If you have ever played Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3, you will be familiar with a mission called ‘Mind the Gap’. The player takes on the role of a SAS officer tracking down dangerous chemicals. The mission’s name comes from the recorded announcement ‘Mind the Gap’ heard on the London Underground. The announcement is a warning for passengers to be careful when hopping on or off the platform.
We are familiar with gaps in marketing. The expectation gap, the generation gap and when you talk to professionals, the gap in skills between what academia teach and what is required in the professional world. There is a general perception that fresh graduates lack the skills needed to cut it in the corporate world. I use the word perception because this may or may not be true. As with the expectation gap model, there can be a gap between what the consumer considers to be important and what the service provider believes is important – a gap that is critical to the service transaction and ultimately to customer satisfaction. Suppose, for example, the service provider is operating a train service and believes speed to be the top priority whereas customers are more concerned about the punctuality of the trains arriving and departing. In a similar way, the yardsticks used by professionals to judge new graduates or individuals who are relatively new to the corporate world may be out of kilter.
Experienced professionals who are in touch with new graduates believe they lack quality and ability. They are of the view that these graduates require more grooming and polishing in order to better fit in the corporate world. More often than not, the criticism relates to skills such as technological know-how and those related to effective and speedy performance. But are these professionals being a little harsh? Is it fair to expect business school graduates to possess the full repertoire of different technology and software skills at the highest proficiency level? Companies, when they hire, tend to fall into the trap of trying to find the best candidate based on either academics or skills, whereas in reality, they should be concentrating on finding the candidate who best fits in with their corporate culture and values. Furthermore, if professionals and business owners are aware of the weaknesses among new graduates, what about the companies they work for? Companies need to understand that although they may have a great deal to offer prospective employees, they lack in certain areas, such as conducive work environments, appropriate compensation and opportunities for growth and learning. In Pakistan, most companies pay lip service to employee needs, but few address them in a meaningful way.
Business school graduates, for their part, are taught to be competitive and ambitious. They are told that to succeed in the professional sphere they have to be quick, intelligent and often ruthless. These notions are not the creation of the business schools but of corporate culture which, as the author and inspirational speaker Simon Sinek says, encourages toxicity and promotes toxic leaders. The instructions by top management to achieve the goal no matter what it takes and the habit of rewarding and highlighting toxic leaders is a serious problem for all types of companies around the world. Sinek speaks about how we are taught to measure performance against time. Yet, the US Navy SEALS, he says, place greater emphasis on finding people with high trust and medium performance, rather than high performance and low trust.
Keeping this in mind, business schools need to teach their students to be collaborative rather than competitive. Prospective graduates should be evaluated according to how much empathy, grit, honesty and ability to handle setbacks they bring to the table. Companies need to step away from a grade focused candidate vetting process and take into account subject knowledge and technological skills. The business leaders of the future will be required to be more humane and vulnerable. In this respect, academia should also reassess the grading process where greater emphasis is placed.
Coming back to the ‘Mind the Gap’ announcement; it should be seen as a wake-up call for companies to self-introspect and identify and address their own shortcomings. Mind the gap means not following industry norms such as promoting toxicity but practising original thinking and analysis, a skill that companies demand from new graduates but often lack themselves.
Tyrone Tellis is Marketing Manager, Bogo. firstname.lastname@example.org