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Employers Need This Skill More Than Ever During COVID-19

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The world of work as we knew it has been turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic. As so many of us now work from home, some of the foundational elements of management—face-to-face communication, reading non-verbal cues, and so much more—have been altered as we move to virtual check-ins and meetings.

With all these changes, it stands to reason that what employers are hiring for new management talent in this new reality, they look for slightly different things. The question is: what are the new skills employers are looking for amid COVID-19?

COVID-19 and the skills employers want

This was a key question the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) sought to answer this year with their Corporate Recruiters Survey—an annual poll of employers who regularly recruit business school graduates. Initial data collection for this year’s survey was nearing conclusion in March, just as COVID-19 escalated into a global pandemic. Given the significant disruption to recruitment and hiring, GMAC conducted an additional wave of data collection with a focus on the impact of COVID-19.

A question added to the wave 2 survey was: How has the importance of specific skills or abilities to your organization changed as a result of COVID-19?

Overall, about 2 in 3 recruiters agree (68%) that new hires’ ability to navigate the challenges of tech disruption has grown in importance, more than any other skill. This includes leveraging different tech platforms to manage teams effectively in remote work, as well as managing companies’ digital strategies as organizational priorities have shifted amid new social distancing norms.

change in skill importance 2020 corporate recruiters survey 

More than half of responding recruiters also said strong communication skills (61%), innovation (54%), having a versatile skillset (54%), and strategic thinking (50%) have also grown in importance amid COVID-19.

Read more: Business Skills Employers Will Want in a Post-COVID World

Confidence in business school hires remains strong

The confidence of corporate recruiters in the skills and abilities of graduate business school talent remains strong even as the pandemic continues to shake global economies and shape the future of work.

Before COVID-19, 90 percent of respondents indicated they were highly confident or confident about the ability of business schools to prepare students for success in their organization. That figure held steady at 87 percent in the surveying performed this summer, highlighting the attractiveness of MBA degree holders and their ability to perform in times of transition and change.

More specifically, recruiters most often say the reason for their confidence in business school hires is their strategic thinking (69% of wave 2 respondents), communication skills (69%), their versatile skillsets (68%), and that they are prepared to take on leadership roles (46%).

What recruiters are saying about business school graduates

The world over and across industries and company types, recruiters express high levels of interest and confidence in bring business school graduates into their companies. Here’s a sample of some open end responses from this year’s survey:

“I have high confidence in hiring business school graduates that have done real-world company projects and have been exposed to business-critical projects…the ultra-diverse student population prepares them for cross-cultural challenges.”

—Recruiter from a Global Fortune 100 company in Switzerland

“A graduate business school education equips candidates with the problem solving skills that are necessary to navigate a business environment that is constantly evolving.”

—Recruiters from a Global Fortune 100 financial services company in the United States

“Business school students ‘learn how to learn’ in fast paced environments and exercise the self awareness that is required to adapt the succeed throughout one’s career.”

—Recruiter from a Global Fortune 500 consumer products company in the United States

“The most important skill developed in graduate business programs is the ability to be decisive and execute with incomplete information.”

—Recruiter from a Global Fortune 100 tech company in the United States

“Business school hires are motivated and understand the international business context…they tend to know what they want and have very good communication and networking skills.”

—Recruiter from a construction and real estate company in Singapore

What skills do you need to achieve your career goals?

Our interactive tool helps you identify your skill gaps for your chosen career and gives you personalized program recommendations to develop them. Check out the Career Explorer Tool.

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