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Virtual IAB Mixer: Where Are We Now and Where Are We Going?

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How do we best prepare for our professional future

As we now know, in order to answer that question, we need to assess the current labor landscape and talk about what is happening today. What are some of the trends and challenges we’re seeing, and where do we see ourselves going?

On October 14, 2021, MBS students had the great opportunity to evaluate these questions and interact with the phenomenal group of leaders who comprise the MBS Industrial Advisory Board (IAB), with esteemed members representing a rich cross-section of industries; several members are also MBS alumni.  

MBS executive coach and IAB liaison Kathleen Cashman-Walter facilitated and moderated the virtual event, which was structured so that students could select sector-specific, IAB-hosted breakout rooms to discuss trends and challenges across industries including pharma, data analytics, user experience design (UXD), life sciences, energy, and consumer care. 

Groups then reconvened to share their discussions with the larger audience—with sustainability, supply chain, and working in a digital, in-flux workforce topping the list of trends and challenges.

Biggest Trend: Focus on Sustainability 

Sustainability has become a major focus across nearly all industries. Consumers have become much more environmentally conscious and now purchase brands and products with eco-friendly packaging and want transparency with regard to ingredients. Companies have responded in kind:

Trends:

  • The circular economy, composed of various stakeholders, was previously driven by biological and environmental change; it is now influenced by industry and its consumers.
  • “Sustainability” as a marketing element: Companies promote sustainability efforts / awareness as part of their corporate values, and even use it as part of branding strategies.

Group members noted that these efforts allow the economy to be driven by competition.

Challenges:

  • Regulations tend to be more industry-specific and siloed rather than developed in and designed for an ecosystem format. 
  • There are an increasing number of regulations in process, but the industries and consumer demand are accelerating faster than the regulations being formulated.
  • Ethical issues are very challenging, as sustainability can actually cause detrimental environmental and social issue, especially with regard to conflict minerals—the sourcing of which has caused major problems and (often) chaos in countries where these minerals are a major part of their economy. 
  • Conflict minerals have been the reason for the misplacement of families and the loss of innocent lives in these countries.

The Digital Workforce: Here to Stay

Remote Workers, Virtual Communication, and Talent Retention / Attrition

A workforce in flux

Across all industries, companies and employees alike are still navigating the non-fluid remote/hybrid/in-person worker situation. The number one challenge across the board is communicating virtually—the difficulty and sometimes frustration of doing so. Digital space—emails, chats, and virtual team meetings—is here to stay, and people need to adapt. 

Other challenges

  • All industries are losing talent; many employees are abruptly quitting. Many workers are also leaving to pivot into completely different industries.
  • To be (in person)? Or not to be? Some workers can go fully remote, while others need to return to a physical workspace full-time due to the nature of their jobs. Companies and workers alike are still figuring things out.
  • Companies are trying hard to leverage technology in order to unite a mixed workforce.
  • Company heads are also taking time to assess how much physical office space is ultimately needed.
  • On paper, some industries seem to have as many people entering as exiting the field. However, the talent coming in to replace departed workers is not equal or nearly as strong.

Some Things Never Change

Regardless of virtual / hybrid / in-person gatherings, one thing that hasn’t changed is the value of networking. “You’re only as good as your last conversation,” said Cashman-Walter, who encouraged the audience to keep networking whenever possible—building both their brand AND their professional connections. In the meantime, “so as long as you're looking to grow, always think about what you can bring to your business—and then don't be afraid to bring it. Think about how you can make an impact and / or have a bigger impact on your business,” said Cashman-Walter, who paraphrased a quote she recently heard, “[Your action] doesn't have to be big. It just has to have a big impact,” she said. “So, however big or however small your action—think about how it will impact where you are and what you do.”

Conclusion

With so many students working full-time while pursuing their Master of Business and Science (MBS) degree, and with many students already experts in their chosen fields, the event was an ideal forum for rich, insightful conversations and information-exchanges with IAB leaders. We are looking forward to the next mixer!

Author(s): 
PSM Editorial Staff
Published On: 
10/29/2021