How space can fuel innovation on Earth

Business Impact: How space can fuel innovation on Earth

How space can fuel innovation on Earth

Business Impact: How space can fuel innovation on Earth
How the space economy can help business schools advocate for purpose-driven startups and sustainable business practices. Rana Sobh, dean of the College of Business and Economics at Qatar University, on the winners of the Global Space Sustainability Challenge

Identifying the presence and concentration of microplastics in fish, a health alert system for air quality and 3D food printing were among the winning projects of the Global Space Sustainability Challenge (GSSC) announced towards the end of 2022.

The challenge aims to further the cause of sustainability worldwide by finding economically viable and scalable solutions that can help accelerate the global transition towards decarbonisation.

The idea to hold the GSSC stemmed from our belief that businesses should not make tradeoffs between making profits and preserving the planet; these two goals can work in synergy and great opportunities lie at their intersection.

In particular, business schools should advocate for purpose-driven startups and sustainable business practices. It is our responsibility to educate and empower the next generation of leaders and global change agents and visionaries who will contribute in the creation of a sustainable future on Earth.

The limitless resources of space

Since grand challenges defy conventional solutions, we decided to collaborate with Metavisionaries, a space technology startup, and other well-established aerospace companies/entities, such as Blue Origin Club for The Future, to leverage space and come up with innovative solutions. We wanted to educate young people about the limitless resources of space and inspire business schools to take the lead in building space innovation ecosystems and highlight their role in creating growth opportunities in the space economy.

The challenge is also designed to leverages the momentum of the FIFA World Cup 2022 and build on the work of Qatar’s Supreme Committee of Legacy and Delivery, responsible for the planning, delivery and hosting of this global event.

How space can fuel innovations and improve lives

Multidisciplinary teams between the ages of 16 to 26 years, from educational institutions around the globe, joined forces to use space access, science and technology to tackle pressing sustainability issues that relate to the SDGs and competed across five tracks: Climate Solutions (SDG 13); Sustainable Food and Agriculture (SDG 2); Life Science and Healthcare (SDG 3); Sustainable Consumption and Production (SDG 12); Sustainable Arts, Fashion and 3D Printing.

This challenge has illustrated some of the ways in which space can fuel innovations and improve lives during the post-Covid-19 recovery, especially at a time when economic growth and societal wellbeing are key objectives for nations around the globe. More specifically, and as showcased by some of winning teams’ innovative ideas, space science and technologies can play an instrumental role in advancing sustainability by, for example, monitoring the environment and natural resources, improving food safety and identifying health risks.

But perhaps most importantly, projects that involve young people from different countries and disciplines contribute to knowledge sharing and collaborative long-lasting learning across domains and countries. This is especially important, since the space sector should get more support and attention from governments, private investors and educators.

It is hoped that such opportunities can also shed light on the importance of integrating space curriculum in K12 education and creating space-related disciplines in higher academic institutions. In the process, such space-related activities can play a significant role in inspiring future generations and promoting STEM disciplines, especially in countries where numbers are falling significantly. This will help create an ecosystem that advances the space economy and creates new opportunities for space-related innovations and startups. This is why business schools should take the lead in initiatives such as the GSSC.

The winners

Here is a full list of the GSSC’s winning projects by track:

Life Science and Healthcare:
Project title: Particulate Matter Monitoring
Description: a health alert system, which is a device that reads PM2.5 particles and sends the data to an app working in cohesion with a satellite to plot concentration points on a map.

Sustainable Food and Agriculture:
Project title: Ocean Microplastics: determining the future of seafood production
Description: A prediction model for the concentration of microplastics, fish quality and production in different fishing areas ased around collecting satellite and land-based data related to microplastic concentration and water properties. The aim is to improve fish quality and quantity delivered to the world population.

Sustainable Consumption and Production:
Project title: Self-Exploring, Self-Deorbiting CubeSats 
Description: A mechanism for self-deorbiting CubeSats [miniaturised satellites with a mass of no more than 2kg] to finish their active life in Low Earth Orbit and reuse the re-entered material.

Sustainable Arts, Fashion and 3D Printing:
Project title: 3D food printing in space
Description: 3D food printing allows for the creation of nutritionally complete designs to keep astronauts physically healthy and enables them to make custom meals inflight. The ability to combine personal needs with individually tailored nutrition-design would be stimulating and good for mental wellbeing.

Climate Solutions (joint winners):
Project 1 title: Phytoplankton
Description: Providing safe habitats for phytoplankton to increase oxygen levels in our atmosphere and monitoring their health and status globally from space.
Project 2 title: Clean Space Energy Station
Description: Building a space station that fuels planes with alternative energy

Rana Sobh is a professor of marketing and dean of the College of Business and Economics at Qatar University. She received her PhD from the University of Auckland. Sobh advocates for a paradigm shift in business education to empower the next generation of ethical and competent leaders who can create a sustainable future for all.

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With great power comes great resiliency

Business Impact: With great power comes great resiliency

With great power comes great resiliency

Business Impact: With great power comes great resiliency

Power skills can help you shape your career and build a more responsive and agile workforce, says Annee Bayeux, chief learning strategist at Degreed. Learn how to build, practice and measure them

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.” Henry Ford.

At the start of a fresh year, your thoughts may have turned to the learning you can achieve in 2023. Whether that’s learning a new skill for a hobby, or to further your career. In the past, learning may have centred on a technical, digital, or ‘hard’ skill – a new language, code, or tool, for instance. But times are changing and I want to draw your attention to power skills. These describe skills that can be transferred from role to role, project to project; skills that give you the power to shape your career and build a more responsive and agile workforce.

Business-critical skills

Power skills are becoming more critical as businesses grapple with ever-changing markets and emerging technologies. For individuals, cultivating your power skills can give you broader career options both inside your current organisation and externally.

