If we review the importance that business schools have in today’s society, especially in each of the communities (regions) that they have in their respective countries, a determining factor of that impact is the quality of their teaching staff. Of course, it is not the only one, because the resources that the school has in terms of programs and other technological elements made available, both in face-to-face and online training, are also fundamental. But what is undoubtedly key in influencing those attending an MBA or other postgraduate courses is the imprint that each professor in her specialty leaves on the students.
There is a common pattern for business school professors: their effectiveness is based not only on their expertise and knowledge, but they have a sense of authenticity and purpose that reaches far beyond the classroom and is driving that transmission of knowledge. knowledge and experience to society as a whole.
Because it is replicated in each person who has the possibility of pursuing a postgraduate degree, which will later take advantage of their personal growth and professional development, which will benefit the company in which they work or the new employer that hires them. Actually, this is what it is all about: promoting talent and training new professionals who contribute to economic growth with their personal effectiveness. Therefore, the influence, for example, of a professor of marketing or another of finance, to the extent that the ethical and technical components are perpetuated in the new professionals who obtained an MBA, society as a whole benefits.
Very experienced professors in postgraduate courses contribute both to the advancement of business and to the common good, since they are a role model and also a source of inspiration for students, not only in terms of values related to ethics in business and integrity that are so valuable, but also, in that when they see a marketing or HR manager from a major organization in front of the classroom giving a class, they feel the need to emulate them, they want in that moment to be very attentive to what are the keys not only to learning the topic of the day, but also how they manage to be as they are, what is their vision of things in general, what opinion are teachers showing on certain aspects of the market, of new technologies and how they are influencing, given that they strive to tell stories from their own career that are illustrative of how to act in certain circumstances.
Especially of interest to the students are the challenges facing a future of technological disruption, although they are also very interested in how to act in conflict situations and even what have been the solutions that the teacher experienced in a certain crisis.
As president of the AEEN, I have always been very close to the management of the associated schools, holding conversations in which those in charge indicated new areas in which they were concerned about addressing. Especially important has been the way in which the entire sector has been managed in the midst of the pandemic crisis. This implies talking about both programmatic novelties and work methodologies, and especially the forced change that Covid has forced on the sector in Spain and throughout the world, with online classes as an exclusive priority during confinement, but also taking into account that in the post-Covid stage, both the companies that facilitated hybrid work and as a result of a tremendously hard process to which society in general was affected, our sector also had to adapt to the hybrid way and especially – we have said it in several times- we were better prepared than other sectors for adapting to the online format because we had already been doing it.
The key to success for teachers
We must look for it in a rigorous teaching process in which they adopt some common practices:
– Prepare thoroughly for class.
– They build learning communities (they are very good at creating and coordinating teams).
– They know how to highlight the current scenario in which companies are operating in the market.
– They perfectly know how to point out the experiential and training needs that are requested in each job position.
– They have an overview of the economy and the future trends that it faces, both the country and the organizations.
– They know how to balance the complex against the simple, seeking to explain with learning models that go from the simple to the complex.
– They know how to simplify the models to adapt them to the reality of the moment.
– They achieve that students have a deep and interactive learning.
– They prioritize the relevance of both good bibliography and all types of material that provide knowledge and practical experience.
But an important detail is that each of these elements that become part of this methodological whole is made up of several components. To make learning interactive, for example, many of the teachers change the learning experience, use new models of active learning, assign projects to small teams during class, and use active listening skills.
But it should also be noted that as a critical mass that characterizes all these professors in the field of business, they are especially identified by that seal of authenticity that derives from their experience in managing people, having had or are having important responsibilities in decision-making. decision makers, having managed millions of euros in budgets, having participated in the opening of subsidiaries and/or branches as well as international experience in other markets.
Preparation for each class
Business school professors prepare thoroughly for the class, giving great importance to teams (this construction of referred communities) that have an impact not only on learning but also on the value of professional networks, seeking to balance both the depth and complexity of the topics with simplification so that the theory is applicable, demonstrable and can be verified with specific collaboration projects with companies that have agreements with the business school.
Learning for business professors must be as interactive as possible and they attach great importance to the quality of the material, the readings, as well as the references to authors and writers who are shaping the doctrine in each field of knowledge.
When these elements are taken into account and are well indicated, as well as insured, your students acquire a true passion for the subject because the teacher is precisely passionate about what he transmits. Teaching is highly effective when there is passion for the subject, firstly, on the part of the teacher, then due to the emulation that the student, for example, in an MBA, wants to approach and have the feeling that it is possible for them to move up in their work by following the path and teachings of that MBA professor. Students know when the teacher has a deep concern for his students in that they understand the subject in terms of technical concepts and their application. Hence the positive impact that the teachings have beyond the classroom so that they can apply them immediately in their jobs.
As for teachers having a focus on a higher purpose, it aligns with the growing interest of business schools in having a positive impact on organizations and society.
As the AACSB emphasized in its 2020 Principles and Standards for Business Accreditation, “business schools are a force for good, contributing to the global economy and society.”
