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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Responsible rankings: can measurements be more fruitful for students, Schools and society?

A fruitful pattern of cut oranges on a baby pink background.

University of Bath School of Management Professor and expert in responsible business, Andrew Crane, on how rankings can effect positive change in the industry, and how to address current criticisms. Interview by Tim Banerjee Dhoul

Recent releases of Business School rankings have been accompanied by media coverage of optouts and boycotts in the context of Covid-19. The omittances have only added to the feeling that rankings are in something of a limbo period amid the clamour for much-mooted and comprehensive redesigns that might allow them to better reflect the current business education landscape. 

That rankings would benefit from change is almost universally recognised. In highlighting many of the problems associated with existing MBA rankings, for example, a 2019 report from AMBA & BGA found – in a survey of 1,328 MBA graduates, students and Business School leaders – that only 11% think rankings reflect the true performance of an MBA ‘very well’. Step forward two years, and the Covid-19 pandemic has provided an impetus for innovation within the business education industry. Might it also present the perfect chance to refresh and revitalise rankings? If so, how can they be made more sustainable for the business world we live in now and the world we will live in in the future?

Andrew Crane is a Professor of Business and Society and Director of the Centre for Business, Organisations and Society in the School of Management at the University of Bath, UK. As an expert in responsible business and the changing role of the corporation in the global economy, Business Impact felt Crane was well-placed to offer a view on the role of rankings and how they might function more responsibly, to encourage positive change in the industry.

What do you think the purpose of (Business School) rankings should be? How does this compare to the real function they currently perform in the sector, as you see it? 

I think Business School rankings should have two main purposes. First and foremost, they should be about giving potential students useful and reliable information that will inform their decision-making, especially about which Schools they should apply to, or enter. Without rankings, prospective students have a dearth of good information on which to base their decisions. 

Second, I think rankings can also be helpful in nudging Business Schools towards whatever we might see as desirable behaviours. A good ranking can be a real driver for change inside Schools. So, as long as the ranking measures things that are important, and measures them in a suitable way, they can have really positive effects on what Business Schools value, what they pay attention to, and ultimately what they do on a day-to-day basis. 

Realistically, one of the main functions that most rankings actually perform is to generate income (whether through sales or advertising revenue) for the media organisations that produce them. It is no surprise, in many ways, that most of the main Business School rankings are produced by media organisations because it is these companies that have recognised how much they have to gain from them. 

This doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but it can have some negative side-effects on the other potential purposes. Most rankings, for example, are not as far as I am aware (with the exception of the Corporate Knights Better World MBA ranking) designed with any real vision of what Business Schools should be teaching, or the role they should be playing in society. If this vision is not built into the ranking, it may still provide useful information for prospective students, but it will not push Schools to behave in any desired way and nor will it consider how Business Schools will actually change in response to the ranking. 

Business Schools are often accused of ‘surrendering’ to rankings. Is this a fair criticism in your opinion? 

I don’t know about surrendering, because I think some Business Schools actively lobby the rankings quite a bit to try and influence what they measure and how. But what I do think is a major problem is that there is real incentive for Business Schools to game the rankings. By that, I mean that they might seek to get as high as possible a score on the ranking while doing as little as possible to actually change the fundamentals of what the ranking is supposed to be assessing. 

One upshot of this is that Schools end up investing too much time, attention and money on their rankings management processes rather than the things that are actually supposed to be important like the quality and relevance of their teaching. Also, the things they do end up changing may be those that are most likely to get a boost in the rankings rather than those that improve the educational experience. This certainly doesn’t happen everywhere but the pressures to do so are likely felt everywhere. This wouldn’t be a problem if the rankings were all designed with a clear vision of what they were trying to achieve in terms of School behaviour, but I fear that these are largely unintended consequences of Schools managing the measures rather than the fundamentals underlying the measures. 

Salary measurements in rankings often attract a lot of attention, with rankings agencies defending the need to demonstrate return on investment (ROI) to paying students. In this context, should Business Schools pay more attention to the cost of business education programmes?

Return on investment is, of course, important. But the idea that the return on an education should be purely, or even primarily, measured in terms of future salary is, in my opinion, deeply flawed. It is even worse than thinking firm performance should only be measured in terms of profits or share price. Education has so many more dimensions than just the direct economic return – even an MBA degree. It is about learning how to think and make decisions in different ways, building up new skillsets and networks, developing in who we are as human beings and professionals, and lots more besides. 

ROI needs to take these things into consideration as well. So, for me, Schools and ranking agencies should be spending more time and attention on how to assess, compare and communicate these other outcomes of a degree programme. Then, once they have a better handle of what the real return on the investment is, they can talk seriously about what the right level of investment (i.e. degree cost) should be. 

Do you think that many Business School practitioners might view rankings as a ‘necessary evil’? Either way, would it be fair to label them as ‘evil’ and/or ‘necessary’? 

Personally, I have something of a love-hate relationship with rankings. In the area of responsible business where I focus, rankings like the now-defunct Beyond Grey Pinstripes ranking or the Corporate Knights ranking have, for all their problems, been really helpful in pushing for change inside the Schools I’ve worked in. 

