have the technology skills that are now required of incoming workers, they do have a deeper knowledge base than younger generations, and businesses do not want to lose that.

These factors make it difficult for companies to determine who to develop as leaders and what professional development to offer and to invest in. They also create a leadership gap for companies when retirements do occur.


Classroom Implications

In the workplace, different generations bring different talents to the table, and students should value those differences. Students need to be open to opportunities for bi-directional mentoring in the workplace. Teachers should stress that businesses usually have a reason for the way that processes and procedures are carried out. Before recommending changes, students should understand why things are done the way they are rather than assuming that things are being done incorrectly if the latest technology isn’t involved. Once they have a clear understanding of the “why” behind processes and procedures, then they should proceed to make recommendations that benefit the company.

Business Trend

In our ongoing conversations with the business community, we asked them to identify business trends impacting the workplace. One of the most frequently identified trends: social media.  


Workplace Implications

The explosion of LinkedIn (founded 2003) and Facebook (founded in 2004) into major social networks spawned an entire new “social media market.” Social media sites have become a part of mainstream society, thereby impacting every aspect of business. According to Deloitte’s research:

“Executives predict social media to be among the most important risk sources over the next three years – ranked up there with the global economic environment, government spending, and regulatory environment.” (Amato and Hagel, 2013)

Businesses are using social media for networking, relationship building, branding, recruiting, etc. All of these represent potential areas of risk for businesses.

They need to have strategies and procedures in place to deal with negative publicity and comments that appear in social media since those can quickly harm a business’s community standing, market share, and sales. Since negative comments can spread like wild fire, businesses need to monitor all comments about their companies and products that appear on the Internet. They must be vigilant to protect the business’s reputation and brands.

Social media have increased the power of consumers over brand, price, reputation, etc., by giving them a voice in what others learn about products, companies, and their experiences—a voice with global, instantaneous reach. Businesses must determine the best strategies for incorporating the customers’ voice into their communications and responding to it.

Businesses need to make decisions as to who “owns” social-media responsibility within an organization, who contributes to social media, how often postings should occur, what messages to post, and how to maintain a common voice to represent the company’s brand. They need to determine what metrics they will monitor and what level of participation is desired.

In the future, businesses will use social media to track an increasing number of customer behaviors and to interact with customers through more channels. This will encourage customers to share businesses’ messages with others, thereby amplifying a business’s communications’ investment.

Videos are commonplace on businesses’ websites and on dedicated video websites such as YouTube. More than four billion online videos are watched every day, and almost 70% of the people who watch videos share those links with others. Interestingly, video viewers retain about 95% of what they see, and entire sites and apps center around visual delivery (e.g., Pinterest, Vine, Instagram). Businesses have to be able to use these tools to build customer interest in and excitement about new product releases and existing products and services.


Classroom Implications

Although many students discuss their personal lives in social media, they need to understand that not everything that occurs in the business environment is appropriate to discuss on their Facebook page. Therefore, educators need to help students to develop visualization and social-media communication skills for use in the business world. Students need to understand the potential impact of their personal social-media brand on that of their employers. They need to be able to discern when, what, and how to tweet, post, email, feed, etc., for business and when to use other channels of communication (phone, f2f, Skype). Marketing students should also receive additional instruction around brand management, digital marketing, and content marketing.

Business Trend

In our ongoing conversations with the business community*, we asked them to identify business trends impacting the workplace. One trend garnering lots of discussion is the emphasis on sustainability (green, climate change, etc.)


Workplace Implications

The increased focus on sustainability is driven by many factors. This includes the strain on food, water, and energy from the increased population; the growing worldwide middle class’s demand for more goods; and concerns over natural disasters and disruptions to supply chains.

The focus on sustainability is creating the need for expertise in many fields and is impacting competition. A company’s ability to do business with another company or entity may depend on its sustainability position. Major retailers and consumer product companies such as Walmart, Apple, and Microsoft are building sustainability requirements into their supplier contracts. These companies have also established sustainability hubs to spark innovation and collaboration. U.S. companies in retail, transportation and logistics, public services, manufacturing, agriculture, architecture, and energy sectors are forming corporate social responsibility (CSR) committees to govern “green” activities and have increased participation in publicly available sustainability-disclosure reports.

Natural disasters and extended supply chains create additional strain on resources and threaten the provision of goods and services. The ability to withstand evolving threats and hazards and rapidly recover from disruptions has been elevated to a presidential mandate. The federal government is establishing sustainability requirements as part of the General Services Administration (GSA) process. This national initiative has further heightened the need to not only reduce and reuse resources, but to also identify alternative sources.


