COVID-19 had an enormous impact on the way we work. Not since World War II and the Great Depression have business leaders had to overcome such a disrupting crisis, but the lessons learned have likely prepared them to lead more confidently when the next global crisis inevitably strikes.
An Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree is indispensable in preparing professionals to learn from past crises and how people and organizations can adapt to such issues in the future. Pursuing an advanced business degree is an opportunity to develop in-demand skills required of nimble leaders in times of crisis.
Addressing the Skills Demand
The following general skills are those most wanted for business professionals, according to MBA.com:
- Managing strategy and innovation, focusing on data analytics and creative problem solving
- Managing tools and technology, with an emphasis on intelligent machines and processes
- Interpersonal skills such as active listening, persuasion and management of human resources
- Learning/motivation/leadership that restores confidence in a workforce
- Knowledge of tech/product design/production to innovate and problem-solve
- Strategic/system skills to quickly re-envision operations and processes
These top-level leadership abilities are the hallmark of executives and managers who have successfully led their organizations and departments through some of the toughest challenges of the pandemic. These high-level leadership skills also apply to specific operational and people-management responsibilities.
The Pandemic Has Accelerated Trends Toward New Skillsets
In preparation for global events of a similar scale to the pandemic, tomorrow’s leaders will have to quickly change how their companies, departments and teams work. Many of the skillsets now required of leaders have been trending before the pandemic, and the need for them has since accelerated. The following are some of the modern skills needed to operate in a fast-transitioning environment:
- Repurposing operations to meet sudden societal or customer needs
- Quickly cross-training workers so there will be back-ups when employees cannot work
- Identifying and mapping out needed skill pools and reskilling workforces on the fly
- Building new employee training models, developing employee tool sets for digital transformation and adapting to new ways of doing business
- Knowing how these changes affect personnel companies retain and the individuals they seek to hire
- Using project management methodologies like Kanban to adjust models and strategies, test rapidly and iterate
- Protecting and advocating for the budgets necessary to repurpose operations and retrain employees
Managing a Remote Workforce
While the prolonged nature of the pandemic forced businesses to quickly transition to a fully or partially virtualized workforce, remote work was already trending and appears to be here for good. Recent surveys have also indicated that remote or virtual work will increase post-pandemic.
Today’s aspiring managers and executives must prepare for the challenges of a virtual workforce. These include managing employees, training, performance monitoring, meeting, overseeing customer relationships, reskilling and upskilling. MBA programs provide an opportunity to review case studies and examples of organizations that have managed remote workforces successfully and unsuccessfully.
Leading Changes to Supply Chains
The pandemic was a catalyst in triggering the supply chain crisis of 2021-22. Leading MBA programs incorporate lessons that leaders learned during the crisis. This knowledge enables today’s professionals to learn from leaders’ trial-and-error failures and successes during the pandemic rather than risking their careers.
Here are a few examples of the post-pandemic lessons MBA students are preparing to apply in their post-graduation roles:
- Sourcing and production may have to move closer to the point of sale to reduce the potential for delays.
- Businesses require quicker ways of sourcing qualified workers, such as local talent exchanges and hubs for freelance talent.
- Leaders must apply faster methods of getting new employees up to speed, including virtual training.
GMAC Surveys Show the Value of an MBA Education, Year After Year
GMAC surveys MBA alumni annually to discover how their training and degrees have impacted their careers and lives. The 2021 survey revealed that “70 percent of alumni rate the value of their graduate business education as Excellent or Outstanding.” In addition, when asked about the influence of their business school experience on several aspects of their lives, “the majority of alumni say that their professional situation (88%), personal situation (72%), and financial situation (70%) are Much Better or Better.” Professionally, alumni were overwhelmingly positive about their post-graduation outcomes when surveyed in 2021.
- Eighty-seven percent say graduate management education (GME) increased their employability.
- Seventy-nine percent say GME increased their earnings power.
- Seventy-seven percent say GME prepared them for leadership positions.
The value of a graduate management education (primarily an MBA) is reinforced by the salary premium employers are willing to pay for the skilled business school graduates. Rahul Choudaha, Director of Industry Insights and Research Communications at GMAC, states that “this salary premium could help an MBA graduate earn US$3 million more than someone only holding a bachelor’s degree.”
Employers can rely on MBA graduates to provide strategic leadership through crises. The online MBA program at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville prepares students to overcome such professional obstacles and adversity. Business history has taught organizations that MBA talent is necessary to transition successfully through any downturn. The COVID-19 pandemic was a chief example of how important that lesson has become.
Learn more about Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s online MBA program.