Age is just a number! It is never too late to learn.

I went all the way from kindergarten to MBA without a break. I am sure there are a lot of you out there who might have done the same. Looking back, I began to realise that I did not value the education I got. I don’t think it was even the education I wanted.  

Kindergarten to University

On the other hand, I know that a vast majority of people in this world are not as blessed as I was and don’t even have access to basic education. Whatever the reason people miss out on an education – social, cultural, economic, familial responsibility, geographical, political, etc., it is never too late to get an education, especially if you are driven for success.

Human beings have started to live longer lives now than at any time in our history – the miracle of modern technology. We try our best to shorten our lives – global warming, deforestation, polluting the planet, genetically modifying food (there are both pros and cons here), hunting animal species to extension, wars, etc. Still, we find ways to work around these self-created issues and extend our lives. This means gone are the days when you could retire at 60 and hope to live out the rest of your days in peace and happiness. Today, you will most likely run out of money.

Celebrating RKC 2018 Graduates @ York St John University

I have started this blog by listing three points that I feel are relevant to why mature students go back to school:

  1. Got yourself a degree that is not in line with your dreams or career growth path
  2. Did not get the education that you think you deserved (due to reasons out of your control at that time)
  3. Need to stay relevant and competitive in today’s work environment by adding value to yourself

Once you have decided to go back to school, there are several points you have to consider. Ask yourself:

  1. Which programme works for you? Which will add the most value to you?
  2. What certificate do you want to get – bachelor/master’s degree, professional certification, etc.?
  3. Do you want to study full-time, part-time, or online?
  4. From which university do you want your degree and why?
  5. Work-Family-Education balance, can you do it and how?
  6. How much do you want to spend? Can you make space for the programme in your budget?

So, you have decided on your budget, the programme, the university, worked out a study plan and budgeted for the additional expense. But now, there are a few more challenges or fears that have cropped up, and you are not alone. The following are four challenges/fears that most mature students face and suggestions for overcoming them.

  1. Learning to learn again: While it might be a few years since you last studied, you haven’t been wasting your time. You have been learning your job and gaining confidence and proficiency in it. Use this confidence to get back in the groove of learning; it is like riding a bike, you never forget. And the fact that you are back to learning as a mature student speaks volumes for your motivation. Also, you won’t be the only mature student – work together as a group to overcome your fears. 
  2. Fear of assignments: Assignments can be daunting. Researching, referencing, planning, writing, and submitting a 5000-words assignment on time can scare anyone, especially if you have never done it before or if it has been many years since you last had to do it. The fact is, like any skill, assignment writing can be learnt. Maybe do a short course on how to research and write an assignment before joining the programme, or if that is not an option, you can find plenty of “how-to” videos online. Ask your professors for help and pro-tips – that is one reason they are there, to help. Ask your fellow students how they do it. But at the end of the day, the only way to gain proficiency in any skill is to do it.
  3. Work-Family-Education balance: In my opinion, this is the one point that will constantly be a bother. You start with a plan, but like Field Marshal Helmuth Karl Bernhard von Moltke said, “no plan survives first contact with the enemy”. So, keep an eye on the situation and evolve your plans accordingly. Life is change, adapt or get left behind.
  4. Don’t have the skills:  This may or may not be accurate, but if you think like this, then what you don’t have is confidence. Remember, all skills can be learnt, which is why you are here to learn. You have work and life experience, which typical on-campus, fresh-out-of-school students might not have. Use it, you will find you are more skilled than you think. And always remember, this was your choice, you are already more motivated than most to do well.  
Gregory Foster, one of RKC’s mature students who graduated from the University of Cumbria with an MBA in Leadership and Sustainability, received the university’s Postgraduate Student of the Year prize in 2018

Don’t forget your motivation for choosing to learn again. Choosing to become a mature student. 

If you have chosen to learn, then Chat LIVE on WhatsApp with one of our Education Advisors for more information on all the management and business law programmes we offer (Bachelor and Master’s degrees) and the application process. I hope to one day be able to feature your story on our blog!

Zoom fatigue – It’s a thing, and here’s how to fight it

The world’s new “staff meeting room”

The challenges of working from home are many, from trying to keep yourself motivated to the many distractions around you. We have covered some of these challenges and how to overcome them in an earlier post. And now that you have figured out how to overcome some of these challenges, you are hit with something new – Zoom fatigue.  

A recent study by global staffing firm Robert Half shows that:

  • 44% of workers say they’ve experienced video call fatigue since the start of the pandemic
  • 22% noted that the practicality and novelty of video conferencing has worn off over the past eight months
  • 15% confirmed they find virtual meetings inefficient and exhausting and prefer to communicate via other channels, like email or phone

This apathy towards video conferencing has led many researchers to name this phenomenon “Zoom fatigue”. Though I must say that this is unfair to Zoom, as Zoom is just one of the tools used for video conferencing. So, when I say Zoom meetings, I mean all the video conferencing tools and applications. 

