From the Blackboard to Boardroom: Lessons in Teamwork

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Teamwork is an essential and useful trait in all sectors of life. It’s a cornerstone for building collaborate environments, respecting various viewpoints, and helping to build thriving projects and businesses. Without strong cooperation, communication and innovation fails to take firm root in our everyday lives.

A vital soft skill for many projects and assignments in college, teamwork is also needed in the everyday business world. However, teamwork takes on different forms in different settings and allows us to learn lessons within the art of collaboration.

As you start your business and delve into internships in college, you may notice similarities and differences between the ways teamwork is handled in school and work environments. Assessing the lessons that teamwork have to offer in both realms can help you determine which aspects to utilize in your professional life.

If you’re still in school and wishing to develop your teamwork skills? Here’s some helpful advice on the basic differences between teamwork lessons in school and work so you may optimize your time and skills for your own personal business success.

Lessons on Teamwork in School and Work

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Lesson #1: Group Communication

In both school and the real world, you’ll need to know how to communicate with others. Teamwork in the classroom is a great way to prepare you for real world business. In fact, it’s probably one of the most useful skills you’ll ever learn in your professional and social life. However, there are differences between the ways you’ll learn and experience communication in school and work.

School: In academia, communication will most likely be harmonious, but it’s not likely to be in-depth. Generally, students have a congenial attitude towards a common goal or project with fellow classmates, especially if everyone is being graded as a group and if it helps save time. However, this means you don’t find advanced solutions to problems. It can be limiting working within school guidelines and project-specific constraints. But, at least you’ll get great practice focusing on a specific topic.

School can offer you important foundations for building upon your communication skills in a team. You can learn how to communicate ideas or details about a project for which you’re dedicated.

Work: In the business world, it’s likely you’ll need to flex your negotiation skills often. While remaining respectful to everyone you work with, as a business leader you must leverage ways to build your brand and service to clients. When you’re part of team, you need to debate and be vocal when you disagree about details in the deal. Once you lay everything out on the table, you can come to a solid conclusion about how to best approach the deal while making a solid profit.

Words of Wisdom: Research shows that well-managed conflict and focus on a group objective can create more solutions than in conflict-free groups. As long as conflict is focused on the actual work, disagreements can harness brainstorming power. Use class to work on your collaboration skills and focus, but take a class or take advantage of your internship where you can learn how to negotiate and debate within business.

Lesson #2: In-person interactions

School: When you’re in college, face-to-face interactions between groups may be needed to complete a project. However, because lesson plans consider the number of course hours required of students outside of the classroom, much group collaboration in college is completed remotely. Generally, there is a limited amount of time students engage with each other directly in and out of class. Although, this can be an effective way to cooperate and build upon communication skills, teams who do the majority of their work remotely are at a disadvantage.

Work: Teamwork and collaboration are much more in-depth in a work environment. Although you’ll utilize a lot of face time, offices allow you to work directly with people on numerous projects throughout the day. Plus, you’ll have more in common with workers than you will with students.

Words of Wisdom:  Remote working teams are disadvantaged. My advice is to take classes that are interactive enough to build your entrepreneurial skills outside the classroom.

Lesson #3: Diversify and preserve your team

School: You may have the opportunity to work with diverse individuals with wide-ranging perspectives, but for each project you work on in class, your groups will change. Frequently changing teams is a huge disadvantage for teamwork and personal growth.

Work: Business leaders can learn to work with who they hire and they also hire from a diverse and competitive pool of people. In addition, they get to work with the same group of employees for as long as they’re employed with the company. This helps build morale and comfort within the workplace.

Words of Wisdom: Studies indicate that the longer members stay together, the stronger the performance of the group. Since the majority of employers think alumni today are underprepared for jobs in areas like teamwork, students should pay attention in their courses to diverse perspectives so they can build a more well-rounded knowledge. In fact, 59% of employers believe that all students should have educational experiences where they solve problems with people of different perspectives. Teams that play together, stay together once you bridge barriers.

Lesson #4: Smaller groups work better

School: Large universities may offer you more resources, but they also make for overcrowded classrooms and groups where learning, collaboration, and focus are much harder to sustain.

Work: Excessive size can ruin effective collaboration, but many businesses understand that smaller groups can work better as a team.

Words of Wisdom: In smaller teams, the work is divided more equally across members and you have less of a chance of “free loaders” tagging along for the ride. If you must work in a larger group in class, make sure the work is divided up equally and that everyone is playing an equal part. While in school, offer each your classmates resources to build a more supportive work environment. This can easily translate into your teamwork skills in business.