That’s why power skills regularly rank in the top 10 skills being developed and searched for on upskilling platform, Degreed. The top 10 skills for November 2022, for instance were:

  1. Leadership
  2. Data analytics
  3. Change management
  4. Project management
  5. Machine learning
  6. Design thinking
  7. Microsoft Excel
  8. Problem solving
  9. Agile development
  10. Entrepreneurship

Seven out of the 10 skills on this list would count as power skills (and conversely, you could also argue that a skill like using Microsoft Excel and being able to do data analysis also carry across multiple roles and departments).

The importance of learning agility

I would add an additional skill to this list, that is learned while you’re upskilling in these (and other) skills. It’s called ‘learning agility’ and it describes a mindset and habit towards learning that means you are continuously learning and able to adapt to change. This skill is vital in today’s economy, because the half-life of skills is around five years and dropping fast. In the future, you’ll be expected to grow new skills at an increasingly rapid pace. What you use and know today will be out of date in just a handful of years.

How to build power skills

There are a range of ways to build power skills and many of them are outside traditional, classroom-based learning. For good reason, you cannot learn something like ‘leadership’ effectively if you’re dictated its theory by a glassy-eye professor at the front of a class.

The best way to learn a power skill is through hitting it at different angles. There are many different learning opportunities that forward-thinking organisations are offering their people including peer learning, academies, experiential learning (on-the-job opportunities) and online learning pathways.

Practising a power skill

Combining theory with practice will enable you to learn the basics about a power skill first and then stretch that skill through practical implementation. My colleague, Degreed’s chief learning and talent officer, Kelly Palmer, has a brilliant example of this from her time as CLO at LinkedIn. Her team created a peer-learning programme called Conscious Business that focused on building power skills.  

One of those skills was the ability to have difficult conversations. In the peer-based environment of the programme, colleagues were able to bring examples of difficult conversations they had recently had and learn from each other. One participant, John, had an example where a teammate, Mark, had missed some deadlines. During the conversation, Mark became defensive and John left it feeling awkward and with little progress made. Sharing this with the peer-learning group allowed John to find new solutions based on similar experiences from his peers, and the entire group learned techniques on how to better handle difficult conversations.

Measuring your power skills

For business leaders, another important aspect to building power skills in your organisation is to measure them effectively. Unlike hard skills that can be easily measured with an assessment or credential, power skills are slightly more nuanced. I would recommend that business leaders broaden the way they measure someone’s skills, based on any stretch assignments, academies, or peer-learning programmes that they have completed. Alongside this, peer and manager feedback, as well as self-ratings, can add more insights into someone’s skill level.

For individuals, I would suggest collecting evidence of you building and practicing a particular power skill. Make a note of any practical experiences you have, including stretch assignments, temporary redeployments to another team, side gigs, volunteering, mentoring and peer learning (and teaching others). Additionally, curate any theoretical learning into a skills profile, including any books you’ve read, podcasts or videos, online courses, blogs and articles. This gives you leverage when going for a career move internally or communicating your skills during the recruitment process.

Evolving alongside careers

Learning is no longer contained to the classroom nor your early years. It will be your partner, evolving alongside your career. That’s what makes power skills worth focusing your efforts on, as they give you more longevity and resilience when compared to a technical skill that will expire in a couple of years.

Annee Bayeux is chief learning strategist at upskilling platform, Degreed. She has 20+ years in L&D, M&A, Talent, and HR Technologies with Global 2000 companies, such as Bosch Automotive, Alstom, General Electric, and Danone.

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Retaining and growing talent in 2023

Business Impact: Retaining and growing talent in 2023

Retaining and growing talent in 2023

Business Impact: Retaining and growing talent in 2023

How can leaders retain and grow the best talent in 2023? Katya Kim, leadership consultant and founder of WhizzMind, investigates

Last year, three in four employers reported difficulty finding the talent they need and this trend seems set to continue in 2023. According to a study from Korn Ferry, there will be a global human talent shortage of more than 85 million people by 2030. So, what can we do as leaders to ensure our talent is strong in 2023? 

People managers are vital

The ‘people manager’ (PM) role has increased exponentially over the past few years. The first responder of the organisation, PMs are responsible for upskilling and enabling managers to do their best work, make decisions and feel empowered. PMs are a vital resource in any organisation. Good people management relies on excellent, reliable communication, trust and a culture of embracing problem-solving and constant learning. As remote people management becomes increasingly relevant, ensure you are working as an organisation to strengthen your leadership team’s people management skills. 

Adapting to new ways of working 

Companies are still facing challenges created by the pandemic and it’s important to acknowledge this. One of the biggest challenges, hands down, is remote working, team building and engagement. It’s much harder for leaders to know what’s driving engagement or how to benchmark it. Hybrid working has become the new normal and it’s becoming more difficult for employees’ work to be seen by leaders and people with influence. 

Enabling employees to adapt to new ways of working is essential and organisations need to make sure they are monitoring and assessing these strategies to be the best leaders for their teams. Below are some key areas to consider:

  • An integrated wellbeing strategy to help identify mental health issues
  • Set programmes and policies to enable employees to adapt to new ways of working
  • Redesigning learning and development processes to suit the remote/blended work experience
  • Transforming operating models to be more agile

Early awareness of mental health

Good mental health is extremely important for leaders of all levels and responsibilities. As ways of working change and the external environment continues to be challenging (politically, economically, cost of living and so on) more pressure is put on employees. 

All leaders should be able to identify signs of poor mental wellbeing within their teams. They need to know how to support all employees and ensure everyone feels safe at work. Having worked with colleagues who have experienced stress, anxiety and even depression, I have seen that the earlier employees get support, the better. 

Developing trust and resilience within your team

During hard times, strong connections within a team and a strong culture of trust will help organisations to stay resilient. For example, Gousto and Chester Zoo have both adapted to the new reality quickly and managed to maintain a fantastic team spirit and fed into an excellent level of customer service through a positive attitude and online workshops.