Fatigue/stress can manifest from many different sources

So, why is Zoom fatiguing?

To answer this question, let us first understand fatigue. I hope I won’t lose any of you here as this part will get a bit technical (I kind of dozed off researching this bit as well). According to Doctor Jena Lee, MD, a psychiatrist with UCLA Health, Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center – a basic understanding of fatigue, neurologically, is through our Reward Pathway, otherwise known as mesolimbic pathway, a dopaminergic pathway in the brain. This is the part of the brain that is concerned with activating our body to counteract fatigue.

Mesolimbic Pathway, otherwise known as Reward Pathway

In our brain, rewards increase alertness, energy, and motivation, which reduces fatigue. Every decision we make, even unconsciously, tries to maximise rewards over cost. For example, if you are deciding on a book to read, the cost is the time and effort you spend reading, and the reward is the enjoyment of the book. So, our brain ensures we pick something good to read. 

What is the difference between reading a book all day or binge-watching a show and Zoom meetings? Why do you feel fatigued after a day of Zoom meetings and not from the others? The simple answer is, most often than not, our mind does not perceive a reward at the end of a Zoom meeting. Our minds are not made that way. When there is a personal social interaction, our mind perceives it as a reward, but not in the case of a Zoom social interaction. 

Personal social interaction is perceived as a reward

In the case of personal social interaction, the reward is not from what is being said but from the body language, energy, environment, and other non-verbal cues. We don’t see much of these cues on video, hence putting in more effort. If you look at a video conference, most of the time, each individual will be doing his/her thing, just put the call on mute and only respond when prompted, and not to mention the number of technical difficulties and slow internet connections. No wonder that people lose interest. And after all this, there is still no reward at the end of it; you just have to attend more meetings and get more work to be done. It can all get so tiring!  

Another drawback of working from home is that you are glued to the chair (bed) all day. There is very minimal movement, no circulation. Our body is basically asleep. 

How do we fix this?

  • Make our interactions more personal, not just work, work, work. Ask how the other person is? Share what is stressing you out. The thing about Zoom calls is they end immediately after the meeting. We have stopped building relations with our co-workers. Remember how life was when there used to be a personal meeting; people used to break for lunch or coffee or even just a smoke break and talk to each other. 
  • If you have a day full of meetings, do something physical and non-work-related between Zoom calls. Just walk around your neighbourhood and see what is happening.
  • Change the environment. If you are just in one room making calls and going from one Zoom meeting to another, it might start feeling like you are in prison. So, move around the house, go to the garden or a nearby park (as long as it doesn’t distract from your call).

While these three points might sound simple, they may be challenging for you and might not be what you require. You know your stress points and judge for yourself if you need professional help. Don’t forget; this past year has been stressful for almost everyone in many different ways, and stress has manifested itself in several different ways. 

Stay safe. Stay healthy. 

Celebrating Women’s Day 2021 – Overcoming challenges women face in today’s online workforce and how men can help!

There are so many internationally recognised “day’s” – Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Children’s Day, even Groundhog Day. But of all the “day’s” that we celebrate, Women’s Day is probably the most important!

It is 2021, and women still have to fight to be recognised, respected and, in many cases, to be paid the same as men. It is really sad! And this at a time that we consider ourselves educated and enlightened, i.e., more than any previous times in human history. Please comment below (especially our gentlemen readers) why you think this gender inequality still exists, especially in a professional work environment.

A female, holding up a sign protesting that she earns less than a “him”, for the same work

It doesn’t bode well when we consider that the United States of America, considered by some to be the epitome of Western civilisation, modern sensibility, and equality for all, only now has elected her first female vice-president. While it is something for all women to celebrate, one must consider that the US is approximately 245 years old, a democracy since its founding, and they still haven’t elected a woman president.

Kamala Devi Harris, 49th Vice President of the United States

2020 has been a challenging year for everyone. COVID-19 has turned the way we live and work on its head. While most people have adapted and embraced the work-from-home reality, the one group of people this has been a real challenge for is the working mothers. Let’s face it, in a vast majority of household globally, the mother is the one on whose shoulders the home rests.

While this post is dedicated to all women, it is specially dedicated to the tireless working mothers of the world. While all of us have faced challenges during the COVID-19 lockdowns, this is especially true for working mothers. With the lockdown forcing us into isolation, shutting down schools and day-care, and other entertainment outlets, working mothers had to meet their professional commitments and deadlines while having to do most of the household work, childcare, homeschooling the children and cooking. A 2020 survey by Women in the Workplace states that in America, during the COVID-19 crisis, women—and mothers in particular—are taking on an even heavier load. Mothers are more than three times as likely as fathers to be responsible for most of the housework and caregiving. In fact, they’re 1.5 times more likely than fathers to be spending an extra three or more hours a day on housework and childcare—equivalent to 20 hours a week, or half a full-time job (Source: WOMEN IN THE WORKPLACE: THE IMPACT OF COVID-19).