More and more pressure on business school teachers
What is it that has not been affected by the pandemic! Of course nothing. In the field of business schools, online learning came of age when, on a global scale, companies, families and countries were confined and economically blocked. In our industry, teachers were forced to adopt all the technology available to them to hold classes remotely. Obviously this had consequences: things were never going to go back to the way they were before in society in general, all organizations of any type and sector being affected to varying degrees, but with consequences that led to different degrees of forced reorganization and digital transformations. hasty.
The traditional model of work in the office was going to change forever, today we were facing hybrid work as something natural, employers having understood that it was also possible to be effective in the workplace by combining a physical presence with a remote connection.
Obviously, the traditional MBA training models were also changing, in which we no longer only talked about the remote and face-to-face, but about something more subtle but very important for the future of postgraduate training: no matter how experienced the teacher was, he was becoming In a true moderator, because his knowledge and trajectory earned him special conferences and classes, and now with study plans available online, the teachers also had to reinvent themselves in this new stage, seeing what they were really going to add value to. to teaching. And this is not an issue that is occurring only in Spain and Europe, but on a global scale. For example, Jochen Wirtz, who is a professor of marketing at the National University of Singapore Business School, upholds this tenet that teachers increasingly act as guides helping students learn, often leading discussions with speakers. guests. “In the old days, you just went to the front of the class and taught,” says Wirtz, a German who joined the school in 1992. “Now, we have to rethink our approach.”
I totally agree with Wirtz, as I believe like him that the increased use of technology has benefited students, who can study the basics in their own time online, while contact time is devoted to interactive discussions, sometimes with the participation of top executives. Video conferencing also made it easier to attract these guest speakers. Hence, Wirtz is right when he says that “Covid was a healthy change for teaching.”
But he should not call our attention that when any type of crisis occurs, institutions and leaders are always questioned. Some sectors withstand conflicts and social protest better than others. This is natural for it to happen.
In our sector, we have also had to face various pressures, in Spain and around the world, derived from a pandemic that changed the rules of the market. Business schools began to face increasing competition from alternative instructors and criticism that business school research lacks practical relevance. I do not agree with this, but we must strive to constantly demonstrate our adaptation to the changes that the changing market and business reality are demanding. In fact, this is also a global response that business schools are giving to employers and they have had to surrender (a way of saying) to the fact that the retention of talent also relies on the support that organizations give candidates to take a postgraduate course, because ultimately it benefits the operating profitability of the companies. This is proven.
But equally, when there is criticism you have to listen to it. This is the case of Caryn Beck-Dudley, who is the president and CEO of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the accreditation body, who states that “it is very difficult for the faculty right now”, in clear reference to two issues: the proliferation of alternative online training options through platforms and consultancies; the doubts placed on the programs of the schools and the operability of the learning that is acquired in them.
But as always happens, the balance moves to one side and the other, so the good news is, at least for an elite group of teachers, that there has been a salary increase according to what the AACSB itself says, since that between 2007-08 and 2020-21, the average salary of America’s top-ranked business school professors across all disciplines increased by 36%, from $127,200 to $173,300, outpacing US inflation.
That’s why Mauro Guillén, dean of Cambridge Judge Business School in the UK, says academic institutions are competing fiercely to hire the next generation of emerging faculty for the best PhD programmes. “Every year there is a small number of superstars and everyone wants them,” says Guillén. “That drives up wages.”
As stars earn higher and higher salaries, this raises the overall pay average, while schools that lose top teachers to rivals must pay more to replace them.
Resource competition with the private sector
Business schools also compete with the resources of the private sector, which generally pays more, to attract the best professionals who have distinguished themselves by teaching postgraduate courses. This has led to a high opportunity cost of a job in academia which is reflected in the number of business professors who also earn additional income from lecturing or consulting work. Until the pre-pandemic stage, and we can even go back about five years, business professors simply stood in front of a class and dictated their subject. They taught and did not think about adding alternative ways to their range of income. They are now being forced to rethink their approach.
Then a paradox also occurs globally: although there is an excess of doctoral graduates in the labor market, many cannot find academic jobs. The best business schools want to hire PhDs from only the best programs, but this talent pool has not grown online with the growing demand for business education in recent decades.
This is confirmed by Sankaran Venkataraman, senior associate dean for faculty and research at the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia, when he states that “the supply hasn’t changed much, but the demand has increased, and the schools are also very careful with the people they hire The provenance is important.”
Some schools are hiring more industry executives to teach classes. They are often cheaper than tenured professors and bring real world experience. This reflects the need to strike a balance between academic rigor and practical training. Many schools are being criticized for focusing resources on theoretical research that reaches a small audience with limited practical application.
Ding Yuan, dean of the China Europe International Business School in Shanghai, says the tenure system is partly to blame. Designed to safeguard academic freedom, tenure essentially gives professors a job for life. It is an “up or out” system, with academics required to achieve promotion within a certain period of time. This puts pressure on them to “publish or perish,” Yuan believes, with an emphasis on quantity.
Some institutions have replaced tenure with fixed-term contracts, but measuring the impact of research is in its infancy.
Antonio Alonso, president of the AEEN (Spanish Business School Association) and second vice president of EUPHE (European Union of Private Higher Education)