On the contrary, rankings like the Financial Times one, for me at least, are rather more undesirable because of what I see as a negative effect on how we view Business School education – far too much comes down to final salary. So, yes, I think they are ‘necessary’ because they provide an important service for prospective students. But some are certainly more ‘evil’ than others! 

This year, rankings releases have been accompanied with boycotts/optouts due to problems associated with Covid-19. What value, if any, can rankings offer without being able to score all eligible institutions? 

I’m not too concerned about this, providing they capture a meaningful slice of the population of Schools. It is not like applicants have every single School in their consideration set. Most are selecting from a much smaller subset anyway. So as long as there are enough being ranked for students to be able to compare sufficient Schools that they could feasibly apply and get accepted into, I think the rankings are still going to be valuable for students – which, after all, is their main audience.

Who is to blame for the problems associated with rankings? The agencies who produce them, the Schools that provide them with data, the prospective students who consume them, or the employers who might derive their perceptions of quality from them?  

This is a tough question! The problem is that we are sufficiently far enough down the road of rankings now that we effectively have a whole system of actors that are complicit in keeping them going, and sustaining the problems that are associated with them. Perhaps a better way of thinking about it is to consider who is best placed to change things for the better. And there I think the buck stops with those producing the ratings. If there are problems, they should fix them. 

Of course, Schools, students, and employers can – and absolutely should – play a role in agitating for change, and providing resources and momentum to fuel the change. But it is the agencies that have to change their rankings. Or else, we need different actors to come up with better rankings. 

If you could devise a new system for ranking Business Schools worldwide, what would your top three ranking criteria/factors be and how would you measure them? 

I think there is space for a variety of rankings focused on different aspects of what might be considered important aspirations for Business School education. 

Core to these should be at least some assessment of the relative learning gain of students on the relevant programmes of study – that is, what advance has there been in aspects such as students’ knowledge, skills, work-readiness or personal development. 

There are lots of potential factors and measures that could be used here, all of which I think tell us much more about the return on investment of an MBA programme than final salary. I also think it is crucial that Schools are assessed on how well they prepare students for tackling the big social and environmental challenges that are facing us as a society, and as a business sector. 

Personally, I think that any MBA programme that fails to progress its students’ thinking on how to address climate change, for example, is in dereliction of its duty as an institution of management education.  

What is your impression of the Positive Impact Ratings (PIR), launched in 2020?

Well, first off, it is great to see a new ranking entering this space and with a different set of actors behind it compared to the usual suspects. And I love that it is focused on positive impact and the sustainable development goals. 

Where I have my reservations is on the methodology. Any ranking that is entirely based on students’ responses about what their School is doing is going to have some inherent problems. Most students simply lack enough breadth of experience of other Schools at any point in time to be able to judge effectively the performance of their own School. What is their point of comparison on what good performance looks like? 

Students are a good judge of their own educational attainment, but I’m less convinced they are a good judge of how advanced their School is in making a broader societal impact. Most of what they learn about how good their School is on these aspects will come from a single source … the School itself. Those Schools that talk internally a lot, and convincingly, about how great they are in making an impact will be much more likely to have students that think the School is indeed doing a good job on these criteria. 

I worry that rankings like this will end up assessing how good the internal communications are of the School rather than the underlying fundamentals. Don’t get me wrong, encouraging Schools to improve how they inform students about their societal impact is a good thing in itself. And students are a good source of information on many aspects of School performance that directly affect them. But the approach of PIR gets it wrong in my opinion when it comes to how we best assess and influence Business School behaviour in the context of impact. 

Let’s give students a strong voice in assessing the impact of business education on themselves, but as far as impact on the wider world goes, I would rather see assessments from external stakeholders, and more objective, comparable criteria.

Rankings are usually very popular, so how might the business education industry go about replacing them with something that equally engaged prospective students around the world?  What else might allow students to ascertain quality in a crowded market? 

I don’t think you can replace them. Even if you got rid of the current ones, others would spring up in their place because they are serving a student need. 

They don’t even need Schools to actively participate if they base their metrics on publicly available data. So eliminating them isn’t a plausible alternative, for me. But you can certainly change them or complement them with other types of assessments or ways of demonstrating quality, relevance and impact.  

Much like in every other industry, there has been a growth in the last few years of sites that aggregate students’ reviews and feedback on universities and courses, which I am sure play a growing part in informing students’ decisions. I’m kind of surprised that we have not yet seen a platform of this type successfully emerge to dominate the MBA market. But I’m sure it won’t be too long. 

In addition, I would expect more specialised rankings of business programmes to emerge that focus on specific topics, much like the sustainability ones. So, for example, are we going to see a Business School ranking focused specifically on entrepreneurship, or marketing, or finance? The more this kind of fragmentation occurs, the more opportunities there are for digging deeper and devising better metrics to measure what really matters. 

So, paradoxically, the solution to the problems of our current rankings might be to have more of them, not less. 

Andrew Crane is a Professor of Business and Society and Director of the Centre for Business, Organisations and Society in the School of Management at the University of Bath, UK. He is a leading author, researcher, educator and commentator on responsible business. Follow him at @ethicscrane.

This article is taken from Business Impact’s print magazine (edition: May-July 2021).

Do recruitment fairs still work in the new online Business School admissions landscape?