A working mother

All of this added pressure inevitably leads to underperformance, stress, and job insecurity, leading to early burnout. And that is just the professional toll, there is also a personal toll, a feeling of being a bad mother, a bad wife, a bad provider. Shockingly the same survey also found that one in four working mothers are considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce altogether just to cope with the additional stress COVID-19 has added. 

So, what can we (men) do to help? How can we (men) empower the hard-working women around us, especially working mothers, so that we don’t lose their talent from the workforce, thereby regressing humanity to the dark ages and demoralising our daughters? The following are just my thoughts; please feel free to add to them in the comments.

  • Be inclusive Let’s face it, most of the workforce is still male-dominated and male-centric. It was hard enough for a woman to be heard over all the machismo during an in-person meeting, but it is now even harder to be heard during a virtual meeting. So, make sure you encourage your female colleague and make sure she participates and her voice is heard.
  • Be encouraging Most working mothers have the additional challenge of looking after the kids while attending a virtual meeting. This could result in background noise or participating in a video call without turning on the video (I do that all the time) because either she or the house or the kids are a mess, just to list a couple. All this could irritate some of your other colleagues. Play defence for her, explain to your colleagues the additional challenges of being a working mother and ask for their understanding. At the same time, explain to her that it is alright and that you understand the challenges she is facing. Sometimes all it takes is a little understanding.   
  • Share information Make sure you share all the information she needs to get her job done. With all the data sharing that happens in today’s virtual work environment, there may be times when your female colleague might not have access to all the data she needs to complete her work, or she might have just forgotten where to retrieve the data. Whatever the reason, you don’t lose anything by being a little more helpful. Be approachable and encourage her to ask for help too if needed. 
  • Be fair All these points might make it sound like the working mother is incapable of dealing with the additional pressures at home and hence you should not give her much work. Do not insult her intelligence or work ethic, and do not assume. Distribute work as you usually do but encourage her to say no if it is too much. Talk to her about her career path and what she needs to do to progress on it. 

These are challenging times for all of us, and we should ensure that we keep moving forward. Be inclusive. Work towards equality for all.

We at Robert Kennedy College are proud of our female colleagues and working mothers. Wishing everyone a Happy Women’s Day 2021!

Chat LIVE on WhatsApp with one of our Education Advisors for more information on all the management and business law programmes we offer, the application process, and details on discounts we might offer at this time. 

Business Strategy – The art of corporate war

From the title of this blog, I am sure some of you might be wondering why I am channelling Sun Tzu.

Statue of Sun Tzu in Yurihama, Tottori, in Japan

Let’s start with the origins of the word ‘strategy’. ‘Strategy’ is originally derived from the Greek word ‘strategos’, which means the art of the general. In other words, the origin of strategy comes from the art of war, and specifically the role of the General in war. In the 2nd century B.C., when Sun Tzu wrote the ‘Art of War’, his writing’s message was plain – to win. 

Despite ‘strategy’ becoming an often-used buzz word in management, there still seems to be a lot of confusion between ‘goals’ and ‘strategy’. To explain this and in keeping with the war theme, let us consider Alexander the Great, King of Macedonia. Imagine a time long ago, Alexander has decided to strive for immortality by creating a true world empire. He calls his generals together and states that his strategy is to build this empire. 

Statue of Alexander the Great in Thessaloniki, Macedonia, Greece

I am not saying that he said that in those exact words because there is no way of knowing what he thought or who he consulted. Hypothetically, if he said that this was his strategy, then that is the wrong use of the term strategy. That was his ‘goal’ – to conquer the world. How he went about conquering the world was the strategy he used.

Now that we have established that ‘strategy’ directly correlates to a general’s role, let us understand what the role of a general is?

A general’s role is not to fight the war but to tell others how to fight the war. It is the general’s vision of how the battles are to take place that is to be carried out, and his orchestration of all the different pieces that will result in the failure or success of his vision. His role is to see the big picture, see what the unit commanders cannot, see the whole, and orchestrate all the units’ positioning to achieve his vision.

Business is also a kind of war, and the casualty of this war is the shareholder’s investment. The Chief Executives’ challenges are similar to that of the generals – to develop strategies that will lead to victory. 

So, how do executives develop strategies that will lead to victory?

In my opinion, four key questions need to be answered by your strategy to be classified as a good strategy.

Where is our market?

You must identify the battlefield that will provide you with the best advantage, like Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, recognised a field near Waterloo in Belgium to defeat the might of Napoléon Bonaparte. It is essential that an executive correctly identifies the markets that will maximise the profits or reduce costs for his goods and services. 

Field Marshal His Grace The Duke of Wellington

What is our unique selling proposition (USP)? 

