Why does a Business School have to address ERS issues?

Why does a Business School have to address ERS issues?, by Sabrina Pérugien, Professor-Researcher in Human Resources Management at Groupe ESC Clermont, and specialist in issues of diversity, inclusion and non-discrimination at work.

First of all, it’s important to define what ERS means. ERS refers to the social and societal responsibility of companies. In other words, the relationship it maintains with the different social strata of the country in which it operates and the repercussions of its activity in improving or deteriorating the living conditions of its citizens. ERS is familiar with the issue of living together and relates to the impact that any company has within a given society. Since the 2000s, we have seen the emergence of variations such as SRO for “Social Responsibility of Organisations” which made it possible to have a broader scope or SRI for “Social Responsibility of Institutions” in order to focus on the practices deployed within Higher Education Institutions in particular. Here, I will essentially talk about this latter declination.

So to answer the question asked, let us say that a Business School must assume its particular role and its place in society. This is the reason why it is committed to addressing these issues. Its responsibility is great in this area because a Business School is not an investment bank or an e-commerce company. Its place is different because it should make it possible to prepare new generations – but not only – to meet the challenges that are coming up and accumulating. In doing so, it must also transmit knowledge to those who come to learn while enabling them to be creative, innovative and attentive to the environment – necessarily changing and complex – whatever the field. As for Business Schools, the challenge is significant since it is a question of training managers and executives capable of successfully developing companies, of leading teams composed of women and men from diverse backgrounds, of understanding and deciphering the reality in which they will operate. Moreover, the decisions taken must integrate external factors. This is where the question of ERS in a Business School has its full place and meaning.

Also, for us, education professionals, there are many pitfalls and challenges to be overcome, but the one that seems most significant to me is the one related to formatting. A Business School must not format thought but train to think and the fight against the formatting of thought is a crucial challenge to be taken up. This implies changing our practices and beliefs and involves rethinking our ways of functioning, modifying our cognitive patterns. This is an invitation to question ourselves and to help those who come to Groupe ESC Clermont to learn to do the same, which is essential.

How can a Business School do this?

From a Professor-Research perspective, it is a question of accompanying individuals, developing talents from diverse backgrounds, embedded in multiple experiences still under construction and contributing to the development of each and every individual in their current and future professional orientation. Having said that, I must add that there is no magic or even unique formula. Each Business School must invent its own language and its actions will, at a minimum, always reflect its unique history, resources and environment. A Business School is above all implanted in a territory, thrives from it and contribute to bringing a local economy to life. A Business School must also leverage on the society for which it prepares students – both for initial and continuing executive education and professional training – and encourage them to reflect on the contemporary concerns and problems faced by companies. Within a Business School, ERS finds its place and all its pertinence and meaning.

All these elements have an impact on social relations at work. As a Professor of HRM and Management, I inject these new concerns into my teaching. Subjects of well-being or suffering at work (linked for example to cases of moral or sexual harassment, stress and burnout) or inclusion (non-discrimination or diversity issues) thus enter the classroom in order to also work on soft skills, which are the most difficult to understand and adopt, but which are observed in work situations and make a difference in companies. I would like to remind you that what we are essentially looking at are two things: the control of the job held (know-how) and the pleasure of working with a person (interpersonal skills). It is precisely by preparing future generations – but also current ones – that we can assume our role and responsibilities in ERS, which raises many questions and creates stimulating debates within Groupe ESC Clermont.

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