Online admissions landscape looking to future alone.

Recruitment fairs for prospective candidates have long held a command over Business Schools when it comes to accessing students. But are we now seeing repercussions for an admissions ecosystem that was already starting to change pre-Covid-19? Molly Innes investigates

School admissions teams have long relied on the recruitment (or admissions)
fairs as an important avenue for attracting prospective candidates, travelling
around the world to take up spots in crowded halls and network with students.
But Covid-19 put a stop to that.

of these fairs moved online in early 2020, leaving many Schools to question
whether the model still works, and if it’s worth stretching their budgets for a
virtual room in an online admissions
fair, where the number of attendees in some rooms can reportedly be as
low as zero.

article seeks to find out how industry insiders have dealt with problems such
as low attendance, unsociable hours, and budget cuts, as well as how it’s
changed their approach to admissions.

Do virtual admissions fairs

fair companies were thrown into flux when the pandemic hit. They were forced to
change their setups rapidly in time for the next round of admissions events. Petia
Whitmore, Founder of My MBA Path, was Managing Director of The MBA Tour when Covid-19 hit
– a role she left at the end of 2020. The MBA Tour is one of many recruitment
fair providers – others include QS and Access MBA – that, pre-pandemic, held
large in-person events across the world. But Whitmore says that she’d been
encouraging the board at The MBA Tour to start providing more online events
even before the pandemic.  

nothing like a pandemic to force us to face the fact that the product needs to
change,’ Whitmore says of the early days of Covid-19 lockdowns and shifting the
recruitment model.

the start of the pandemic, Schools had little choice but to sign up for online
admissions events. It was ride the wave or be left behind.

was a crucial time for Business School admissions to make sure we weren’t
losing contact with students,’ says Kelly Sugrue, Assistant
Dean of Admissions at Brandeis International Business School. ‘Fortunately,
for most Business Schools, it was after what we would typically consider to be
our recruiting season when fairs would be taking place. We were at the tail end
of our cycle, and more trying to stay engaged with potential candidates.’

that wasn’t the experience for all Schools. While many had long attended
physical admissions fairs, when the format moved online, some were left
wondering whether it worked at all. ‘The very first iterations of all of the
virtual fairs sucked. All of them,’ says Lawrence Mur’ray II, Senior Assistant Dean
at Gabelli School of Business, Fordham University. ‘Many tried to take the
experience of an in-person event and just translate it right into a virtual
event, and that doesn’t work.’

that, access to information on demand means that prospective candidates have
had alternative ways of interacting with their target Schools for a while. And
now that the initial shock has subsided and Business Schools are in the swing
of a second full recruitment cycle since Covid-19 began, some are thinking
twice about virtual admissions fairs.

Access vs. effectiveness: fairs dividing opinion

problem with the fairs was that they were already declining in interest,’ says Sugrue, who points towards a rise in prospective
candidates finding information online and engaging with Schools directly,
rather than through a third-party vendor.

Sugrue adds that schools are now more wary of the format: ‘They might have tried it out of habit last year not knowing how else they would reach students, but I think unfortunately the fairs were not productive in that sense.’

there are mixed opinions across the Business School admissions landscape. Barbara
Coward, MBA admissions consultant and one of LinkedIn’s top 10 voices in
education for 2020, says that while the students she works with aren’t
necessarily gearing up for recruitment fairs, they do serve a strong purpose. ‘For
the Schools, fairs can help them find more talent, have more touch points, and
go to areas they might not usually have had access to,’ she says. ‘In-person
fairs would go to the big cities, but not the smaller towns. As a result,
somebody from Salzburg, for example, who wants to do an MBA but might not want
to travel to a big city for an event, has easier access online. I do think it’s
a way to uncover, discover, and tap into more talent that would otherwise go

Barbara’s comment points to
the wider benefit of virtual fairs: accessibility. Although the virtual fair
model might not be 100% effective for all Schools, from a candidate perspective
it opens up the possibility of interacting with Schools they previously
wouldn’t have had access to.

In 2020, the MBA Tour ran 41
virtual events in the summer and fall season, with 28,000 registrations and
11,000 attendees. ‘Because geographical travel limitations no longer existed,
candidates could attend from anywhere in the world, allowing Schools to meet
more candidates and a richer diversity of candidates at a single event,’ says Danielle
Boland, current Managing Director of The MBA Tour.

it hasn’t always been straightforward for some schools to secure attendees for
their individual rooms at virtual recruitment fairs. ‘I found that the bigger-branded
Schools’ online rooms were always packed, whereas Schools perhaps not as well
recognised, but potentially a good fit for certain candidates, were left empty
for longer periods of time,’ one Business School professional wishing to remain
anonymous confided.