During the Napoleonic Wars, Napoléon Bonaparte, for the most part, was the undisputed ruler of Europe. Logically, he should have strangled and run England into the ground. But England had correctly identified two of its biggest strengths – trade and the Royal Navy and used them to not only stay afloat but to ultimately win the war. So, identify the unique value(s) your product or service offers and how it will best benefit the identified market.

The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries, by Jacques-Louis David, 1812

What are our resources and capabilities?

Resources refer to the things we have in our toolbox that can be brought to bear for our benefit. It may be capital – either human or monetary, superior technology, something intangible like brand equity, or tangible, like a diamond mine. How well you utilise what is in your toolbox for maximum benefit depends on your capability. During the Napoleonic Wars, England had a mighty naval fleet (resources), but that by itself is of no benefit as France also had a mighty fleet. What England had were great sailors and leaders like Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Duke of Bronté, among others, capable of wielding the resource (Royal Navy) more effectively.

Vice-Admiral The Right Honourable The Viscount Nelson

Sustainability

Once you have identified your USP and identified your capabilities and resources, how can you sustain in the markets you have identified – to continue to win over time. Even after Admiral Nelson’s death during the Battle of Trafalgar, England did not fall apart; they continued to martial their resources and continued to develop their capabilities to hold France across the Channel.

While the above points give us an idea of what strategy we should employ, they also indicate what we should not be doing. We should not operate in markets where we add no value or do not have the resources or capabilities to maintain sustainable growth. 

A good strategy, while letting us know what we should be doing and why, should also inform us where our boundaries are and what we should not be doing.

I am sure I don’t have to tell you all that this blog is in no way comprehensive and barely scratches the surface on business strategy or strategy in general. Please feel free to add value to it by sharing your thoughts and experiences on developing ‘strategy’. Happy to hear from you!

Please watch this space for similar posts. Strategy forms an integral part of most of our online master’s degree programmes. You can chat LIVE on WhatsApp with one of our Education Advisors for more information on all the programmes we offer, the application process, and for details on discounts we might be offering at this time.

#DILO (A day in the life of) a master’s student – Andy W

Continuing with our blog series bringing you answers to some of the questions we at Robert Kennedy College (RKC) get frequently from students who are looking to join one of our online programmes. We asked some of our past and current students to share their thoughts and opinions, to give their feedback on how they handled online learning challenges. Hopefully, this will in turn help you make an informed decision.

Blog series on ‘a day in the life of an online master’s degree student

Let us learn from those who came before and see if what worked for them will also help you become a better student! 

Andy is from the United Kingdom and has completed our 100% Online Master of Business Administration that we offer through an exclusive partnership with the University of Cumbria, U.K., and this is what he had to say about what worked for him. 

An Introduction

Who are you, really? 

Andy W

Which Uni are you studying with? 

University of Cumbria

Which programme did you choose and why? 

Master of Business Administration (MBA)

The Study Plan

Plan the best way to study

How did you plan to study each module, and what was the reality? How many hours did/do you have to put in each day/or in a week?

I planned to allocate a certain number of hours per week on fixed evenings and the occasional weekend, but it didn’t work out that way. I’m definitely a “deadlines” person, so the regular modular structure of the course helped keep things ticking along nicely, with draft essays and other assignments keeping me focused on making good progress. It became more of a challenge with the dissertation as there was a) a hiatus after finishing the last essay and then being allowed to start the dissertation, so I completely lost momentum and, b) there were no intermediate milestones/deadlines to keep me ticking along. As a result, I had to be much more disciplined and ended up taking blocks of time off work to complete the dissertation. I clearly needed to get up a head of steam and tackle sections in a block rather than do a little often with stop-start not working for me.

What part of the day did/do you find most suitable to study? (e.g. early mornings, lunch break, evenings, weekends?)

As above, longer blocks of time suited me best, rather than a particular time of day. That said, because I was also doing a full-time job and other activities, I was mostly restricted to evenings and weekends.

How much time did you devote to each assignment? 

Unknown, sorry – I didn’t keep a log. 

Travelling and Communication 

Travel and staying connected

How did travelling impact your ability to study? 

Work travel tends to be occasional long-haul flights for me, which helped as I could download relevant readings and could then take notes, etc. on the flight. Most of my study time, however, was spent at home. Travelling was not applicable in my case.

How were you able to interact with peers and/or professors given the time differences? 

The forums were okay, but this is the biggest issue with remote courses in my experience. You simply don’t get the same level of interaction, shared learning, and general camaraderie/shared experience as you do with face-to-face learning. This was particularly noticeable with the excellent week-long sustainability residential in Cumbria, especially when juxtaposed against the comparative isolation (even loneliness) of the dissertation. The benefits of remote learning definitely outweigh the restrictions, however. 

A typical day as a master’s student 

What does a typical day as an Online Masters’ student look like for you? 

