Managing MBA Panic And Anxiety

The Value in Today’s MBA

An MBA is often marketed as a path to higher earning potential. Traditionally, an MBA was often seen as a competitive edge. But is it still?

Sarah Fister Gale, a contributor for Chief Learning Officer — a workforce magazine catering to trainers and human resources professionals, recently discussed whether or not an MBA is still a valuable development tool.

It’s been proven that MBAs can lead to higher earnings. According to studies done by The Economist, recent MBA graduates can expect to increase their salary by 79%. The latest Graduate Management Admission Council survey says 86% of companies across the globe plan to hire recent MBA graduates.

What an MBA Lacks

Rich Wellins is a senior research associate with Development Dimensions International — a human resources and leadership development consultancy. Wellins says the MBA is still a valuable development tool in that it will help graduates earn pay and better opportunities. But, he also says an MBA doesn’t necessarily teach you how to be a better leader.

“Today’s business world requires people who are good at the softer side of leadership,” Wellins tells Chief Learning Officer. “They aren’t getting that in business school.”

Wellins says executives with MBAs are better prepared with business and analytics skills, but they lack “interpersonal [skills] and emotional intelligence.”

Many business schools have attempted to combat this lack of interpersonal skills by seeking applicants with high emotional intelligence. At NYU’s Stern School of Business, applicants are now required to submit an “EQ Endorsement.”

Companies Seek to Produce Leaders

  • For many companies, an MBA still holds high value. According to Investopedia, companies like Deloitte, Apple, and Intel still provide tuition reimbursements for the cost of an MBA.

But the support goes beyond simply paying for tuition. Fister Gale says at companies, like Deloitte, “executives also provide young leaders with coaching, sponsorship and leadership opportunities that position them for success before and after returning to school.”

Brooke McNaul is a senior consultant with Deloitte in San Francisco who recently completed a two-year MBA at Stanford University. McNaul tells Chief Learning Officer that the training helped her develop expertise as a consultant.

“In a professional services organization you have to be up to date on business trends, and sometimes that means stepping away from the day-to-day work,” she says. “My classmates challenge me in how I think about business problems and it helps me arrive at better solutions.”

More Options Now in Training Leaders

MBA programs can be costly and, according to Chief Learning Officer, many companies are now seeking “faster, cheaper or more targeted paths to prepare their people for long-term leadership.”

Bill Pelster is principal with Deloitte Consulting in Seattle. Pelster says universities now offer cheaper and faster options for training leaders.

“Several years ago, there was only the MBA,” Pelster tells Chief Learning Officer. “But now universities are offering a lot more focused programs that align more directly with the needs of the individual and the business.”

These programs not only save time, but can also target specific industries or roles. At Northwestern University, students can take part in an 18-month long Master’s in Learning & Organizational Change.

Jeff Merrell is associate director of the program at Northwestern. Merrell says students can benefit from taking a step outside the workplace and focusing on the “unique challenges of their profession.”

“It is an opportunity to go deeper into a specific set of skills versus studying all the pillars of business with an MBA,” he tells Chief Learning Officer.

On top of academic paths, many companies are also now “relying instead on homegrown leadership development programs in which executives network with internal peers and learn from case studies and lessons designed entirely with that company in mind,” Fister Gale says.

At Nike, an internal approach is taken that rivals the traditional MBA. For instance, the company often encourages “executives to support high performers by putting them into roles that might be slightly out of their reach, then surrounding them with coaching and experts who are committed to helping them succeed.”

Andre Martin is chief learning officer at Nike. Martin says Nike is the best business school for its people.

“We learn from each other and we develop through experience,” Matin tells Chief Learning Officer.

An MBA is Just One Piece

With companies now having more options for training leaders, there is added pressure in determining what is right for each individual.

At Deloitte, Pelster says, programs have value in the right setting, but they aren’t necessarily right for everyone. “If you are going to fund an MBA, make sure you know what you want to get from it,” he tells Chief Learning Officer.

According to Wellins, senior research associate with Development Dimensions International, an MBA is just one piece of the puzzle.

“Leaders need coaching, mentoring and experiences that help them form their leadership skills,” Wellins tells Chief Learning Officer.

Sources: Chief Learning Officer, The Economist, Investopedia, Poets & Quants

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