Overcoming the fear of normal
Business schools and their corporate clients must rethink how they operate in the post-Covid world, say Zaheer Hamid and Paresh Soni, directors at the Management College of Southern Africa
FM: What impact has Covid had on Mancosa’s executive education demand and revenue?
Hamid: Mancosa always recognised the need for greater alignment between education and training, and the 21st-century world of business. The traditional content, methodology and approach to skills development had shown its limitations before the pandemic and we adapted our engagement with industry to enjoy greater collaboration, joint solutions-design and fit-for-purpose educational development.
FM: In terms of executive education, what are the biggest challenges facing SA business in the post-Covid world?
Hamid: They lie in two areas. The first is the ability to rethink the workforce of tomorrow and find greater balance between managerial demands and those of staff and talent. The post-Covid workforce is more discerning and demanding and recognises that work-life balance and employee satisfaction are a high priority.
The second challenge is to reshape managerial and leadership culture in such a way that work, productivity and people management are seen through a new lens.
Soni: Transition to a post-Covid world is going to be testing for most businesses. All are deploying experiments to confront their challenges, since standard practices have been shredded over the past two years. One of the biggest challenges is helping employees navigate what is called “fono” — the fear of normal. That means getting back to physically interacting with colleagues and customers.
FM: How is Mancosa addressing these issues?
Soni: Even before Covid, we tried to prepare graduates for an uncertain world and future. We believe we will continue to play an important role in equipping students with the knowledge, skills and attributes that assist them in navigating an intricate tapestry of challenges. This is an evolving approach, with the holistic development of a student at its core.
FM: Do corporate clients want online learning to continue or is there growing demand for face-to-face education?
Hamid: Our experience is that the corporate world has recognised the value of online or blended learning and has adopted it very well. This allows employers to manage time away from work, reduce training costs and increase training opportunities.
The war for that talent will be fought beyond salary and benefits and include work flexibility and employee satisfaction
FM: Covid was supposed to be the big business disrupter. Now we have had floods, riots, electricity shortages, water rationing, war and global supply-chain crises. How can business schools prepare clients for constant disruption?
Soni: The pre-Covid world was already chaotic and complex. The methods and tools used to equip businesses with the ability to navigate complexity have always been a part of our approach. We would guess that the post-Covid world will be no less complex but rather replete with an emerging set of challenges. Mancosa’s approach will not require radical change.
FM: After two years of remote management, some executives and managers find it difficult to deal face-to-face with employees again. More generally, as staff return to work, there are reports of corporate social and team structures struggling to realign after two years of distance relationships. How should employers respond to these challenges and how can business schools contribute?
Hamid: Undoubtedly, managers and leaders need to adjust approaches and perspectives. Corporates must adjust to the needs of more discerning and demanding talent. The war for that talent will be fought beyond salary and benefits and include work flexibility and employee satisfaction.
As a business school, we should be driving the narrative of new managerial and leadership models. Covid brought this issue to the fore but the need to rethink talent management has been an ongoing area of business reinvention for the last decade.
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