Lots of evening reading during the modules, getting the interim assignments complete and then a bigger burst of effort in two or three day block for the final assessment submissions. The dissertation was a whole new ball game with longer blocks of time needed to really focus on getting the job done. 

Any advice? 

Listen to advice, but figure out what works for you
Any advice you have for students to better plan their studies. 

I can only suggest people find their own rhythm – if you’re very disciplined, then a little often may work for you, but I’m not like that so had to adapt to fit my own way of working within the wider context of work and MBA deadlines. 


I hope this blog has answered some of your questions, and please watch this space for similar posts. You can also chat LIVE on WhatsApp with one of our Education Advisors for more information on all the programmes we offer, the application process, and for details on discounts we might be offering at this time.

7 ways to improve your Critical Thinking

One of the things that I dislike about corporate culture is the many different terms that get thrown around to describe a logical and an otherwise common-sense action. Many managers and companies like to create new terms and abbreviations for actions and rules they have incorporated. However, the thing is, the more popular terms like ‘critical thinking’ are still around for a reason – they work.

The word ‘critical’ might have a negative connotation, and you might wonder – “What is the point of thinking negatively?” But where ‘critical thinking’ actually helps is in understanding all the flaws in an argument or a decision, counter or correct the process, and finally arrive at the stated objective. 

Critical Thinking is: Independent Thinking + Information Analysis = Arriving at a Judgement

What do critical thinkers do?

They think, they question, they do not accept everything at face value, using their ability to reason and to solve problems through logical reasoning. This is why most employers would be keen to employ critical thinkers because they are the catalyst that will propel the company forward. 

So, what can you do to become a more critical thinker? 

Ask questions
  1. Asking questions – Don’t be afraid to question everything, don’t take anything at face value. Ask:
    1. What are you trying to achieve?
    2. How have you arrived at this conclusion or decision?
    3. How would I know what you have told me is accurate? Show me the proof and explain it to me.
    4. What might you have missed out or overlooked?
  2. Assumption is the mother of all screw-ups – One of my majors during graduation was physics, and one of the things I disliked was the proof of every theory started with “Assume…..”, which is why we used the headline of this point as our motto during physics class. But leaving our childish assumptions aside (because who are we to question some of the greatest scientific minds ever), in our mundane lives assuming things will just make an ass out of you and me (ass-u-me). So, question all assumptions. 
  3. Self-reflecting – Critical thinkers must be able to reflect on themselves. Ask yourself if your beliefs are based on logic or emotions. Don’t be afraid to take a step back and analyse your decisions or belief, recognising if you have any bias and if it played a role in your decision-making process.
  4. Listening – When you discuss something with someone, don’t get ahead of yourself and start thinking, but listen to their point of view. Only once you hear and understand their point of view can you have enough data to analyse and evaluate, and offer alternatives if required. 
  5. Understanding the motive – Understanding the motives behind the source of the data you are basing your decisions on is essential because the data will always be skewed towards the source’s beliefs. For example, in the US media, the same story on President Donald Trump or President Joseph Biden will be covered in a completely different way by Fox News and CNN. That is why you have to question what you are being told. 
  6. Researching – Today, we are blessed with endless sources of information, and all of them easily accessible. Do your research taking advantage of all these sources of information and use your critical thinking to arrive at the best decision possible. 
  7. Keep an opened mind – So, you looked at data from multiple sources, applied critical thinking, and arrived at a conclusion. But still, going into a discussion with the assumption that you are right is wrong. As mentioned in point number four, if you assume you are right and are not listening, you will fall into point number two.

Learning to develop your critical thinking skills will go a long way in helping you analyse data and arrive at the best decision possible more often than not. Comment below if you know any other way in which we can develop critical thinking skills, we would love to hear from you!

Analyse data to arrive at decisions

Our online master’s degree management programmes help you become a better leader, and master’s degrees, in general, will help you in developing your critical thinking skill. Chat LIVE on WhatsApp with one of our education advisors for more information on all the programmes we offer, the application process, and information on discounts we might offer.

Can Corporate Social Responsibility help in developing society?

Star Trek is the best tv series ever made! That is, at least in my opinion. I have watched almost every single series of Star Trek several times. It makes me happy. You might be wondering why I have started off talking about a tv series, and the answer is that it shows us what humanity can achieve—our unlimited potential as a species.  

Commander Spock and Captain James T. Kirk, played by Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner, pictured here in Star Trek: The Original Series

But the reality is we are lightyears away from achieving even a fraction of this potential. And I am not just talking about the challenges we faced in 2020 (which doesn’t seem to be improving in 2021). Even before the pandemic, our global society was struggling and teetering on self-destruction. Poverty, global warming, population, crime, natural disasters, fake news, illiteracy, unemployment and untrained labour, and healthcare are just some of the challenges we faced even before COVID-19.   

Society has been struggling with questions such as – how can we ensure healthcare for all? How can we ensure economic development and technological progress that benefits humanity?  

