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The Business School Workforce: Changes on the Horizon?

October 2014

By Juliane Iannarelli, Vice President, Knowledge Development, AACSB International

Conduct an internet search on the "changing nature of work," and an abundance of lists emerge predicting ways that the workforce, as well as individuals' approaches to their work, is likely to evolve. But what about the workforce consisting of business school faculty members? AACSB member schools collectively employ an estimated 100,000 full-time faculty members—and that number excludes administrators, part-time faculty, graduate assistants, and staff. Is the nature of work changing for them in ways unique to management education?

This question is yet another dimension to the unfolding dialogue that, as part of the AACSB Visioning Initiative recently discussed by Linda Livingstone, is exploring how expectations and opportunities within business schools are evolving. A recent conversation on the topic by members of the Committee on Issues in Management Education (CIME) focused on some of the sources of these changes to the nature of faculty work, and the associated challenges and opportunities.

On one hand, CIME noted that pressure for schools to adopt broader concepts of the knowledge and skills required among faculty members comes from numerous sources:

The need for business school curricula, research, and services to be relevant and an associated need to address topics that span disciplinary silos, such as greater demand for attention to social responsibility, ethics, and innovation;
The need for agility, especially in non-degree and executive education offerings;
The desire to use technology in new ways to support education, research, and engagement;
Global competition among business schools for quality faculty (accommodating and incentivizing more global mobility); and
Directives from business school boards and strategic priorities in response to stakeholder needs/interests, such as impact on local economic development.

Challenges for business schools arise when these and other drivers for their visions misalign with institutions, processes, and expectations that industry leaders established years or decades ago under very different higher education and societal circumstances. These tensions elicit questions about whether the nature of work as a faculty member is evolving in pace with the objectives the school is trying to achieve, and the degree to which certain traditional expectations of faculty members should be protected as sacred, or open to new interpretations and applications.

CIME noted that a common thread across all of these examples is that they reflect heightened societal expectations of business schools. Meeting these demands will likely require an unprecedented level of collaboration and coordination among a diverse "team" of faculty (and often staff, as well) while also demanding a degree of nimbleness often associated with independent work. They require attention to building, and cultivating, a business school "workforce" with a broad set of backgrounds, knowledge, and skills.

Going forward, how might business schools develop new, agile paradigms for a management education workforce that meets emerging needs? The answers aren't simple but likely emerge from attention to several different questions that CIME aims to continue exploring, with input from individuals at AACSB member schools and other stakeholders of management education. For example, how can business schools best invest in supporting their faculty to gain new competencies, or to apply their existing knowledge and skills in a new way? And what opportunities exist for schools to explore new models for deploying faculty and staff in complementary roles that leverage the strengths of each?

Stay tuned for more on this topic, including opportunities to become engaged in the conversation, or visit www.aacsb.edu/transform to find select materials related to the Visioning Initiative as it unfolds.