Addressing gender inequality 

Leaders need to be fair. When it comes to recruitment and employee promotions, opportunities should be offered across the board, to both men and women. When it comes to gender equality, men still seem to work in more senior roles than women overall. 77% of tech director roles are fulfilled by men and only 23% women, and in the wider economy 71% of directors are men while only 29% are women. Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but also a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.

It’s important that business leaders don’t take their people for granted and commit to doing the work needed to ensure the success of the whole team. The businesses that invest time, energy and resources into their people will be the best situated as the talent shortage continues and companies become increasingly competitive when it comes to securing and retaining great talent. 

Katya Kim is a leadership consultant and founder of WhizzMind

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Five top skills to ensure you are recession-proof

Business Impact: Five top skills to ensure you are recession-proof

Five top skills to ensure you are recession-proof

Business Impact: Five top skills to ensure you are recession-proof

Whether you’re a business owner, leader or employee, there are things you can do to ensure you’re ready to withstand any economic crisis that comes your way. Find out what with these top tips

As the cost of living continues to rise in many parts of the world and spending steadily slows, companies are bracing for a recession and it is time to think about how to make sure you are recession-proof. 

A time of significant and widespread economic decline often leads to businesses going bankrupt and people losing their jobs. However, there are things you can do to ensure that you can withstand these difficult times, whether you are a business owner yourself or an individual keen to expand your employability. 

1. Broaden your knowledge base

Having a wide range of skills is a good way to ensure you are recession-proof, for both employees and employers. Those with broad knowledge bases are highly valuable in the workplace and being able to apply your various skills to your work or business is a recipe for success. 

Whichever sector you currently work in, being able to develop your skills in other areas ensures that if a recession were to hit your sector hard then you can branch out and find other work in different areas.

For example, if you are currently working in fashion retail or travel – two areas which are already seeing a huge drop in sales – then exploring other qualifications or undertaking professional courses helps expand your career portfolio. 

Careers in IT, law, healthcare, trade, utilities and education, however, are deemed by most experts to be recession-proof, as they are essential jobs no matter where the country is economically. Although government cuts can lead to job losses in some public sectors, your skills in these areas will still be needed and relevant to a variety of other job roles.

2. Stay on top of technology and project management 

Having an up-to-date knowledge of the latest business software can help you stay on top of managing your business, as a leader, or simply having an understanding of the core aspects of business as an employee. Project management is one of the key elements of business and being able to streamline projects through software means more time available to consider other business aspects, such as finance. 

The main software tools you need to know about are:

  • DevOps: This software combines software development and operations, making it a streamlined way to manage different aspects of business. Business owners can ensure that they are not losing sight of the bigger picture when faced with recession-focussed financial decisions, as it allows companies to provide for their customers quickly and easily. 
  • Agile Development (Agile): This provides a simple way for teams to manage projects and work together towards project goals. This is one of the most popular software-building technologies with around 71% of US companies using it

Agile and DevOps encompass a forward-thinking, modern thinking for business management, which allows businesses to learn and adapt quickly. This means that not only are they ideal for day-to-day operations and regular business updates, but also in times of crisis when the wider economic environment is forced into rapid change. Using DevOps and Agile could mean the difference between surviving a recession and losing your business entirely.

3. Manage Your finances 

Paying off high interest loans as soon as possible, making a realistic budget and ensuring that you are keeping an eye on rising costs to see where savings can be made are all great ways to ensure that you don’t end up worse off during a recession. When the economy is steady, and especially during the times when your financial situation is positive, putting more money into secure savings accounts is a great way to prepare for a recession.  

As a business this will mean seeing where savings can be made across all areas. By assessing spending now and critically assessing where savings could be made, companies can avoid later financial losses and redundancies when a recession is in full force. Making smart investments when the economy is stable can also help you prepare for the future. However, if a recession is speculated to be on the way then you will want to stave off large investments for now to ensure that you have the finances to carry your company through a recession should it occur. 

4. Stay in the know and adapt 

Even the most financially intelligent people can be caught off guard when a recession strikes, so staying up to date with the latest economic news is essential. Keep track of what’s happening in the financial sector and make sure your plans are adaptable when things change. Planning for a recession is great but having adaptable plans depending on the economic climate is the best option to ensure you are truly recession-proof. 

In terms of business, this can mean adapting to new ways of working, for example using new digital platforms, or needing to source products from different places depending on the current global economy. For individuals, this can mean adapting to new working environments such as working remotely or taking on different roles. This you can prepare for in part using step one, by broadening your skillset and updating your CV with a diverse range of skills. 

5. Network with the experts 

Finally, networking with other business owners, or with those in your industry can help you gain inside insight into what’s really happening and how other people are preparing for it. Seeking advice from the experts, networking with other people in your industry and getting input from others can help you decide the right course of action and when to take it. 

Networking can also ensure further job security, as well as support if you are hit hard by a recession. The term ‘strength in numbers’ comes to mind, as when a group of businesses or independent workers within an industry band together and support one another, they are far more likely to recover from a recession than if they are alone. 

In times of recession, everyone is impacted. However, there are ways to make sure that you are not struggling as much during the hardest times. By keeping a keen eye on finance, finding savings and paying off any loans as soon as possible, you can face the obvious issue of rising costs. Through broadening your knowledge base, streamlining your business and keeping up with the latest business software you can also become an invaluable employee or a shrewd business owner whose career can withstand the hardest of economic times. 

Devin Blewitt is CIO at ITonlinelearning.

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How VR can help students step beyond the classroom

Business Impact: How VR can help students step beyond the classroom

How VR can help students step beyond the classroom

Business Impact: How VR can help students step beyond the classroom

VR has the potential to revolutionise the business school learning model so that it is more experiential, innovative and personalised, says Henley Business School Africa’s Louise Claassen

Since the third industrial revolution kicked off in earnest in the late 1900s, the world has seen a dizzying array of new technologies become part of our lives: from harnessing nuclear power to the invention of the ethernet and the creation of wireless devices, web pages, social media platforms, mobile phones, money services like Kenya’s M-Pesa and the Internet of Things. And things are not slowing down.