Typically, we would just bump this responsibility onto the government, the United Nations, or to some NGO. And while the lion’s share of the responsibility does rest on them, the fact is, if we need to achieve anything, we all need to work together – citizens, government, companies, NGO’s, everyone.  

United Nations

To simplify things, let’s say our goal is to ensure economic progress and social justice for all while preserving our environment. What is the responsibility of a company in this? Well, companies’ success depends on people – employees and customers. If employees have job security and job satisfaction, they will work hard, be loyal to the company, and invest in its success. Likewise, if people have the money and an understanding of the company and its products and services, they will invest in the company. Therefore for a company to truly succeed, it must contribute towards the development of society as a whole. 

Typically, a company would view corporate social responsibility (CSR) as something they have to do to keep the government happy and maintain a positive brand image. These are just some of the side benefits of an acceptable CSR policy. If properly executed, CSR could be an excellent tool to develop society, benefit all company stakeholders, and contribute to the company’s growth while minimising the impact on the planet.  

How a company implements CSR will depend on several factors such as location, government, industry, etc. The COVID-19 vaccine has just hit the markets worldwide and was developed in record time by several pharmaceutical companies. Consider the pharmaceutical industry as an example to highlight what companies in this sector could consider when developing an effective CSR doctrine.  

Pharmaceutical industry is big business
  • Offering safe and quality medication to as many people as possible. 
  • An effective pricing strategy that can benefit all players involved.  
  • Ongoing support to patients. If the company can show that they are not just interested in the sales of their medication but is also committed to the patients’ recovery and wellbeing, they would have earned the customers trust and loyalty.  
  • Having effective human resources, training, and safety policies that ensure all employees are taken care off. 
  • Compliance to all laws and regulations of the land (both local and global). 
  • Defining ethical business practices (read our previous blog on Business Ethics).  
  • Reducing environmental impact and carbon footprint.  

Hence, for a company to have an effective CSR doctrine, they should contribute to being an economically efficient, socially equitable, and environmentally sustainable development. While ensuring growth and profits by encouraging innovation, reduce costs, fostering a sense of ownership among all involved in a project.  

An effective and well thought out Corporate Social Responsibility doctrine can spark innovation that will drive your company onto new heights.  

Do you consider CSR to be a driver for positive change in society, a spark of innovation for the company, or do you think CSR is just another thing a company has to do not to be shown in a negative light by its competitors? Comment below, we would love to hear your views! 

Our online master’s degree management programmes help you become a better leader, and CSR is an integral part of it. Chat LIVE on WhatsApp with one of our education advisors for more information on all the programmes we offer, the application process, and for information on discounts we might be offering in these particularly challenging times. 

Business Ethics – 4 steps to ethical decision making

Cutting corners, that is what we as human beings do. Now, that by itself is not wrong, finding a more comfortable, simpler way to get a job done is smart. But the line that separates ethical behaviour from unethical behaviour is narrow, and if you are not careful in your search for the smartest way to work, you could just end up crossing that line!

Before proceeding with the blog, I would like to wish all our readers a very merry Christmas and a happy and healthy new year 2021!

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and a happy New Year

What is ethics? 

It is merely the belief of what is right or wrong based on the individuals’ morals/values, which in turn might be dependent on the society or culture to which the individual belongs to. So, what does this mean? Simply put, ethics is very individualistic; what I believe to be right or wrong might be antithetical to what you believe to be right or wrong.

Having said that, as a society of human beings living in the 21st century, we generally have a consensus on what humanity considers ethical and unethical behaviour, as a result of which, laws are created to uphold and protect what we believe is ethical behaviour. Now, some of these laws might differ from region to region; however on the whole, most laws are put in place to protect the innocent and to uphold what society considers ethical.

Laws

Formal laws typically represent a consensus on ethical standards.

For companies and organisations, the laws and standards that are used to judge the ethics of an individual can be extended on a much grander and more detailed scale thus incorporating the ethics of society on a corporate level. So, if a company is known to follow the law, by implication, it is an ethical company. But that need not always be the case.  

Yes, laws can be looked on as a standard for companies to follow; however, they are just a basis for an ethical discussion. Because at the end of the day, the legal ethics will depend on whose eyes they are viewed from. For example, while stealing is considered illegal everywhere and therefore unethical, it is unfortunate and criminal that in some countries child labour is still legal and therefore ethical (at least from their point of view), even though a majority of the nations will consider it unethical (and in my personal opinion, it is).   

Ethical decisions

There are several factors, such as values, morals, culture, etc., that can have an impact on ethical decision making. For example, if you ask a group of individuals a precise and narrow ethical question, you might get as many answers as there are individuals answering the question because each person is influenced by their upbringing and life experiences.