Measuring the ROI of an
admissions fair

the admissions team at Maastricht
School of Management (MSM), the move online gave an opportunity to stay
in contact with candidates in a way that many hadn’t experienced before – but
that doesn’t mean all channels were effective. ‘From our end, we did specific
zoom meetings and kept in regular contact with students that were already in
the pipeline,’ says Inka Diddens, Recruitment Officer at MSM. ‘The feedback we got
from them was that they really appreciated us taking their worries away.’

when it comes to ‘early-funnel’ prospective candidates, MSM has found the
process of online events trickier to navigate. ‘It’s been more challenging.
With specific markets, we noticed things like a worse internet connection,
which means we can’t do video calls, or there are delays,’ says Diddens, before
adding: ‘There have been no shows too, more no shows than when we were
face-to-face. That candidates don’t show up, it’s just a different commitment
from their side.’

the candidates’ approach may be different, the costs aren’t necessarily lower
for an online event, leaving some admissions staff to question the return on
investment (ROI) for them, when compared to an in-person event.

were looking at fall [autumn] events and in some cases they were more expensive
than they’d previously been in person,” said Sugrue.
‘I found it astounding, especially when they were less productive in terms of
candidate lead generation.’

Malta, Managing Director of MBA Recruitment and Admissions at McCombs School of
Business, University of Texas at Austin, says the potential ROI and
expectations of an online fair were not the same as that of an in-person event
for his School. ‘Our goals for virtual affairs were different. So for us, we
had the ROI we expected, because we didn’t expect the same type of event,’ he says.

were some that were poorly attended, and a waste of time, but there were some
virtual fairs where we had a strong ROI, but it was a different kind of ROI. It
was top of the funnel, building leads versus the deeper engagement and
relationship building which we’d seen in the past.’

Navigating the timezone

fairs put everyone in the same physical space, but virtual events throw up an
entirely new challenge for both prospective candidates and admissions staff –
timezones. Navigating this issue when staff and students are dialling in from
around the world has been a serious issue for some.

prospective candidate, Cecilia, an engineering student in Argentina, found that
balancing her studies while looking to join online events was unmanageable. ‘I
found they didn’t match my timezone when I was looking,’ she says – although it
is worth noting that Cecilia was early in the admissions pipeline.

struggled with timezone problems too, with admissions staff often having to
wake up exceptionally early or be active late at night, hours potentially
conducive to mental health and burnout issues among staff. ‘We had events that
were at one o’clock in the morning; it was not good.’ says Mur’ray. However, Mur’ray
feels that candidate engagement was improved with his School’s own events: ‘I
think most of the prospective candidates appreciated the fact that we could now
specialise or tailor our activities to their interests.’ The same was the case
for MSM, which reports being able to keep in contact with onboarding candidates
in a much more personal way than they’d had the allowance for previously.

meanwhile, suggests that the timezone issue isn’t much different from when
recruiters are on the road for in-person events. ‘You work mornings and
evenings, you’re up at 3am to catch a flight, from Beijing to Shanghai for
example, you work weekends because the events are very often on weekends, or
evenings when they’re in person because you’re not going to do them in the middle
of the day when the candidates are at work,’ she says.

There are
also ways around timezone differences. ‘We find that online events we hold or
participate in are best when they work for multiple timezones,’ says Sara
Vanos, Marketing Director for MBA Programmes at HEC Paris.  

Schools running their own

fairs pre-Covid-19 offered Schools the chance to connect with a range of
students, with a clearer indication of who would be present from a candidate
perspective. There was also increased opportunity for candidate interaction – if
a candidate was queuing for one School’s stand, admissions staff at different
desks had a chance to grab their attention while they were waiting.

Business Schools have now been running more of their own events as a way to
ensure they’re both in contact with candidates across the funnel, and able to
claw back some of their budget which goes on paying fees to a third-party
vendor. ‘Budgets were already being slashed even before Covid-19, so this
accelerated these changes,’ says Mur’ray, adding that his School has seen a
positive response from running its own events. ‘The legacy vendors still tried
to make it the same as in person. But when we host our own events, we don’t
have to do that at all.’ The result, according to Mur’ray, is that its incoming
MBA intake is more international than it was before the pandemic.  

events run by Schools have included everything from one-to-one meetings with
candidates, to wider talks and tailored webinars; Schools have had the power to
leverage their in-house capabilities and experiment more, at a lower cost.

definitely done less partner events, because we’re able to host our own virtual
events pretty easily, and are fortunate to have a pretty robust prospective
funnel,’ says Malta. ‘We looked to partner events to add to our top-of-funnel
efforts and complement leads we didn’t necessarily have. We did less partner
events, but when we did them, they were very targeted,’ he added.

tricky to see where the future is headed for online Business School
recruitment, and what impact it will have further down the line. The pandemic
upturned the sector, and perhaps we are now seeing the repercussions.

‘Due to the overwhelming
success of The MBA Tour’s virtual events in 2020 (and in response to travel
restrictions), we have continued to offer the virtual series in 2021 and expect
it to remain a critical part of our offerings into 2022 and beyond,’ Boland says.

But will Schools continue to attend now they see what they can achieve in-house? ‘We don’t need them like we did before,’ suggests Mur’ray.

Molly Innes is currently a Features Writer at Little Black Book. She previously worked at Business Insider, and at BusinessBecause covering MBAs and business education. Her freelance work includes features for admissions platform, Libereka, and the Guardian

Gen Z students are more career-focused than ever

Gen z emerging business leaders and prospective students.

