Why companies don’t use business schools?

23 March 2021

Our co-founder Andrew Crisp argues that sometimes it's the simple stuff that does it - are schools making it easy for employers to get in touch?


Sometimes it’s as simple as having a dedicated phone line.

Many companies do use business schools, but many don’t. In a study for the Executive MBA Council last year, CarringtonCrisp found only 53% of companies say they use schools for their learning and development.

The usual objections include ‘You’re too expensive”, “I didn’t know you did that”, ‘Aren’t you just about degrees?” and “How do I get in touch and with whom?” In the study, a third said other providers offer programmes that better meet their needs, 31% that business schools are too theoretical and not sufficiently abreast of the real-world challenges that companies face, while 27% said they hadn’t seen any impact in the workplace after investing in a business school course.

At a recent UNICON webinar, several actions were identified to help schools better engage with companies. First, schools need to get closer to business, understand what companies want and where they are heading. Business is changing rapidly and schools need to speak the same language if business is going to engage. It was perhaps best summed up by an employer interviewed for the Executive MBA Council study who said “Eight years on, our founder is still the CEO of the company and he is still holding a weekly meeting from his living room. Anyone in the company (over 3000 staff) can attend via video link and ask questions, he really does answer them all.”

Part of the answer is also ensuring that as a school you employ the right staff. Selling to companies is not the same as selling to students. Rather than a B2C sell, it is often a B2B sell and employers have different needs and expectations from an 18 year old undergraduate.

Business schools also need to look outside to build a compelling offer, building alliances, across institutions, between institutions, with new providers and throughout society. It is unlikely that a single business school will have all the resources to deliver everything an employer is seeking, but drawing in other parts of universities and, increasingly working with new or specialist external providers offers much greater potential to engage an employer.

And when an employer does engage, schools need to be able to demonstrate the success of their programmes. Case studies of successful collaborations with clearly defined impact metrics will be a key component of the sales process.

Finally, schools need to make it easy for employers to get in touch. It may seem obvious and in a world of multiple communication channels, why would an employer find it difficult. In a study that CarringtonCrisp ran examining corporate engagement through a business school website, the most important thing for companies was a telephone number and some one knowledgeable about the services for employers who answered that phone.

The full webinar can be viewed here

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