Why studying arts like acting or dance can better equip business students for the post-COVID world

Wednesday, August 18, 2021 - 10:04
19 July 2021·4-min read

COVID has seen the idea of caring for your employees take on a whole new meaning. As workplaces reopen and companies deal with the socio-economic fallout of the pandemic, leadership specialists increasingly stress the importance of maintaining this focus on human needs.

Beyond the immediate imperative to keep employees safe in the midst of the health crisis, business administration specialist Hubert Joly underlines how managers need to consider the longer term mental health needs as well as sense of purpose and social wellbeing of their workforce.

Historically, the so-called soft or people skills required to do this were not the primary focus of a business and management education. Rather, management theory centred around what managers do: planning, organising, coordinating and controlling.


This focus has long had its critics, of course. One answer, which is backed up by years of research, is that when business students engage with the arts and humanities at university level, it can equip them with the additional skills that they need.

Soft skills

Returning to the office post-lockdown has put kindnesscompassion and empathy at the top of employee wishlists. Workers now expect their managers to be more supportive.

Although long recognised as important leadership skills, the pandemic has made these more salient. And with changes to the workplace like remote working and increased use of virtual technology likely to be here to stay to some extent, the greater demand for such skills may be permanent too.

When teams were sent home amid lockdown procedures, our ability to collaborate was also dramatically reduced. Collaboration has long been a focus of workplace culture and managerial methods. It is key to quality of work, innovation and employee engagement.

Companies emerging from the pandemic are therefore understandably keen to get their employees working effectively together once again. This also makes cultural intelligence - defined as the skill by which you understand other cultures, learning from ongoing interactions and adapting your thinking accordingly - even more important than before.

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