In the current fourth industrial revolution, technologies like virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI) are disrupting how we learn, develop, connect and even empathise.

Dubbed theempathy machine’ of the tech world, VR has been shown to encourage empathetic behaviour by encapsulating the qualities of presence and embodiment. Project SHELL, an immersive 15-minute VR simulation designed to garner support for the conservation of the loggerhead turtle was designed by a professor from the University of Oregon in the US and is a case in point. 

In the simulation, students wearing Meta Quest 2 VR headsets immerse themselves in the real world of the loggerhead turtle. They effectively become the turtles – arms morph into flippers and backs curve into shells as they embark on a journey from hatchlings to adults, experiencing the hazards confronted by real turtles in their natural habitat. 

Daniel Pimentel from the University of Oregon, one of the study’s co-authors, said the students’ feelings didn’t fade once the headsets came off. “From a sensory perspective, the dangers [they] faced while embodying the turtle threatened [them],” he said. 

The potential to accelerate learning through VR

In the world of learning, the possibilities presented by these kinds of experiences are deeply exciting. Already, it is becoming clear that new approaches must be harnessed to develop relevant, empathetic and socially minded leaders who are equipped to understand and tackle the complex environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues of our time.

It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that forward-thinking business schools are already starting to embrace VR tools to bring practical insights alive and deliver content more innovatively as they vie to attract students.

The massive potential of these approaches have long been recognised. In 2021, professional services firm PwC released findings that highlighted the value of using VR tools to support soft skills training, and as a way of helping businesses to upskill employees faster and more cost-effectively. The study showed that using VR enabled learners to absorb information four times faster than they could in the classroom alone and with four times the focus compared to their e-learning peers. Perhaps more impressive is that VR learners were 275% more confident when applying newly acquired skills than they were before the learning intervention and 3.75 times more “emotionally connected to content than classroom learners”.

While some business schools, notably in the US and Europe, had already started exploring VR teaching methods before 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic has undoubtedly accelerated investment into online and “virtual” learning. However, it is also becoming very clear that, as Dot Powell, Warwick Business School’s director of teaching and learning enhancement, said in a recent interview with the Financial Times, learning approaches that simply require lecturers to talk over a slide presentation “won’t be acceptable for much longer”. The appetite for authentic engagement with fellow students and course content continues to grow among students of higher education institutions. They want interactive and personalised learning and they want it now. VR gives us the power to give it to them.

Increasing access to education is also key

There is another reason that VR has significant potential, especially for poorer institutions in more remote parts of the world – it could help us to expand access to quality learning experiences.

At Henley Business School Africa (Henley Africa) we started experimenting with VR in 2019 as a solution to the limitations facing students from different countries in Africa when it comes to attending international leadership immersion programmes. There is ample evidence that face-to-face immersions are inherently valuable to students, but the high cost of participation including flights, time constraints (limited close-up encounters between participants) and restricted student numbers (only 20-30 students per immersion) could not be ignored. It is a luxury few can afford.

Of course, a significant stumbling block in a country with high levels of inequality, like South Africa, is the cost of the technology itself, which makes it impractical for all students to purchase their own devices. In confirmation of its support for the initiative, Henley Africa has committed to investing in the technology and making headsets available for individual use as required. 

Where to from here?

As the body of research into VR as a learning tool grows and more practical business school case studies emerge, the value of incorporating innovative digital platforms and technologies into the business school facilitation mix will become increasingly evident. 

As our experience at Henley Africa shows, a successful shift towards VR cannot be achieved without support across the business school. This is an evolving journey and as more schools share their VR experiences and increasing number of concrete models are bound to emerge. 

VR – and the future technologies that will, no doubt, grow from this base – have the potential to revolutionise the business school learning model so that it is more experiential, innovative and personalised. Above all, it is my hope that they will radically increase access to priceless learning experiences that will help to build authentic and empathetic African leaders who are empowered to create transformative businesses across the continent.

Louise Claassen is an executive fellow of Henley Business School Africa, co-founder of ORBmersive, and author of the white paper, Virtual reality in business education.

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The quest for student wellbeing

Business Impact: The quest for student wellbeing

The quest for student wellbeing

Business Impact: The quest for student wellbeing
“Wellbeing was really negatively affected, so we took action.” Karen Spens, Rector of Hanken School of Economics, outlines how Covid-19 propelled her school to join a collaborative project to find out how students are feeling and how they can be better supported

For all business schools, student and staff wellbeing has been at the epicentre of strategic focus since the start of the pandemic.

Karen Spens, Rector of Hanken School of Economics in Helsinki, Finland, presented a session at the AMBA & BGA Global Conference 2022 in which she explored how business schools have confronted the challenges posed by the Covid-19, addressing the needs of students, and finding out why putting student wellbeing at the core of any business school agenda is the only recipe for success.

“Student wellbeing has been a topic at the top of our heads for the past number of years,” Spens said. “At Hanken, in 2019, our students were pretty happy, but in 2020 we were forced to shut down operations and wellbeing was really negatively affected, so we took action.

“We decided to collaborate with other schools and universities on a national survey to find out how students were feeling across Finland. The idea was to look at wellbeing, what has been done, and how can we collaborate to help our students.”

The survey used text messages to reach students. Participants received a text with six simple questions, and results are still coming in. The questions asked how far respondents agreed with the following:

  1. I have been able to complete my studies as planned.
  2. I have been satisfied with my teaching this spring.
  3. I look forward to more in-class teaching.
  4. I would prefer to study remotely in the future instead of in class.
  5. I have enough social interaction and do not feel lonely.
  6. I’m happy with my life and feeling good.