Changing career aspirations and attitudes to traditional work patterns – will gen Z’s collective experience of Covid-19 drive a new paradigm of learning and working? Parves Khan offers insights into global research from INTO University Partnerships

Gen Z – those born sometime in the mid-1990s through to 2012 – make up 30% of the global population and now represent the largest share of the prospective international student pool. By 2025, they will make up just over a quarter of the global workforce.

In the aftermath of the global pandemic, this new generation of international students will confront new challenges. In INTO University Partnerships’ 2021 survey of just under 1,200 members of gen Z, we found that the pandemic has emboldened them to double down on their efforts to support their future career success. But not necessarily in the traditional sense. This isn’t a generation looking for a nine to five working life. The experience of lockdown has made this generation re-evaluate what really matters.

Changing aspirations

55% of respondents – who are either starting their first year or planning on studying abroad and who hail from 93 countries across Latin America, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia-Pacific – report that the pandemic has changed the type of career they were aspiring too (it’s changed it ‘a lot’ for 26% and ‘a little’ for 29%). 

The biggest change in aspirations has been on attitudes to traditional work patterns. 49% of gen Z respondents report that they will be looking for a future career that offers a better work-life balance and a further 36% want complete flexibility in how they work. The pandemic has also unleashed an entrepreneurial spirit among gen Z, with almost half (45%) aspiring to start their own business sometime after graduating. In addition, a quarter say that they’re now thinking about a different job role and an equal proportion are thinking about working in a different sector.

More than just getting a degree: gen Z’s social consciousness

The disruption to education caused by the pandemic hasn’t dented the passion for learning among international gen Z students. Among respondents, 90% say they care passionately/care a lot about learning and they see their international education as inextricably linked to their future success; 84% feel that going overseas for their education will give them a competitive advantage in their future career; and 66% believe that they can be more successful in their home country with an overseas education, but more see their international education as opening doors to working abroad – 84% would like to work overseas one day.

While they look to education as a path to future career success – learning is much more than this. Among respondents, 90% see an overseas university education as key to preparing them with the skills they need to be successful in life in general and an equal proportion also feel the knowledge, skills and experience gained will enable them one day to personally ‘make the world a better place’.

The latter is reflective of a strong social consciousness we see among members of gen Z. Issues like equality and sustainability have long been on their radar — both individually and collectively. But during the pandemic – a period punctuated by civil strife, social division, and severe climate events – concerns with a number of social issues intensified and have left an indelible mark on how members of gen Z see the world and how they judge brands.

Looking forwards not backwards

The devastating impact of the pandemic curtailed many activities for gen Z international students, but not their drive or their desire to get on with their lives. The findings support an earlier survey we carried out this year among offer holders which found that despite numerous challenges, students are anxious to return to campus, and the demand for global education is stronger than ever. 

Gen Z international students can broadly be divided into two camps, those feeling hopeful but somewhat anxious about their future (48%) and those feeling optimistic and excited (43%). Only 7% say they are feeling worried and stressed about the future. This readiness to move forward with their lives is evidence of the resilience of this generation.

This pandemic has been testing for all generations, but not least for one coping with these unprecedented challenges at a pivotal stage in their lives, with many transitioning from childhood to adulthood. They’ve had to a lot to contend with on their young shoulders. Studies show this has taken its toll on their mental health, but our survey findings echo others in revealing that the crisis has also engendered the development of vital life skills, such as self-motivation, adaptability and emotional intelligence in our young people – skills that will stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives.

Get ready for gen Z

The pandemic has made gen Z take a step back and re-evaluate their educational goals and future careers. They are starting their journey with a different set of expectations.

Now that members of gen Z account for the largest share of the prospective international student pool, it is critical to understand the lens through which they see the world. We hope the insights from our research will spark new ideas and conversations that will help higher education institutions foster a deeper connection with members of gen Z. Let’s get ready for gen Z – they are coming.

Parves Khan is Vice President of Market Research and Insight at INTO University Partnerships. Previously, she led global research and insight at Pearson and has run her own research consultancy. She holds a PhD in European Union integration from the University of Bristol.

Why students should be given more control of Business School rankings

Illustration of people measuring the performance of work with bar and pie charts and a line graph. This is symbolic to ranking.

With growing demands for lifelong learning and greater diversity in the way people study, Business School rankings will have to adapt to match the changing landscape, says CarringtonCrisp’s Andrew Crisp

Pick your ranking, any ranking you like – there’s one to suit everyone. At least that’s how it feels at times. There are rankings for universities and Business Schools, rankings by region or country, rankings by subject, rankings by research performance, rankings by sustainability, even rankings by car parking space on campus (allegedly). However, it feels that many of these rankings are missing their fundamental purpose, which is providing useful information to prospective students.

Ask students what they want from a ranking, as the latest version of the CarringtonCrisp study The Business of Branding did, and on first view there are few surprises. Most important is the percentage of students employed within six months of graduation, followed by salary increase of graduates within a few years of graduation and percentage of students having an internship of more than one month during their degree. Slightly further back are employer ratings of the School and the number of high-quality research papers published by School faculty.

Measuring employment is not easy

All of these seem sensible measures, and these do often feature in many existing rankings. However, think for a moment about that first option, the percentage of students employed within six months of graduation. The result relies on data from graduates being reported on time to their university. It takes no account of the economic conditions in a country where a university is based and different graduation times around the world could mean some data is six months older than other data when it is published.