Classroom Implications

The business functions most impacted by sustainability are purchasing, production, product development, facilities management, supply-chain management/logistics, and marketing. Students need to understand how sustainability impacts each function and the complexities that are likely to emerge as consumers and major buyers focus more on sustainability as part of their buying habits. Students should explore the trade-offs associated with pursuing a particular sustainability path. One such trade-off, for example, involves using hybrid/electric cars. As oil usage decreases electricity usage increases, both are limited resources that impact the environment in different ways. Product pricing and the ability to recover costs associated with sustainability efforts should also be examined.

 

*Finance Executive Advisory Panel, Columbus, OH, May 21, 2013
*Marketing Executive Advisory Panel, Dublin, OH, May 22, 2013
*Management and Administration Executive Panel, Dublin, OH, May 23, 2013

Business Trend

In our ongoing conversations with the business community*, we asked business executives to identify business trends impacting the workplace. Next up is increased government regulation


Workplace Implications

Government expansion has led to rising costs of doing business, accelerating velocity of change, and increasing levels of conflict between competing states and the national government. Businesses are concerned about the risk of loss from a more polarized, more heavily regulated environment.

Domain-specific rules (e.g., Dodd Frank and BASEL III for banking) have increased. So, too, have the more general rules that impact all businesses. In the finance industry, the trend is driving an increase in compliance resources, training, and process-improvement initiatives.

Increased government regulation is impacting multinational businesses as prosecution of both U.S. and foreign-based multinationals increases. This is due to Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), Anti-Money Laundering (AML), and Office of Foreign Asset and Control (OFAC). In coordination with the Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission Enforcement Division has created a specialized unit to further enhance its enforcement of the FCPA. Cases are expected to increase even more based on the whistleblower provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act. A similar level of prosecution has begun to emerge around privacy and data protection.


Classroom Implications

The major takeaway is that compliance is a risk for every company. Students need to understand the specific requirements of their desired career pathway and industry. They also need to understand how both of these (industry and career) impact job expectations and responsibilities. Students need to understand regulations from a global perspective, not just from a U.S. perspective (e.g. global quality standards, global chemical standards, global tax laws, etc.).

 

*Finance Executive Advisory Panel, Columbus, OH, May 21, 2013
*Marketing Executive Advisory Panel, Dublin, OH, May 22, 2013
*Management and Administration Executive Panel, Dublin, OH, May 23, 2013

Business Trend

In our ongoing conversations with the business community*, we asked them to identify business trends impacting the workplace. Third on their list of most frequently identified trends is the global economy.


Workplace Implications

No product, brand, idea, or company is truly "local" anymore as events, opinions, and experiences can be shared around the world in an instant. Domestically-located companies export more products and services each year, supply chains have extended to include international companies and many emerging economies, and foreign companies locate operations in the United States. The global economy creates additional needs including language translation (written and spoken), cultural sensitivity, and adaptability. Businesses also have to deal with more complicated business operations, including logistics. Organizations face more complicated regulatory environments as the need to comply with other countries’ mandates builds.

This flatter world is more cost competitive, has an expanded workforce with increasing specialization, and involves changing demographics. For the first time in history, a global middle class is emerging that is two billion strong. That number is expected to double by 2030 as the global population surpasses the eight billion mark. With the growth of the middle class comes increasing buying power for goods and services and increasing influence in all arenas.

In response, many global companies operate in a local fashion through increased customization and service. This requires a deeper understanding of the region’s culture, history, and customs. Additionally, businesses increasingly form joint ventures in emerging markets, requiring a deeper understanding of international law, foreign business practices, and international accounting standards. 


Classroom Implications

Students need to understand how to operate successfully in a global economy. They need to realize that the global economy has implications for every business and not just large multi-national corporations. They need to understand how all the key functions of business (e.g., operations, human resources, marketing) are impacted by the world economy. This could include such topics as:

  • Operational impact
  • World geography and culture                   
  • Impact on marketing                       
  • Impact on websites/social media communications       
  • International law and regulations              
  • Cultural impact
  • Impact on conflict management
  • Awareness of ethnocentrism
  • Business etiquette
  • Global supply chains

 

*Finance Executive Advisory Panel, Columbus, OH, May 21, 2013
*Marketing Executive Advisory Panel, Dublin, OH, May 22, 2013
*Management and Administration Executive Panel, Dublin, OH, May 23, 2013

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