January 2018

CIMA Business Game - Build Your 'Soft' Skills

CIMA Business Game

This week LSBM was visited by Jason Nye (pictured centre) from the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) to lead our students through an exciting ‘Business Game’, of the same type that they may encounter at an assessment centre for a job.

(Pictured left is Usha Mistry, Course Leader for our BA (Hons) Accounting and Financial Management degree programme, and on the right is Dabir Ahmed, Senior Lecturer, Accounting and Financial Management).

Here at LSBM we place employability support at the heart of everything that our SEWS (Student Engagement, Wellbeing and Success) team are doing to support our students, as it is crucial to take an integrated approach and realise that a degree doesn’t stand in isolation from the ‘real-world’, but is often used as a stepping stone to kickstart a new career.

It is becoming ever more important that students are able to differentiate themselves from their peers on more than simply academic ability. In practice, this means that the ‘gate’ to a great graduate job may be opened by a good degree classification, but that to get through the final door to secure a position you will have to compete with many others who may have similar academic credentials.

This is where events like this one can really help. They bridge the gap between the paper skills that employers see when they read your CV, and the ‘real-world’ skills that they are looking for you to demonstrate. Often now this will extend beyond the traditional job interview into selection days and testing centres where the employer can directly compare candidates and assess not only the academic credentials that got them to the short list (and in the building!) But also, their personality, teamwork and problem-solving abilities that are less easy to quantify on a piece of paper.

 

Jason talked about this in terms of a ‘Competency Framework’ with four elements:

  • Technical Skills
  • Business Skills
  • Leadership Skills
  • People Skills

The top two being seen as the ‘hard’ skills that might include many of the elements that you would learn on your degree, such as the core accountancy competencies of how to balance budgets, how you might approach analysing problems, as well as practical issues such as using common software packages (like Microsoft Office for example), or specialist software (like SAGE for accountants).

These can often be ‘evidenced’ to an employer at a preliminary stage (before an interview or assessment centre) by grades at your degree subjects and how you present yourself on your CV.

The latter two, however, leadership skills and people skills, are really the key differences, and yet they are harder to demonstrate in a written document, or from a certificate. You may have a first, but if you cannot communicate your competence, facilitate people understanding your perspective, or simply rub people up the wrong way, then employers are not going to want you to work for their organisations.

Leaders of successful companies realise this conundrum. They want well qualified, competent people, and filtering by degree and CV helps to get ‘potential candidates’ down to a more manageable number. But then, the onus is on you to prove that you have what that employer is looking for. This won’t be a catch-all, one size fits all set of criteria. For some jobs they may want a flamboyant, larger than life, 'there are no walls only stepping stones', style (many sales jobs for example). While others may need more reflective capacity, or focus on detail (analysts or data crunching job could be an example).

So, just because one job isn’t right for you, doesn’t mean that another one may not be perfect. But the thing to bear in mind is that regardless of the job, the employer will always be looking for you to have those leadership and people skills that underpin good communication in any company.

In a very real sense, it is almost taken as a given that you have the ‘hard’ skills, such as the academic underpinning and technical skills that the employer is after. These are tacitly judged at the CV stage of the application, which is most likely why you will have made it to either an interview or assessment centre. At that stage, of course, they will be looking to test that hypothesis of assumed technical competence with further tests. But ultimately, it is really the soft skills such as leadership ability and how you interact with others that are really being tested, and that will most likely be the biggest differentiator between candidates.

The CIMA Business Game aimed to build up experience with developing those ‘soft’ skills in a real-world context, as well as giving an actual case-study which is similar to one that you might practically encounter if you applied for a graduate job and got through to the latter stages of selection.

The turnout for the event was great and the participants were split up into six teams to discuss a practical case-study around a fictional housebuilding company. The teams were tasked with considering four-different proposals for the future of the company, formulating a strategy and reasoning through the options, and then presenting them to the rest of the room in a two-minute presentation.

Along the way Jason threw in a few ‘time management’ surprises, which might mimic a real-world scenario, because in business, as in life, things change unexpectedly!

You can see the six teams who presented below (in the order they presented ie 2, 5, 6, 3, 4, 1)

CIMA Business Game Participants

Everyone enjoyed the event and Nick Hillman, Deputy Academic Principal at LSBM received some great feedback from members of the winning team (Team 6!) about how they felt it had benefited them:
 

What an exciting game!

Initially, I found it so tough to understand the game but having worked with the others in my team I gained in confidence.

The game has helped me to understand that working as a team is a good and important employability skill.

In addition, the game helped me to make a contribution within the team and it taught me other skills such as communication, inclusion and teamwork.

No matter how little you know, when working in a team more skills are acquired and this automatically helps to increase an employees proficiency and a company’s profitability, and the game showed that much can be achieved in a short while through exploring the various ideas that were put together.

Thanks for the game.

Gabriel Diya
Student, Business Management

 

I think the game was super helpful for everyone who took part. I’ve done this sort of thing before so it wasn’t new. However I did find it challenging. There were two people in our team who were very shy and giving them confidence was difficult but they managed to conquer their fear of public speaking. I felt like the mom of the group even though 3 of them were older than me.

It was time well spent.

Madalina Bogdan

 

The CIMA Business Game though nerve-racking was a great opportunity and worthwhile in the following ways:

1) Personal Development - allowed me to identify areas for improvement
2) Insightful - showed what is required for future accounting role
3) Applicable – putting skills into practice and making use of actual accountancy knowledge

It was incredible how fast the 2 mins went by. With Artificial Intelligent (AI) rapidly becoming synonymous with many sectors, including the accounting sector, the game highlighted how important soft skills are to businesses.

These include Leadership (team building, change management, coaching) and People skills (influencing, negotiating, decision-making and communication) which are more difficult to build into AI.

The CIMA Business Game should not be a one-off experience. It gave students the opportunity to practice, hone skills and discover areas for improvement.  Perhaps, time permitting, consideration could be given to offering a follow-up session if possible.

(Name withheld on request)

CIMA Business Game Judges

A big thanks to everyone who participated, the three judges for picking the ‘winners’ (though everyone who took part was really a ‘winner’ as they had learned and practiced some key employability skills), and Jason for coming along once more to help LSBM in its goal of helping our students be as 'employable' as possible.

If you missed it this time, then remember to come to the next one!

(You can read the slides from the talk as a PDF here.)


Stuart Brown
Media and Content Manager

 

 

 

 

The three judges pictured are:

Dabir Ahmed, Senior Lecturer, Accounting and Financial Management (left)
Kuldeep Pradhan, Senior Lecturer, Business Management (centre)
Nooreen Jafferkhan, Lecturer, Business Management (right)

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