There are also some circumstances when an otherwise unethical behaviour may be looked upon in a favourable light. For example, a town devastated and cut off from aid by a natural disaster might force some desperate people to contemplate unethical actions like breaking in and entering an abandoned home or store to scavenge items and materials required for survival. Is this behaviour ethical or acceptable? Maybe not. But until we are put in a situation like that, who are we to judge?!

The point is when we make a decision, all we can do is to make the best decision we can at that moment.

Ethical decisions in organisations

Most organisations today have a diverse and multicultural workforce. While this is undoubtedly beneficial, there are also a number of challenges to be overcome, especially when aligning decisions with ethics.  Not everyone is going to agree with the ethicality of a decision! Also, you don’t want an organisation where everyone thinks the same – “groupthink”.

So, how do organisations work towards overcoming these challenges? 

  1. Code of conduct/ethics – Organisations need to start a ‘written code of ethics or conduct’. It has to be a written, physical document that is easily accessible, prominently displayed (on notice boards, company intranet, etc.) in the organisation, widely circulated among employees, made a part of induction for new employees, and made a condition for employment. What a code of ethics does is outline what the organisation considers acceptable behaviour, giving a baseline of what is ‘okay’ and what is ‘not okay’. 
  2. Ethics programme – Set up training programmes for employees that will educate them on what the organisation considers ethically acceptable decisions. The best way to learn is by example, so ensure that most of the training is situation-based.  Show examples of decisions made in the past, the challenges the decisions makers faced while deliberating, their logical reasoning, and finally why they arrived at the decision they did. Make it into a case study to get an understanding of what the new employees think and the decisions they would have arrived at in the current work environment.
  3. Ethics hotline – Most organisations do not want unethical behaviour to go undetected for a long period of time. The longer unethical behaviour takes to come to light the greater the damage to the organisation. Most people do not want to be labelled a ‘snitch’; it is a good way to lose the trust of co-workers and get isolated within your organisation. It could also have an effect on your reputation, which will, in turn, have an impact on your promotions and future employment. But for the benefit of the organisation, unethical behaviour needs to be brought to light, and the sooner, the better. Setting up a hotline that guarantees anonymity, and gives protection to the whistleblower against retaliation will encourage reporting against unethical behaviour. However, the organisation also has a responsibility to investigate comprehensively and arrive at an independent conclusion to not only protect against false reporting but to protect all the parties involved.
  4. Leadership by example – We throw the term ‘work culture’ around quite often.   Work culture is corporate behaviour which is set or determined at the top and trickles down to the rest of the organisation, and ethics forms an integral part of this behaviour. Most people in any position of authority usually set an example of ‘do as I say, not as I do’, which clearly send the wrong message to their underlings, and this is what usually ends up being the norm that is followed. There are very few leaders that are able to set the right, positive and ethical example because of the temptation to bend ethics in favour of greater profits. Actions speak louder than words and leaders have to set the example at the top for the organisation to follow.

These are just a few guidelines an organisation can follow to develop and encourage ethical decision making. What are the steps followed by your organisation to encourage ethical decisions? Any instances that you know of where companies have cut corners in their search for easy profit, and what were the consequences? Comment below.

Our online master’s degree management programmes help you become a better leader, and business ethics forms an important part of it. Chat LIVE on WhatsApp with one of our education advisors for more information on all the programmes we offer, the application process, and for information on discounts we might be offering at this time. 

#DILO (A day in the life of) a master’s student - Dina

Continuing with our blog series bringing you answers to some of the questions we at Robert Kennedy College (RKC) get asked frequently by students who are looking to join one of our online programmes, we asked some of our past and current students to share their thoughts and opinions, to give their feedback on how they handled the challenges of online learning. Hopefully, this will help you make an informed decision.

Let us learn from those who came before and see if what worked for them will also help you become a better student!

Dina is from Jordan and has completed our online MBA programme, this is what she had to say about what worked for her.

An Introduction

Who are you, really?  

I am Dina, from Jordan  

Which Uni are you studying with?  

University of Cumbria, U.K.

Which programme did you choose and why?  

MBA in Leadership and Sustainability  

The Study Plan  

How did you plan to study each module, and what was the reality? How many hours did/do you have to put in each day/or in a week?  

I took one module at a time, and I dedicated one day a week for studying – usually during the weekend, and that’s like 7-8 hours a week, and of course, I did more work for the assignments.

What part of the day did/do you find most suitable to study? (e.g. early mornings, lunch break, evenings, weekends?)  

Weekends the entire day and sometimes early mornings before going to work.

How much time did you devote to each assignment?  

I used to check the assignment at the beginning of each module and take notes as I go through the week. I usually started working on the assignments pretty early so that I had a few weeks before the deadline to plan and manage my time.  

Travelling and Communication

How did travelling impact your ability to study?  

Travelling was not required for my work.

How were you able to interact with peers and/or professors given the time differences?  

The forums really helped and made the communication process easier.