From the Blackboard to the Boardroom

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In academic settings, teachers and students study theories and examples. They test hypotheses against evidence to find conclusions that may be universal or decontextualized, but in the business world you put these ideas to use.

Overall, there are lessons to be gleaned from each team working experience. However, school is more individualistic and theory-based, which can be beneficial in its own right. Yet, it only teaches you a few foundations of collaboration in the real world.
Instead, start building upon your teamwork skills by picking up an internship, starting your own business, or volunteering in school or community organizations and fundraisers. You’ll have more practice to network easier, but you’ll also build experience solving fundamental problems with the help and discretion of a strong and collaborative team. In the meantime, have fun getting to know people and offer a kind, open-minded attitude towards people of various backgrounds as you learn the ropes. You can demonstrate success in business by working with and supporting those around you.

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Why Commitment to Providing Equal Treatment is A Smart Business Move

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Treating all people equally isn’t just the right thing to do. It’s also good for business. Organizations that discriminate, or are complicit in supporting discrimination against certain groups of people, are at a competitive disadvantage relative to peers that promote inclusivity and tolerance.

Public perceptions of your business matter. In fact, the future success and prosperity of your business depends on it.  In addition to violating human rights, bias and discrimination negatively impact a company’s bottom line. In other words: when the profitability and future success of your enterprise is at stake, practicing tolerance is in your company’s best interest. According to the Human Rights Campaign’s 2017 Corporate Equality Index, American businesses are keenly aware of this, knowing that their reputation, profitability, and commitment to providing equal treatment are intrinsically connected.

Recent current events provide a body of evidence in the business case against discrimination, from the number of corporations who spoke out against President Trump’s immigration ban to the musicians and entertainers who canceled tour dates in North Carolina to protest the HB2 bill.

In the spirit of extinguishing any lingering doubts that equality benefits your company’s bottom line, here are 3 reasons why fostering inclusivity, tolerance, and justice for all is a savvy business move.

Exclusion Impairs Profits – But Why?

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Global Economy

The response from the business community to President Trump’s immigration ban–that CEOs of major companies, sports leagues and business groups have come out in opposition to the law and the discrimination it sanctions–provides an inside look at the economic impact of supporting diversity and equality.

What does that impact look like? For one, state and local governments that support discriminatory policies, however tacitly, pass on indirect costs and cut into the profits of affected businesses. According to Forbes, North Carolina’s HB2 “bathroom bill” resulted in a $600 million economic loss for the state. The cost of North Carolina’s bathroom policing is consistent with research that indicates how discriminatory laws work to undermine economic growth. According to some economic projections, if we don’t challenge inequality now, the OECD gender pay gap (which is currently 16 percent) will not close for another 95 years. That untapped female potential is estimated to cost the global economy $12 trillion by 2025.

Diversity = More Perspectives, More Creativity

Research suggests that companies which fail to embrace diversity, do so at their own peril. Again, corporate executives shouldn’t focus on inclusion and equality only because it’s the right thing to do. They should also do so because it’s good for their businesses. Successful businesses prioritize hiring the best employees, regardless of those employees’ race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, age, or what-have-you. Considering that millennials want to work at socially inclusive organizations, businesses employing a homogenous workforce will surely miss out on hiring the best and brightest young people.

“People are much more willing to give of themselves when they feel that their true selves are being fully recognized and embraced,” Apple CEO Tim Cook says. Cook explains that embracing people’s individuality and identity goes beyond matters of human dignity and civil rights. In Apple’s case, Cook points out that fostering a tolerant and welcoming workplace “also turns out to be great for the creativity that drives our business.” We’ve found that when people feel valued for who they are, they have the comfort and confidence to do the best work of their lives. When people cannot be themselves in the workplace, everyone pays a price–literally and figuratively.

Retention Rates

Both economic markets and influential corporate indices reward diversity, and on top of that, research indicates that LGBTQ inclusivity benefits businesses, largely because it improves employee retention rates. Weeding out biases in the hiring process and actively working to recruit from a diverse group of candidates can only help businesses find and retain the best people. Not to mention–when you discriminate, your corporate reputation suffers. When you consider that dealing with a talent shortage ranks among the biggest concerns for CEOs worldwide, the implications of low employee retention look especially bleak. Combine that with the cost of lost credibility (Chick-Fil-A and American Apparel provide good examples of lost credibility) and the full cost of intolerance becomes clearer.

Businesses are an important vehicle when it comes to achieving justice for all. Aligning your business with these values is the right thing to do, it’s good for humanity, and it’s profitable. Businesses have nothing to lose by championing equality.