And then how do you define ‘employed’? More and more graduates may be working for themselves in some part of the ‘gig’ economy, some will have set up their own business and many will have gone on to further study for a particular career such as law, medicine or teaching. Measuring employment is not easy.

However, assuming that a reasonable set of definitions can be agreed on and there is acceptance that the data being collected from different institutions is comparable, then a ranking might be possible. There is no doubt that creating a ranking is a difficult task if it is to be widely accepted as valid and valuable.

Little consensus on what matters most

There may however be another problem, one that few rankings seem to be accounting for.  Although the percentage of students employed within six months of graduation was the top choice of students in The Business of Branding study, it was only chosen by 21% of respondents. Indeed, the top five different options chosen by respondents in the study were all selected by between 16% and 21% suggesting that there is little agreement even among those that rankings are aimed at.

When thinking about how your Business School is ranked by external organisations, please indicate what you think should be the most important information?

Percentage of students employed within six months of graduation 21%
Percentage of students having an internship/placement of more than one month during their degree 19%
Salary increase of graduates within a few years of graduation 19%
Employers ratings of the School 18%
Number of high-quality research papers published by School faculty 16%
Impact of the School in its local community 15%
Number and value of scholarships provided to students from underprivileged backgrounds 15%
Percentage of students having an international study experience during their degree 14%
Percentage of women studying on business degrees 13%
Percentage of female faculty teaching on business degrees 12%
Incorporation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals into the curriculum and the operation of the School 12%
Percentage of international students 12%

Source: The Business of Branding

Personalisation would give students more control

Rankings are undoubtedly going to be part of the higher education landscape for the foreseeable future, but a better experience for prospective students is surely possible.  Technology offers the opportunity to personalise the rankings experience and give more control to the key audiences they are aimed at.

No doubt rankings organisations and the institutions and individuals that provide that data will want to keep some of it confidential. However, it should be possible to make rankings more interactive so that prospective students can decide for themselves what is important and adjust weightings given to certain pieces of data.

A rankings organisation may have a sense of what they think is important and publish accordingly, but if an individual can go online and then create their own ranking from the same data, you increase the value of the information for the target audience. U-Multirank has attempted such a solution, but there are limited data points, some data is absent, not all universities take part, and not all data points are those that seem important to students.

With growing demands for lifelong learning, greater diversity in the way people study and a wider range of qualifications delivered in higher education, rankings will have to adapt to match the changing landscape, both in terms of providers and learners.

Individual personalisation of rankings would mean Business Schools and universities were better able to pursue their own mission rather than the same narrow group of rankings indicators decided by publishers. It would be the important end users of rankings – prospective students, with their diverse, imaginative and creative perspectives – that shaped the priorities for higher education.

Andrew Crisp is the Co-Founder of CarringtonCrisp, known for its work with Business Schools and universities around the world. Prior to setting up CarringtonCrisp, Andrew led the agency team that carried out a London Business School rebrand. He also worked as the Employment Correspondent for The European newspaper.

Delve further into the topic of rankings on Business Impact: read an article on how rankings can effect positive change in the industry by University of Bath School of Management Professor, Andrew Crane; and access AMBA & BGA’s own research into MBA rankings.

How to onboard graduate employees remotely

Online meeting or webinar on zoom

What to expect when joining a company in the work from home era, with advice and tips on how employers can integrate graduate employees into a business remotely, and effectively

New graduates preparing to enter the world of postgraduate employment for the first time are doing it in unique circumstances. Not only did many spend their final months of university learning remotely, but they also now face the prospect of being remotely trained and integrated into their new workplace. This has resulted in 82% of 2020 graduates feeling disconnected from employers and 83% lacking in motivation, according to a survey from Prospects.

One upside is that with each new cohort of graduates comes a better understanding of technology. They’ve grown up with technology, using it daily throughout their lives. In fact, the current crops of generation Z university leavers are commonly known as ‘digital natives’. Digital isn’t new to them – they’re at the forefront of new tech, with the latest smartphones and tablets. Despite this, the prospect of beginning their chosen career remotely may still be a daunting one.

Equally, integrating new employees into your business remotely presents challenges. If you train graduates by having them shadow senior employees in the office or on site, that might not be possible. Here is how you can use digital training methods to ensure you onboard graduate employees easily.

Remote inductions

Most new employees will have a schedule of inductions with their manager, team, and various departments in your business. This gives them a full picture of what your business, and each department, does. Even if a graduate employee has secured a role in marketing, knowing what the finance team does, for example, will allow them to understand how teams work together.

For office-based graduate employees, there’s an easy path to digital induction. Tools like Microsoft Teams or Zoom offer a simple way to organise remote introductions and training. After all, it’s likely that your graduate employees are already familiar with these tools – between February and June 2020, Microsoft Teams and Zoom usage is said to have grown by 894% and 677%, respectively.

These tools allow you to deliver presentations to your fellow call attendees, replicating the feeling of in-person inductions. They can be delivered in groups or in single sessions, depending on how many graduate trainees you’re onboarding at one time.


Job shadowing is a critical element of training for a lot of companies. This is particularly important when integrating graduates and young people who are in the first stage of their career. Shadowing allows new employees to see how their department and the role they’ve secured works in the real world. They’ll also have an unrivalled opportunity to learn about the company and its processes.