A typical day as a master’s student

What does a typical day as an Online Masters’ student look like for you?  

I wake up, check my email, check the forum, go to work and read an article or study a bit before bed. But the majority of the studying was usually done on the weekends.

Any advice?  

Any advice you have for students to better plan their studies.  

I was sceptical at first, and I thought that I might lose interest in studying, but each module was different. All you need is a little time management and commitment.  


I hope this blog has answered some of your questions, and please watch this space for similar blogs in the future. 

You can now chat LIVE on WhatsApp with one of our Education Advisors for more information on all the programmes we offer, the application process, and for information on discounts we might be offering at this time.  

Risk Management – 5 steps to better manage risks

If this year, 2020, has taught us anything, it is that risk is a part of life for humankind. The sooner we come to terms with it, identify the cause, plan and strategise to arrive at effective counter-measures, the greater our chance to survive and prosper!

What is risk?

Organisations have a number of internal and external factors that make it uncertain to meet their vision, missions, values, goals and objectives. These uncertain conditions that persist are collectively termed “risks”. 

In general, our tendency is to try avoiding risks as a lot of these instances can lead to negative outcomes, but there can also be positive ramifications of risk. The positive results are an outcome of companies being able to capitalise on the opportunities presented by the risk.

Identifying negative risks and avoiding them, while at the same time being able to take advantage of the opportunities presented by positive risks can be a daunting task for a manager, as a wrong call might result in great loses or a missed opportunity for greater growth.

Risk is a future uncertain event and being able to predict the event and putting in place solutions or strategies to either avoid or take advantage of the event is what risk management is all about. But every organisation’s appetite for risk is different and that is usually directly dependent on the tolerance an organisation might have towards risk.

So, what are risk appetite and risk tolerance?

We have all heard the saying “no risk, no reward”. Taking big risks could lead to big losses, or conversely, could lead to greater rewards. 

The risks which are identified as opportunities should be low hanging fruits to deal with and to reap their benefits. 

Risk appetite is the willingness of an organisation to take risks, while risk tolerance refers to how much risk an organisation can bear

Risk Management

According to Douglas Hubbard (The Failure of Risk Management: Why It’s Broken and How to Fix It) – Risk management is the identification, evaluation, and prioritization of risks followed by coordinated and economical application of resources to minimize, monitor, and control the probability or impact of unfortunate events or to maximize the realization of opportunities.

Risk management can and should be implemented across any industry or vertical, such as project management, operations, finance, military, medical, etc. Like any other department in an organisation, the risk management team should ensure that it is able to justify its costs by first creating value for the organisation by becoming an integral part of the strategy and decision-making process of the organisation. The team should be responsive to changes (both internal and external), systematic and process oriented about their analysis, transparent about their processes, and capable of adapting and growing. 

Effective implementation of risk management will provide an organisation with

  • Early warning to potential risk due to uncertain events
  • Better decision making through a good understanding of risks and their likely impact
  • Effective allocation of resources
  • Reassuring stakeholders

Risk management can be broken down in five basic steps

  1. Plan –  A risk management plan specifies the management’s intent, systems, and procedures required to manage risks, roles and responsibilities, and tools to be used in identifying risks. The plan will specify how the following four steps are to be executed by the organisation. 
  2. Identify – Identify the potential risks, their causes and their potential consequences. This is usually done by a team of subject matter experts  using methods such as brainstorming and tools like SWOT analysis, flow diagrams, Ishikawa diagrams, etc.
  3. Analyse – Once you have identified the potential risks, analyse them using either qualitative (a subjective analysis that is quick and easy to implement using tools like matrices probability and impact matrices) or quantitative (a detailed and time intensive analysis of risk using tools such as expected monetary value analysis, Monte Carlo analysis, decision tree, etc.) methods to classify them as high, medium, and low priority risks. Organisations may not have the resources to plan for all the risks and might be able to accept some risks without action, some with only periodic monitoring, and finally, some with a detailed action plan to take advantage of or to all together avoid the risk event. 
  4. Plan a response – Depending on the priority of the risk, a strategic response needs to be planned, and resources allocated with the goal of reducing the impact of negative risks, and capitalising on the impact of positive risks. Some of the strategies are avoid/transfer/accept/exploit.
  5. Monitor and control – Nothing in this world is static, change is the only constant. Risk monitoring and control should be an ongoing and continuous process. A change in external or internal conditions might result in a low priority risk evolving into a high priority risk or a high priority risk devolving into a low priority one. By monitoring them you will not be caught unprepared!  

This is why, not only is risk management an important module in a number of our online master’s degree programmes, but we also offer, through an exclusive partnership with the University of Salford, UK, a 100% online M.Sc. programme in MSc Fraud and Risk Management.

If you are interested, or have any questions, you can also chat LIVE on WhatsApp with one of our Education Advisors for more information on the programmes we offer, the application process, and for information on discounts we might be offering at this time.