To date, the study has 2,500 respondents. “Students were, on average, pretty satisfied with teaching this spring,” said Spens. “Most of them were able to complete their studies as planned, but the preference for remote studies varied a lot. Most students reported having enough interaction, but there are plenty that do not have enough social interaction.”

The study found that wellbeing was the most central factor to satisfaction. Those participants with the highest levels of wellbeing were most likely to have completed their studies and expressed satisfaction with their teaching. The study also revealed five student profiles:

  • Everything is fine: high achieving, high satisfaction; completing their studies as planned; strong preference for remote studies; on average, two years older than the average age in the sample.
  • In-class preferrers: low preference for remote studies; completing their studies as planned; higher wellbeing than average; on average, two years younger than the average age in the sample.
  • Underachievers: low goal completion; unable to complete their studies as planned; less satisfied with teaching than average; strongly prefer remote studies.
  • Satisfied but not well: low wellbeing, high satisfaction; completing their studies as planned; no preference for in-class teaching.
  • Not well (and representing 30% of the sample): low goal completion; not able to complete their studies as planned; less satisfied with teaching than average; slightly preferred in-class teaching.

“The study revealed students with conflicting preferences,” explained Spens. “But the narrative that students are not feeling well because the teaching is remote is only partly true. There are many with high wellbeing who would prefer to study remotely. Students with high wellbeing are satisfied with teaching and can complete their studies as planned.

“Engaging students is really important, as is enabling students to combine study with ‘other life’. They’re not asking for more technology, but they are asking for more pedagogical approaches to what they’re doing. Experts who analysed the results reminded us that we have a generation of students shaped by the pandemic, and we cannot go back to the way we used to be. We need new models of thinking.

It’s also concerning that students are feeling worried for their teachers. This is not the way it’s supposed to be. We need to think about work wellbeing and student wellbeing at the same time.

“Wellbeing is something we cannot forget. Things are still not right – and those who need support must be given access to this. If we don’t take wellbeing seriously, technology and pedagogy will not enough for our students to be successful.”

This article has been adapted from one which originally appeared in the July/August 2022 edition of Ambition, the magazine of the Association of MBAs (AMBA). 

Main image: Hannah Wei on Unsplash

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Business Impact: Does CSR improve performance?
corporate social responsibility

Does CSR improve performance?

The impact of pursuing CSR investments on financial performance varies across studies, so where does the truth lie? And how do they affect the tenure of those at the helm? Jérôme Barthélemy, executive vice president and professor at ESSEC Business School, investigates

Read More »

Read previous editions of the Business Impact magazine:

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Education must never be a dirty word

Business Impact: Education must never be a dirty word

Education must never be a dirty word

Business Impact: Education must never be a dirty word

Despite the abundance of benefits it could bring to wider society, prisoner education still remains a taboo subject, says James Tweed, the founder of digital learning company, Coracle

It’s easy to take access to education for granted. When you’ve got used to going to school every day, spending a few hours in a library, or even just going on YouTube to find information, education can start to seem mundane. In a digital society, most of us walk around with access to vast amounts of information literally sitting in the palm of our hands. 

Yet for some small but substantial groups, such unfettered access is not taken for granted and is far from the norm of their everyday lives. Groups such as prisoners, homeless people and the very poor don’t have access to education in anything like the way the rest of us do. This is in part both the cause and the consequence of the harsh lives these people lead. 

Rights to education

Education is supposed to be a fundamental human right, enshrined by a declaration made by the United Nations. For years researchers, analysts and academics, as well as most sensible governments, have recognised its potential to transform lives.

As well as contributing to confidence, fulfilment, independence and career prospects, an individual who has completed upper secondary education can expect to live six years longer than an individual with the lowest level of education. These benefits are reflected in wider society, too; societies that witness higher participation in education tend to experience higher levels of happiness, civic participation and better health outcomes.

But for those segments of society who remain part of a marginalised and vulnerable population, the right to an education remains largely ignored. 

Locked out

Prisoners are among the most poorly educated groups in society. A lack of education and skills means finding work is difficult and, once they have a criminal record, it becomes harder still. This leads many to return to crime.

For example, 47% of prisoners in the UK have no formal qualifications when they enter custody. Offering those in prison a laptop – as Coracle does – is a chance for them to build skills and creativity. It’s also a humanistic solution to reoffending that can work towards bridging social inequalities.  

Breaking this cycle could save billions. Estimates suggest that for every $1 spent on correctional education in the US, $4 to $5 are saved on reincarceration costs. It’s good for the prisoner, their families and also for wider society. A lot of crime takes place close to where a perpetrator lives, so it’s also the poorest communities that stand to benefit the most.

In October 1989, the Council of Europe adopted a set of recommendations outlining the needs and responsibilities of the education of imprisoned people in Europe. Despite this becoming enshrined in policy recommendations, the gap in access to education persists.

Digital society

Our society is becoming digital on every front. We use apps for everything, cash is disappearing and being able to use the internet is taken as a given. But there’s a digital divide opening up and prisoners are on the wrong side of it. Anyone who emerges from prison after a lengthy spell finds themselves in a very different world.

From contactless card payments to digital passports and self-service checkouts, the digital revolution is changing society at an immense speed. Giving prisoners the opportunity to learn the digital skills they need increases their chances of successful reintegration into their communities. This is vital if we are to address the continued exclusion of ex-prisoners from mainstream society.

Recognising this gap, I founded Coracle – a digital learning company which provides inmates with access to education. What started as a project in my local prison now reaches 50 prisons across England and Wales.

Employment

It is evident that employers still have a way to go when it comes to offering former convicts opportunities without negative bias. At current, the proportion of offenders in employment one year after release is a meagre 17% in the UK. By equipping offenders with the educational capacities needed to gain employment, prisoner education bridges the skills gap that exists between the prisoner population and wider society.