This is especially valuable to the current cohort of graduates. Many students have lost out on doing or completing an in-company internship as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, which means they have missed out on valuable on-the-job learning. While some key worker roles will allow for in-person shadowing, it may be out of the question for many roles. But there are ways around it.

Meeting shadowing

One of the most effective ways to get to know a job or department is to attend the meetings of the person in this role. For graduates in customer-facing roles, bringing them into client calls will help them understand how your business interacts with customers and how you deliver excellent customer service. If staff are all working remotely, these meetings will likely be happening online. Ensure your graduate inductees are on the attendee lists and encourage them to take notes and ask questions.

Observational shadowing

While it may not be exactly the same as in-person training, digital observational shadowing can still be an effective learning tool for office-based graduates. They can shadow employees carrying out a number of tasks via Teams or Zoom, such as adding a new business lead to the CRM or updating content on the company website.

Online learning

While your new graduate employees might have studied a degree in the role of their choice, it’s likely their learning isn’t 100% complete. There are a wealth of online training options available, including pre-existing courses created and delivered by market-leading expert organisations. For example, HubSpot has many free courses, including content marketing, search engine optimisation, and more. These courses can supplement your inductees’ existing qualifications.

In-house training can also be delivered online. Whether you pre-record videos and put them together to form a course, or you deliver real-time training via video chat, you can ensure your graduates are taught your company’s key processes and are trained in the systems and tools they’ll be using in their day-to-day role.

Online learning is proven to be effective. What’s more, thanks to advances in technology, you can provide new employees with simulated tasks. This allows them to gain critical skills in a no-risk environment. Many industries are already applying innovative technologies, such as augmented reality to simulate medical work, evidencing the wide-reaching possibilities offered by online learning and training.

The current environment for graduates and businesses looking to onboard new employees is vastly different from what we have been used to. Graduates are being thrown into a tumultuous market with fewer prospects. Meanwhile, businesses are facing challenges in onboarding graduate talent remotely. However, with the right approach, you’ll still be able to integrate new employees into your business effectively. What’s more, the majority of these young graduates will expect digital as standard. If you get it right, you’ll also be able to retain the best and brightest graduates you bring on board.  

Natasha Bougourd is a Copywriter for Exterity, a provider of IPTV technology. She has more than seven years’ experience writing about a number of topics.

International student recruitment: navigating the Covid-19 maelstrom

Feeling tense about international student recruitment? Nik Higgins of edtech company, The Access Platform, outlines the results of a recent survey indicating how professionals have reacted to the maelstrom of uncertainty surrounding the effects of Covid-19, and their concerns for the year ahead

Here’s a statement: ‘The challenges facing student recruitment will have ended by the time Covid-19 is over.’ Here’s another: ‘Student recruitment is changing in response to Covid-19.’

Which statement do you agree with? Maybe both?

I should probably be upfront and admit that I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to words; grammar has a particularly special place in my heart. Both of the statements above offer equally legitimate equivocations on the state, and outlook for, international student recruitment. It just so happens to be the case that the first is written in the ‘future perfect tense’ and the second is formed using the ‘present participle’. The former makes a time-bound prediction about a future state, and the latter explains what is happening right now. Didn’t think you were going to be reading an article about non-finite verb forms? Don’t worry, stick with me.

Peering through the multiplicity of perspectives

The thing that these, equally valid, statements talk to is something that everyone working in international education will have felt, experientially, over the past couple of months: uncertainty. Everyone in the sector is making guesses, predictions and declarations about how international student recruitment is changing, and what it might look like in the future. The vast majority of these statements are well informed, authoritative and rigorous. The problem, for anyone reading them en masse, is stitching them together; peering through the multiplicity of perspectives and reconciling them into a coherent and understandable thread, a trajectory for the coming months and year.

This, like most intellectual challenges, is pre-eminently a linguistic problem. There is a wealth of opinion on the topic, all of it couched contingently in close, but ultimately irreconcilable statements. Just like those above. Is international student recruitment going to be ‘future perfect’, stable and resolved at a given point in the future, or is it destined for the perpetually deferred limbo of the ‘present participle’ – unresolved, ever changing, in flux?

Surveying student recruitment professionals

This kind of ambiguity is troublesome, but it also offers a fitting stage for language’s antithesis: numbers. Cold, hard, numbers.

We decided to try and pop the ever-inflating bubble of uncertainty at The Access Platform by surveying student recruitment professionals. We asked representatives from a double-digit number of universities covering three continents a series of questions about how Covid-19 has affected their recruitment efforts, and how they have embraced digital technologies or ‘virtual recruitment’ as an alternative means of engaging with prospective students.

We translated their responses into a series of insights. Feeling tense? Don’t worry. Thankfully these are percentages, not words. Here are the scores on the doors.

Before and after Covid-19

Before Covid-19, very little was being done in terms of online or virtual recruitment. 46% of our survey respondents said that ‘very little’ of their recruitment was done online, while a further 18% said it was ‘less than half’.

The effect of the pandemic has been huge – 82% of respondents said that their recruitment is now being done ‘entirely online’, while for the remaining 18% it is now an equal split of virtual and traditional methods.

