Lack of face-to-face learning and networking could damage careers

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The loss of face-to-face interaction at work due to the pandemic could harm young professionals’ careers, according to CEMS, a global alliance of business schools and their corporate partners.

Almost three-quarters (72%) of those surveyed by CEMS – most in their early- to mid-twenties – said that not being able to physically network with colleagues in the office could impact their long-term progression.

Just over two-thirds (68%) of the recent master’s graduates sample said that they thought the lack of opportunity for face-to-face training would have an adverse effect, while 66% cited tighter training budgets.

Despite an increasingly tough jobs market, respondents felt this was a less significant threat, cited by 50% of respondents. Other concerns that had been prevalent prior to the pandemic – including digitisation (31%) and a desire for more flexible working (40%) – appeared lower down the list.

Roland Siegers, executive director of CEMS, said graduates realised that Covid-19 had accelerated pre-existing trends towards automation, digitisation and flexible working – hence their concern about the future of in-person development and progression.

“These young professionals recognise that social interaction and collaboration is not only a fundamental human need, but also a valuable source of innovation, productivity and growth during times of crisis,” he said.

Professor Greg Whitwell, chair of the CEMS Global Alliance and dean of the University of Sydney Business School said that global employers and education institutions needed to “seize this opportunity to innovate”.

He said: “Despite the challenges of the pandemic, we’ve proved that it is possible to create significant learning opportunities via online platforms, which give graduates a willingness and an ability to shift mindsets, think critically and creatively, and embrace greater risk and flexibility. In a post-Covid world, graduates who can engage employees and stakeholders around experimentation, and who can continuously learn and adapt, will be in high demand.

“From a business education perspective, one of the lessons from the pandemic is that the promise of technology affords opportunities for collaboration between schools (and hence between students) in ways that previously had not been explored.”

He added that digital learning would develop a greater focus on “interaction, application and experiential learning”.

“While the benefits of the on-campus experience are clear, we must look for ways to facilitate the extra-curricular activities that our students – who are mostly digital natives – expect.

“We are also likely to see a shift toward what might be called space-agnostic learning where the aim is to provide a truly engaging educational experience whether the class be real or virtual and no matter where someone is located.”

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