How Charities Can Appeal to Millennials

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As consumers and trendsetters, young people born in the 1980s and 90s have tremendous influencing power. And along with rethinking workplace culture and values, millennials are now reimagining charitable giving in the 21st century.

Despite eschewing membership in political and religious institutions, young adults in this demographic are more socially conscious and mission-driven than generations who came before them, according to a report published by the National Philanthropic Trust. While millennials are passionate about helping people and improving society, they have little interest in emulating the giving patterns modeled by their parents and grandparents. They want to give, sure, but it’s not like any organization will do. More than baby boomers, millennials value authenticity and the ability to engage directly with their charity of choice.

The sheer size of our millennial generation makes us an increasingly influential demographic. And in the years ahead, the nonprofit sector is likely to cater to the tastes and preferences of this demographic. My millennial peers and I wield lots of trendsetting power.

Though 18- to 32-year-olds represent just 11 percent of total charitable giving, philanthropic organizations stand to benefit from cultivating ties with this age group. Considering that 80 million millennials will enter adulthood in the coming years, nonprofits feel a growing urgency to build ties with these young people. Among nonprofit organizations, knowing how and where millennials want to spend their surplus income is going to be critical.

In the spirit of working together and creating change, let’s take a closer look at millennial giving. Here’s how charities can get millennials to support their cause:

Leveraging Social Media + Digital Technology

Whether we’re keeping in touch with friends or researching nonprofits, millennials like me demand tech-centric approaches to everything we do. This mindset extends to charitable giving, as millennials prefer using social media and online platforms in supporting charitable causes.

Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook allow nonprofit organizations to engage millennial supporters in an ongoing dialogue around the clock. Social media can also be used by charitable organizations to appeal to millennial values and personify their organization’s branding. Because young people expect to do our charitable giving online, we are more likely to donate to organizations whose websites and social platforms exhibit sleek web design and high UI/UX functionality. Also, mobile-friendly websites are a must.

Causes, Not Institutions

When Millennials check a nonprofit’s website, we look for information about what an organization does and how donations are used. In other words: we want to see tangible results.

Unlike baby boomers, millennials aren’t as attached to specific organizations or brand names. Institutional pedigree doesn’t impress them. Rather, my peers and I feel connected to certain causes and are passionate about helping people and making a difference. We want nonprofits to show us concrete evidence that our support has an impact. We like having regular updates about successful charity projects and campaigns. We want to know who we have helped.

Transparency + Accountability

In that same vein, millennials expect transparency and accountability from the organizations we support. This expectation is only logical: with less disposable income to spare than our parents, millennials want to ensure our hard-earned dollars have an actual, quantifiable impact. Survey trends cited in the New York Times corroborate this fact. “Millennials expect transparency, sophisticated storytelling and technical savvy from their charitable organizations,” says Nicholas Fandos. “Causes matter more than institutions.”

Hands-On Engagement

Rather than writing checks, millennials like myself prefer to support charities through active participation. More than donating money, millennial donors seek opportunities to volunteer and leverage their own networks in supporting causes they believe in. Digital brands like Charity: Water and Warby Parker have an advantage in this regard, as these organizations are designed as digital fundraising efforts and social impact companies. They appeal to millennials’ need for simplicity, access to information, and hands-on involvement.

In particular, millennials gravitate toward giving to cause which offer opportunities to volunteer, to get involved firsthand.

According to a recent report published in Forbes, skill development is also a driving factor in Millennials’ philanthropic engagement. Of the millennials surveyed, more than three-quarters (77 percent) indicated that they’d be more likely to volunteer if they could utilize a their personal skillset and expertise to benefit a cause. Nonprofits that shift away from a fundraising-only focus and instead opt to concentrate on fueling engagement and partnerships will be most successful in courting millennials’ support.

Corporate Responsibility + Social Impact (Triple Bottom Line)

Whereas our parents’ generation may have been more inclined to write a check for charity, millennials’ charitable sensibilities are more integrated into their everyday lives and lifestyles. While we recognize that governments and charities do important work, millennials realize that nonprofits lack the technological prowess and resources of the private sector. They see far more potential to have an impact through supporting private-public partnerships (PPP) and social impact investing. “Major companies are paying attention to millennials’ interest in corporate philanthropy,” Fortune notes, citing efforts like a Goldman Sachs fund that awards grants to nonprofits based on recommendations from millennial employees.

Commitment to Environment

We are living in a time when ethical and sustainable products are king. “From involvement with charities and nonprofits to spreading awareness about key environmental concerns,” an overwhelming number of millennials value sustainability and environmental justice. Numerous studies have shown millennials are willing to pay more for sustainable products. These statistics are worth noting for organizations looking to attract millennial supporters.