The Next Normal: BYU business school adapts to changing environment

Professors at the Marriott School of Business, located in the N. Eldon Tanner Building, are looking for ways to help their students prepare for a workplace changed by the pandemic. (Addie Blacker)

Leer en español: El nuevo normal: La escuela de negocios de BYU se adapta al ambiente cambiante

Editor’s note: This story is a part of a series that explores the lasting impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and how things have changed on and off campus.

BYU students are entering a changing workplace because of the coronavirus, and the BYU Marriott School of Business is adapting its teachings to this next normal.

Work-from-home policies

Some organizations are lengthening their work-from-home protocols into 2021. Google announced that employees would not return to the office until mid-2021, while both Facebook and Twitter have said their employees might have the opportunity to work from home indefinitely.

Marriott School students have also had to adapt to virtual environments. Associate Dean John Bingham said all classes were taught online over the spring and summer, helping to prepare students for a virtual workplace.

“For example, our management communication classes, which have traditionally been taught in person, are now being taught in more online formats, including tools and modules that are designed to help students learn and apply best practices for communicating in an increasingly virtual world,” he said.

In addition to remote work environments, many organizations have moved their on-campus recruiting efforts online. Bingham said the school’s Business Career Center is creating tools to help students prepare for these virtual interviews and information sessions.

Human resources management student Rachel Winters sees both pros and cons to working from home. “COVID-19 is really, really terrible, but the one silver lining for me is that I think the workplace is forever changed,” she said.

Winters hopes companies will now feel more comfortable allowing people to work from home because she sees it as a way to be more flexible with working mothers and fathers. “I hope our professors talk about managing work/life balance, especially with new options to work from home.”

If working from home does become more acceptable, Winters does see some challenges for people working in human resources, like tracking non-salaried employees’ hours and keeping employees motivated and accountable.

Supply chain

While working from home is one of the more apparent effects of the pandemic, there are less obvious consequences. BYU business professor Simon Greathead is concerned about how some of those consequences will impact global business.

Greathead teaches global supply chain management and has adapted his courses to help students see the impacts of the pandemic on supply chains. He showed students one example of how outdoor recreation equipment manufacturers were affected by the pandemic. If a product was made completely with US material, it tended to have less disruption than products that included parts from other countries.

“Disruptions to international production facilities, logistics providers and border crossings all combine to make the availability of goods that rely heavily on parts from other countries more challenging,” he said.

Greathead has used discussion boards to help his students see how these disruptions of the global supply chain impact the availability of items in stores. His students mentioned items like toilet paper, bicycles and kayaks as things they couldn’t buy during the pandemic. “I suggested to the students that these types of products are caught in a ‘perfect storm’ if you will — significant demand for the product but limited supply.”

Greathead said he is trying to help students be prepared for changes like those from the pandemic and others as they enter the workforce. His advice to students is to “constantly be looking for opportunities to disrupt yourself in positive ways, re-invent yourself in meaningful ways so as to be current, relevant, useful, and of value to the companies and people you will be working for.”


New Executive MBA students participate in a challenge course as part of the program’s annual orientation. Organizers had to rework many of the activities to maintain social distancing due to the pandemic. (Jason Hall)

In addition to changes in how and what is taught, the Marriott School is also reworking some of the activities they have held for years. One annual event, the Executive MBA Leader Reaction Course, was held on July 29 at Camp Williams with a few changes to allow for social distancing.

The activity is part of professor Curtis LeBaron’s MBA and EMBA course on leadership. He said it has always been a competition involving creativity and working together as a brand new team. This year one of the factors that went into determining the winner was safety.

Participants wore masks and were encouraged to keep their distance from each other. They were also given poles to use during different challenges to hold between each other rather than having to hold hands.

“It’s such a stark example of physical activity that who would have guessed that we could tweak it and make it as much about safety as about anything,” he said.

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