The Future of Work is Here. Is the MBA Equipped Enough?

The modern MBA must aid students embrace careers at the intersection of management and the technologies of tomorrow

The Future of Work is Here. Is the MBA Equipped Enough?
The Future of Work is Here. Is the MBA Equipped Enough?
Bibek Banerjee - 17 August 2021

The one phrase which we have been hearing through the past 15 months is ‘the new normal’. It is an easy, go-to phrase to encapsulate the post-Covid world – a world which we are still coming to terms with. I like to use the phrase Ctrl + Alt + Del to describe the great reset we have undergone. The world has changed, that much is certain. But to understand the scale of change, you just have to look at the other popular buzzword nowadays: digital transformation.

The pandemic has accelerated digital transformation on a global scale, especially when it comes to technological innovations and networking infrastructure. Covid-induced disruption has significantly impacted business structures, especially in terms of consumption patterns, production strategies and innovative techniques. The digital present we inhabit now sees the forces of automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning being leveraged more urgently and in larger measure to help businesses expand their reach, customer base and impact.

Understanding the Shift in Business Operations

Businesses have responded by shifting to omni-channel e-commerce platforms, contactless home delivery systems, and providing a variety of digital solutions across sectors. As a result, the nature of the job market is changing—redundancy is growing in certain spheres while other niche domains are seeing an explosion in growth opportunities.

The numbers tell the story. A recent media report highlighted that a whopping three million slow-skilled IT jobs will be made redundant across just five Indian IT companies over the next few years – all to be replaced by robotic process automation (RPA). It is expected that digital platforms and data and digital intelligence will drive about 70 per cent of new value creation happening in the digital economy over the next decade, paving the way for automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning to help businesses expand their reach, customer base and impact.

‘The Future of Work’

So, what does this mean for the future of work? And, to follow on from that, what does it mean for the future of the MBA, that vaunted degree that is the pinnacle of corporate education and the stepping-stone for the next generation’s business leaders?

To answer, I think it is crucial to understand what companies will be looking from employees post the pandemic. Companies have always sought to build highly-skilled workforces and that will not change. The digitisation revolution, however, has pushed organisations to revise their recruitment strategy further while looking to become even more purpose-driven, sustainable and inclusive. Now more than ever, corporates and brands are consciously and increasingly searching for candidates who are not only resilient and agile but also more highly skilled. The future of work will be governed by the digital economy and the leaders of the future need to provide creative solutions with a firm focus on the next decade.

Adapting the MBA to the ‘New Normal’

Advances in technology and automation will drive up to 25 per cent more workers to change occupations. Education institutions must embrace the responsibility to nurture future talent in line with the ‘Future of Work’. Perhaps, the most important point to be remembered while offering an MBA is that equipping managerial principles through their programs will no longer be enough. Business schools must inculcate an entrepreneurial mind-set that combines the ability to harness data with technology in order to make smart decisions. Institutions must take up guardianship to train and equip their students with skills potent enough to respond to today's challenges and lead tomorrow's economy.

What about emerging business leaders? In my mind, the MBA becomes even more essential for them – it trains them to link business management and leadership with today’s fast evolving digital ecosystem that integrates emerging technologies of all kinds. Educators need to proceed with the goal that their students will have careers not just in consulting, operations and strategy but increasingly in positions that will be highly technical and data-driven as well. The emerging positions of the future will require young management graduates to think on their feet and lead with systems and technologies that may not even exist right now.

Now more than ever before, companies are launching products and tools that are specifically enabled by analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence. With organisations constantly integrating emerging technologies with existing ones, new MBAs will be required to approach their operations with recommendations on how to make an optimal connection between the new technologies and the enduring health of the business, while also identifying where and what specific technologies can add the maximum value.

As the business landscape continues to evolve, organisations require new decision-making processes, new cultures and new organisational structures. The future of work requires an MBA that helps students build the basis for understanding how to utilise the tools of the future to better inform solutions and strategies for a variety of functions within a business, ranging from operations, supply chain, finance to human capital. Given that we have reached the stage where technologies will advance more quickly than the businesses they support, corporates will require people who can more effectively connect their work, people, and goals with these emerging technologies. The modern MBA therefore needs to help its students embrace careers that are at the intersection of management strategy and the technologies of tomorrow. And, in the process, develop young business leaders with an entrepreneurial mind-set, uniquely prepared to take on novel, emerging roles to tackle challenges organisations may not yet be able to articulate but are imperative to address to succeed.

The author is Dean, School of Management and Entrepreneurship, and Director of Strategic Initiatives at Shiv Nadar University, Delhi-NCR

DISCLAIMER: Views expressed are the author's own, and Outlook Money does not necessarily subscribe to them. Outlook Money shall not be responsible for any damage caused to any person/organisation directly or indirectly.


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