It is essential for an organisation to be firmly anchored in its ecosystem – not least business schools, since supporting organisational performance is part of their raison d’être. In the context of the COVID-19 crisis, there is an opportunity for business schools aiming for a real impact among their stakeholders. An opportunity to demonstrate their value and commitment to their ecosystem. By working closely with their stakeholders, schools can support their partner organizations during and after the crisis.
As a business school, Grenoble Ecole de Management works with its partners to train their employees, produce graduates as future recruits, provide interns and work-study students, and co-create other services. During the COVID-19 crisis we need more than ever to ensure that the school is at the heart of its network, maintaining and developing partnerships for the future. In this respect, our relations with local HR Directors is paramount. To help them, we have regularly surveyed, exchanged, and shared responses to the crisis through a business barometer.
Three major emerging issues
After the initial reactions at the beginning of the crisis, companies are now facing a great deal of uncertainty and three major topics emerge from our business barometer. Firstly, how to manage future recruitment in an uncertain recovery phase; secondly, how to manage teams remotely, maintain commitment, productivity and psychological well-being; and finally, in the medium term, how to integrate telework into tomorrow’s organisational models.
Adapting future recruitments in an uncertain period
Firms find themselves in a variety of situations. Some sectors, such as banking, health, food and food distribution, have been on the increase and recruitment will resume very quickly. Other sectors are rather cautious or seeing declining prospects (consulting, IT, luxury goods, manufacturing, etc.). Yet others have come to a standstill (tourism, hotels, transport). For all sectors, the question remains ‘how to adapt to the uncertainty’ while remaining present on the recruitment market.
Whatever their situation, companies need to maintain a link with students and business schools in order to remain present on the recruitment landscape. The current practice of recruiting internships, work-study students and positions online raises a real question about the methods of selection and integration of new employees. For their part, schools are also questioning the organisation of the new school year and the changes for recruitment events, forums, and other events, at least until December. This situation is certainly an opportunity to reinvent formats and modes of interaction and networking for which business schools are actors for co-creation.
Managing in a remote world
Many employees are not used to working alone at home for weeks or even months. The experience is quite different depending on personality and the personal circumstances in which employees find themselves — maintaining focus, commitment, productivity and good morale is a challenge. Managers, and particularly HR managers, are on the front line with their employees to guide the individual’s organisation of work and priorities, ensure social contact, and maintain vigilance with the most fragile.
Business Schools can share their expertise to help partners manage teams remotely, maintain commitment, productivity and psychological well-being. At our school, our digital experts have prepared a disconnection guide for managers in our ecosystem and beyond. Meanwhile researchers in our Well-being and Economic Peace team have published two support guides — one for managers, the other for employees — to help everyone capitalize on the experiences.
Imagining teleworking tomorrow
Widespread telework, where possible, is one of the most significant experiences of the crisis. There are indeed some positive effects for many in the tertiary sector in terms of productivity, retention, an adaptation of bureaucratic processes, but also positive and negative health effects. In a country like France, the period may strengthen the cultural acceptance and anchoring of telework. Indeed our research team in Digital Organisations & Society has launched a survey to collect experiences and to help our stakeholders anticipate their future telework needs.
Companies and managers will need to integrate telework into organisational models. However, this raises some questions for some stakeholder organisations previously based on face-to-face operations — our partners expect to move from quantitative management (number of hours) to qualitative management (objective, achievements). This evolution corresponds to a new phase of management maturity, based on greater trust, commitment, autonomy, and a new way of organizing.
Imagining tomorrow’s school-ecosystem partnerships
The challenges for tomorrow? Back to basics. Schools and partners need to find the right mix between face-to-face and teleworking, reinventing interactions and creativity sessions, integrating and retaining remote employees, and building resilience for the future. The answers to these challenges will vary and will emerge as schools and their stakeholders work together to co-create solutions in the months and years to come.
A Business School like Grenoble Ecole de Management needs to be a key player in its ecosystem in order to support partners with these transitions. In this context, it is vital that teams of faculty, corporate relations, student services and others are ready to imagine new services, develop new relationships and respond to the needs of their partners — like those of any business school at the heart of its ecosystem.