By providing crucial skills that have the potential to transform people’s lives, prisoner education is a vital area of social investment. Ending the revolving door of sending vulnerable people back into prisons year on year is possible, but it requires a collective effort rooted in humanising offenders and understanding their needs. 

In short, prisoner education can no longer come last. It’s a priority worthy of our collective efforts, that offers shared benefits for us all. Widening access to education beyond the formal education system is the best way to build hope and develop potential.

James Tweed is the founder and managing director of digital learning company Coracle, which allows prisoners to access content safely from organisations such as the Open University without using the internet.

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Focussing on purpose over profit

Business Impact: Focussing on purpose over profit

Focussing on purpose over profit

Business Impact: Focussing on purpose over profit

“There are so many graduates that want to work for the good of the planet, but what if we could turn around the huge organisations that virtually run our world.” Entrepreneur and designer Lora Starling makes an impassioned case for cultivating a better way of doing business and creating a brighter future 

There is a school in Bali that has to ‘thrive with purpose’ as its statement and to ‘create a global community of learners to make our world more sustainable’ as its mission.

What is the purpose and what is the sense of sustainability that is championed by its business students? And is it working? I believe there is an awareness that the traditional way of building business, with a few at the top earning most of the money and often with little regard for the long-term impact, is losing its glow.

Yet the bankers, energy companies, pharmaceutical businesses and car manufacturers, to mention just a few, continue to create wealth for shareholders as a priority. The evidence of the suffering of the majority of the population, heightened by climate change, becomes more apparent and yet we seem to cling to the safety of the economy. John Perkins, author of Confessions of an Economic Hitman, continues to expose how governments have ravaged, and continue to ravage, the natural world in less developed countries at the expense of the health of the societies that live there.

Can we still, then, knowing all this, satisfy the purpose, above all else, to make money? And for how long and for whom? Can we continue to champion the economic world’s sustainability at the natural world’s expense? How much room, after all, is there on Mars?

Polarisation and philanthropy

A new thinking is emerging but is it developing fast enough? When Covid-19 hit, our complacency of a predictable future was shattered. We feared that our death could be more imminent than we hoped and our life plans for the immediate future were dashed. It feels to me as if the result of the pandemic has polarised the world. Many of us have reviewed our life purpose and many are not returning to unsatisfying jobs, while others joyfully herald the rise of ‘getting back to normal’. There is, as the Buddhists say, a middle road. Perhaps we negotiate this middle road through the creation of a new normal, a desirable route since the old version was herding us to extinction.

We had a taste of another way during Covid-19. Nurses and other health carers were elevated to superhuman levels as they appeared to risk their lives for us. Pharmaceutical companies were heralded as the new saviours until the outrageous profits made at the expense of world health were exposed. With travel at a standstill, neighbours welcomed neighbours for the warmth and company unavailable from friends and relations too far away, with the Covid restrictions, to visit.

Now, in hospitals, doctors’ surgeries and on public transport, I see signs displaying that violence will not be tolerated, weakly encouraging patients and visitors to be polite and caring. We wonder why the service industry is failing, but who would want to be a part of it when, because we are being paid to care for people, or travel on public transport, we are open to abuse? When did I last see a sign like that in a successful corporation? Never.  

But businesses know the value of being seen to care. Those with huge profits donate to charity. Financial giant Bank of America pledged a whopping $181 million to various charities in 2017, but this was only 0.6 per cent of its pre-tax profit that year, according to according to a Chronicle of Philanthropy survey. This is just one example of many, including individuals such as Bill and Melinda Gates, that donate billions, which is great, but it is just a tiny drop of their fortune. It is theirs to do as they wish but how amazing it would be if the converse was true and they retained that small percentage for themselves.

Imagining a different approach

Imagine a world where the majority of success was measured and rewarded by the amount of care and love we bestowed on others and our Earth. Where most of our investment was in promoting and benefitting from positive and sustainable values rather than falling for the shallow, short-lived promises that benefit a brand’s profit.

McDonald’s inspired the Ronald McDonald House charities with a mission to create, find and support programmes that directly improve the health and wellbeing of children. McDonald’s donates about 20% of the funds needed to run these and it does not go unnoticed by the more cynical that they are helping kids’ health on one hand and damaging it on the other with fast food. Imagine what would happen if the main focus was on improving the health and wellbeing of children.

Imagine if we saved all the money spent on weaponry and defence training – defence is a profit-hungry business – and used our armies to deal primarily, with disasters. Their current training would allow them to deal with the latter efficiently, engaging in teamwork, following orders and carrying out structured solutions. What if this was the primary objective of these forces rather than preparing for an invasion with deadly weaponry in case a potential enemy arises?

Sparking change from the ground up

What can we, as individuals, do to spark change in the world? Perhaps this change will start from the ground up. It is challenging for our big brands to make this shift. Like a supertanker trying to make an unplanned turn, it is likely to run aground or take so long that it can be impossible to avert a crash. But as individuals, it is much easier for us to turn our lives around much faster. If Covid taught us anything it is the value and finiteness of life.

I spoke recently with a very successful businessperson. We are launching a new venture together and it is one built on heartfelt success. We both realise the value of working with a heart as well as a head and with a broader, caring approach as well as the more single-minded, profit-at-all-cost business template. We need both mindsets. She shared how there are so many graduates that want to work for the good of the planet, with charities or similar. But what if we could turn around some of the huge organisations that virtually run our world?

With so much depression around, it has been found that money does not buy happiness; simple acts of gratitude and love are more effective than antidepressants and the reward is that we are happier, more creative and can make a better world. It starts with each of us.

Lora Starling is a designer with more than 30 years of experience having run her own corporate graphic design business. She now works with brands and entrepreneurs in the UK, US and Australia on delivering brand impact through visual logos. Lora is also the author of The Logo DecodedIdentify Yourself and Future You.