Channels and topics

Among participants, 90% said social media was particularly effective, while 55% also vouched for targeted emails. Almost half (46%) praised the value of having dedicated web pages, while 45% said they were using instant messenger services or chatbots, and 36% cited the use of peer-to-peer solutions (such as The Access Platform).

When it comes to topics of conversation, the questions on most students’ lips – or, technically, at their fingertips – were around the effect of the pandemic on the start of their course. A sizeable 73% of respondents told us students wanted to know if they will be able to start their course on campus, 64% said they wanted details about how courses will be delivered online, and 46% said their prospects wanted to know how an online version of their course would differ from the in-person one they’d applied for. Other popular topics included details about social distancing on campus (36%) and questions about accommodation (27%).

Becoming virtual

Almost three-quarters of our respondents (73%) reported running a virtual open day since the start of the pandemic. They probably didn’t have much choice in the matter but this still indicates the ability of the sector to move quickly and continue to offer opportunities for prospective students to find out about an institution and have conversations with staff and students.

Of those who have run a virtual open day since the Covid-19 pandemic began, two-thirds of respondents said these events had been successful (38% said they were ‘very successful’ while a further 25% said they were ‘somewhat successful’).

Among those who haven’t run a virtual open day, no-one said it was down to a lack of technology. While 33% said they had no desire to run such an event, the remaining 67% are planning to run one – they just haven’t made it happen yet.

Future perfect?

Unsurprisingly, almost everyone (91%) who responded to our survey told us they were concerned about the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on their international recruitment efforts.

Of those, 55% said they were worried that continued travel restrictions will cause international students to either change their plans or stay at home. The other 36% said their worry was that international students would look to other countries that are perceived to have handled the pandemic better.

This is really tough for international recruitment teams, as both travel restrictions and political decisions are completely out of their hands. It seems fair to wager that how individual countries go about easing lockdown restrictions and setting out detailed plans for the future of travel will be just as influential as how they’ve handled things so far. The remaining 9% were confident that Covid-19 will not have a long-term effect on their international recruitment efforts. Instead, they are confident that, once this is over, their international recruitment strategies and their key markets for international recruitment will stay the same.

This is the bit of the article where, as author, I am supposed to summarise, unify, and conclude. But I’m not going to do it. I’d just be adding another statement into the maelstrom of extant suppositions. I’ll simply sign off by inviting you to carry on the conversation with me (you can find me on LinkedIn). Among the authors of this article, 100% agree that that is the best course of action.

Nik Higgins is Chief Strategy Officer and Co-Founder at The Access Platform – a global edtech company based in London, UK. Its peer recruitment technology enables prospective students to chat to current students at their chosen university. It currently works with 100 partner institutions around the world, and has offices in the UK, US, Ukraine, and Australia.

Reducing application risk after Covid-19

In light of the threat of continuing restrictions after Covid-19, reducing the element of risk for prospective students weighing up where to apply is essential, says Libreka’s Soumik Ganguly

The study abroad sector and international student mobility have been hit hard by the closure of university campuses across major study destinations, travel/immigration restrictions across the board, and partial or complete lockdowns across almost all major countries due to Covid-19.

While multiple surveys have shown that many students’ study-abroad plans have been impacted in the short term, there is also some positive data about deferment rather than cancellation of such plans – particularly among international students. In the mid to long term, therefore, the outlook may not be as bad as it might at first appear. Many students will still want to travel to the world’s major study destinations to kickstart their international careers. 

However, not a lot has been done to help students navigate through the course of the next phase of planning and preparations that will be essential. Application loss risk remains a major issue for them, for factors that are entirely not relevant to their application profile, eligibility, or the strength of their application itself. Ongoing limiting factors – including sudden travel restrictions and visa challenges may remain long after the major lockdown period is over and are likely to be the primary reasons for the loss of an application. This can deflate a student’s motivation to study abroad.

Combatting deflated motivation

Prospective students should be granted a degree of application ‘immunity’ during these uncertain times. They should be entitled to refunds on any fees paid for applications they have since been forced to retract due to circumstances beyond their control. This would allow them to focus on applying to their choice of post-graduate programmes, whether they want to study a full-time MBA or pre-experience master’s, and whether they are looking to study in the UK or Germany, Canada or the US. In other words, their ‘new normal’ when it comes to considering their options should be the same as their old normal as far as possible.

That’s the reason behind the launch of Libreka’s Application Immunity programme. The programme verifies students’ academic credentials (degree certificate, transcripts) and uses an AI-powered match-analysis to recommend a shortlist of programmes that candidates can then choose to add to their personalised immunity programme. To ensure that all immunity conditions are met, Libereka manages the admissions process, from application prep to submission, for students’ shortlisted programmes.

The Application Immunity programme links up with Libreka’s existing blockchain-based scholarship system, which allows higher education providers to offer conditional scholarship and microfinancing options to candidates who may have a longer application cycle, keeping them in touch with candidates, while receiving their commitment to enrol.

The reduction and removal of risk will be of more importance than ever for those making life-changing decisions about their future education, and those who provide it.

Soumik Ganguly is CEO of admissions consultancy, Libereka.

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