 Headline image credit: Kristopher Roller on Unsplash

 

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How to spot truly LGBTQ+ inclusive organisations

Business Impact: How to spot truly LGBTQ+ inclusive organisations

How to spot truly LGBTQ+ inclusive organisations

Business Impact: How to spot truly LGBTQ+ inclusive organisations

If you want to find out just how committed to LGBTQ+ inclusion a prospective employer is, look for these top signs from myGwork’s co-founders Adrien and Pierre Gaubert

Despite more companies pushing their commitment to diversity and inclusion and encouraging individuals to be their authentic selves at work, most graduates and new recruits still fear revealing their true identities to their managers and bosses.

It’s no secret that LGBTQ+ graduates and professionals often return to the closet when they start a new job, despite intentions to work with pride. In fact, the latest study from myGwork, the business community for LGBTQ+ professionals, revealed that seven out of 10 graduates and students in the UK and US would return to the closet if their colleagues were not allies or supportive of them being out at work, even though 83% have been out at university and had intentions of #WorkingWithPride. 

Dangers of discrimination and having to hide

Like many other recent studies, myGwork’s latest statistics highlighted that discrimination is still rife for young LGBTQ+ professionals and graduates. Six out of 10 members of Gen Z, for example, said that they have been discriminated against in their place of work or study. However, the study also revealed that more than two thirds of university students and graduates would leave their job if they couldn’t be authentic and out at work. 

Having to hide aspects of your identity can take a huge toll on your mental health, which leads to a loss of focus, productivity and interest in your role. Our own experiences of discrimination early on in our careers, for example, meant that we both had to return to the closet each time we started a new job. They also led us to set up myGwork, a global business platform for LGBTQ+ professionals that aims to help the community find jobs with inclusive employers, as well as providing employers with guidance on how to attract and retain diverse LGBTQ+ talent.

Today’s younger talent, especially Gen Z, cares much more about diversity and inclusion. It’s no longer enough for an organisation to say that it’s serious about having an inclusive workplace because today’s talent wants to see it in action. With so many companies being called out recently for performative allyship or rainbow washing, younger professionals want solid proof that the companies they are planning to join are truly progressive and inclusive, and live up to their diversity and inclusion statements.

So, how can you find out just how committed a company is to LGBTQ+ inclusion and allyship? Here are eight key signs to be on the look out for.

1. Inclusive policies

It’s vital to find out whether companies have policies which show that their leaders really do care about employee wellbeing by providing a work environment not only where staff can enjoy what they do, but also where the pay, benefits and culture promote a sense of belonging. myGwork’s survey found that 26% of LGBTQ+ Gen Zers want to see LGBTQ+ inclusive policies.

At the most basic level, you should look for policies that use gender-neutral language, alongside inclusive policies which are not gender-biased. For example, ensure that parental leave policy is available for all genders. This includes parental leave for same-sex partners, alongside additional healthcare benefits for staff who may be transitioning.

2. Zero-tolerance discrimination policy

Check if a prospective employer has a zero-tolerance discrimination policy. This can provide reassurance that you will never have to return to the closet. LGBTQ+ inclusive companies will go out of their way to highlight zero-tolerance discrimination policies in their onboarding process, employee handbook and contract, along with the serious consequences for non-compliance.

3. Visible LGBTQ+ role models and allies

Another sign to look out for is visible LGBTQ+ role models.Our survey showed that 22% of students/graduates seek visible role models and allies who speak openly about LGBTQ+ inclusion. Find out whether the senior leaders in the company you are being interviewed by go that extra mile to achieve equality and use their platform to amplify the voices of the LGBTQ+ communities by taking part in inclusion conversations at external forums.

4. Observe diversity days that are important to the LGBTQ+ community

Our survey revealed that 21% of Gen Zers look at what organisations are doing to mark diversity days/periods, such as Pride Month or Trans Awareness Week, and if they support any LGBTQ+ causes. Does the company that you are planning to join demonstrate real allegiance to the community by going above and beyond supporting the annual Pride Month or LGBTQ+ History Month? Companies that are serious about LGBTQ+ inclusion also tend to provide ongoing support to LGBTQ+ causes and charities. So ask about that in your interview.

5. Visible signs of LGBTQ+ allyship

About 16% of Gen Zers told us they expect to see year-round visible signs of LGBTQ+ allyship in the offices of inclusive companies. Companies that truly care about attracting and retaining LGBTQ+ hires will have visible signs of LGBTQ+ allyship, such as staff members wearing rainbow lanyards and pronouns on badges and signatures. Having unisex toilets is another tell-tale sign of an inclusive workplace.

6. Active LGBTQ+ employee resource groups

Active employee resource groups (ERGs) or networks that emphasise intersectionality and supports all marginalised groups – such as the non-binary, gender fluid and asexual communities, as well as queer people of colour and other subsets within the LGBTQ+ community, like the Black trans communities – are also a must. Around 12% of LGBTQ+ students look for this, according to our survey. Another important sign is whether the ERG is supported by senior LGBTQ+ allies across the business – the higher up the ladder they are, the better.

7. Adequate diversity and LGBTQ+ inclusion training

Another good sign to look out for is adequate LGBTQ+ training that backs up a company’s DE&I policies. Training should go beyond a basic education on diversity and different identities within the LGBTQ+ umbrella. It should provide practical advice on how to be mindful of unconscious biases and not make assumptions about colleagues, their partners and family circumstances.

Training should also provide guidance on how to call out inappropriate and harmful behaviour and language, harassment, slurs and stereotypes, as well as offer advice on how to avoid misgendering, deadnaming and so on. Do policies encourage calling out bad/inappropriate behaviour/harassment?

8. Ongoing outreach programmes to engage with the LGBTQ+ community

Finally, does a prospective employer go out of its way to recruit LGBTQ+ talent by engaging with diverse job boards and recruitment events through ongoing outreach programmes? Job postings on LGBTQ+ recruitment/networking platforms or a booth at careers events like #WorkFair are good signs that a company is working hard to attract LGBTQ+ talent.

Involvement in LGBTQ+ conferences like #WorkPride should also provide you that added reassurance that the company you are planning to join does go that extra mile to provide an inclusive workplace where you can be your authentic self, without fearing a return to the closet.

Adrien Gaubert (right) and Pierre Gaubert are CMO and CEO, respectively, and the co-founders of myGwork, a global business community for LGBTQ+ professionals, students, inclusive employers and anyone who believes in workplace equality. The Gaubert brothers were named in the Bank of London’s 2022 Rainbow Honours, 2021’s Top 100 LGBT+ Executives as part of the Outstanding LGBT+ Role Model Lists and were recently honoured in the 2022/23 Diversity Power List.

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Helping provide continuity for business education students in Ukraine

Business Impact: Helping provide continuity for business education students in Ukraine

Helping provide continuity for business education students in Ukraine

Business Impact: Helping provide continuity for business education students in Ukraine

POLIMI Graduate School of Management’s Tommaso Agasisti talks about the importance of offering students continuity at a time of unimaginable unsettlement and the school’s partnerships with three Business Schools in Ukraine

The crisis in Ukraine has had a devastating effect on all aspects of society, including education. This is not only terrible in the short-term, but the long-term impact this will have on a generation is also life-altering. 

The damage goes beyond destroyed infrastructure. The impact it has on scientific and educational facilities is huge. This is why it is also vital that, in addition to immediate aid, we help to rebuild and implement foundations which can help Ukrainian educational institutions to continue to operate as best they can. 

Education is fundamental 

This is where other countries and institutions need to step in, and why POLIMI Graduate School of Management [POLIMI GSoM; formerly, MIP Politecnico di Milano Graduate School of Business] has now partnered with three Ukrainian Business Schools, offering courses and content free of charge. Those involved are Kyiv School of Economics, Kyiv-Mohyla Business School and the Ukrainian Catholic University. Education is fundamental and we hope that these partnerships will help connect students to much-needed resources, and to broaden their communities during a time of unimaginable unsettlement. 

Business Schools are natural partners, as we are both educational hubs and businesspeople alike, and over the years, POLIMI GSoM has nurtured and developed numerous partnerships both with businesses and other institutions that align with our goals and values. Our partnerships have increasingly become associated with increasing awareness of our combined responsibility to address pressing issues within society, and our understanding that profit must not be viewed as the be-all and end-all anymore. Profit should co-exist with equity, sustainability and inclusion, and we should help and support those in need. 

When the crisis arose, we realised that we could harness our relationship-building skills to give back to the Ukrainian Business Schools that would benefit from our support. We want to grow the foundations of a lasting collaboration that can provide some relief and support in this difficult time in the subsequent rebuilding phase and beyond. 

Aiding continuation 

But what exactly do the partnerships entail? Well, we start with Kyiv School of Economics (KSE) a Business School that was established in 2015 when it launched its MBA programme. Since then, the portfolio of the Business School has grown, including long-term programmes and tailor-made courses for companies. Since the crisis, KSE has kept working to support the Ukrainian economy, and has continued to provide relevant education for its students. The School has continued to operate and has focused on projects aimed at restoring the economy, and educating leaders on how to manage emergencies at all levels. 

From our side, we have tried to aid this continuation. The partnership started with successful online networking sessions in which full-time MBA students met online in May, before the delivery of online classes from mid-June to July. Co-designed
and co-delivered by KSE and POLIMI GSoM professors, each class counted for 30-50 hours and involved 10-15 KSE students. These included classes in ‘leadership and management’, ‘operations and project management’, ‘data analysis for business’ and ‘strategic management’. The aim of this partnership is to continue the academic path of KSE students in an otherwise very unsettled situation. 

Kyiv-Mohyla Business School (KMBS) meanwhile, is a School that prides itself on educating future leaders who want to change business and, indeed, the planet for the better. It was founded in 1999 as a part of the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy – one of the oldest universities in Europe with a more than 400-year history. 

For this partnership, POLIMI will provide KMBS students, as well as some faculty members, with the opportunity to join the School’s digital learning platform – D-HUB – where they will have access to a wide range of asynchronous videoclips. Those able to partake include MBA and executive MBA students, as well as participants of its master’s in business analytics and finance programme.
These classes are optional, and include classes on digital transformation, project management, and decision-making. We anticipate that this is just the beginning for us in providing material and support for KMBS. 

Another area where POLIMI GSoM thrives and also wishes to share knowledge is through its sustainability initiatives, programmes, and overall expertise. This is why our partnership with the Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU) is so valuable. Sharing much of the same values as POLIMI GSoM, the UCU is known for its independent public position, the scope of its international outreach, and its commitment to value-based education and social responsibility. Indeed, the university aspires to train a new generation of students capable of combining their professional education with soft skills, to ultimately contribute to a more sustainable and ethical society. 

Through this collaboration, POLIMI Graduate School of Management and the UCU will provide online classes about sustainability and global business for UCU students, with options to take part in workshops. The main goal of this partnership is to give UCU students international exposure and continue the global nature of their education. 

We do not know when this crisis will end and all we can do in the meantime is to provide support the best we can. At POLIMI GSoM, we will continue to use our resources and foundations to assist Ukrainian universities and Business Schools during the unrest, so that future generations have as much opportunity as possible to continue their valuable education.

Tommaso Agasisti is Associate Dean for International Relations at POLIMI Graduate School of Management (POLIMI GSoM) and a Professor of Public Management at Politecnico di Milano.

This article originally appeared in the print edition (August 2022) of Business Impact.

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geopolitics

Exploring the future of globalisation

Business Schools must collaborate within a global partnership to help create a sustainable future for all, argues Steef van de Velde, Dean and Professor of Operations Management and Technology at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University.

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