Saturday, August 7, 2010

Summer school: Employer-backed MBAs

What forms can support take?
Financial support is one element,” says Virginie Fougea, senior manager at Insead’s admissions office. “This could mean you’re paid while you’re away or you could be sponsored. But support can also mean letting you take a sabbatical or unpaid leave.”

How do I convince my company they will get a return on their investment?

“You need to explain that they will get someone who is more able to contribute to the organisation’s objectives,” says Ms Fougea. “They will gain someone who can think and act quickly and objectively and who is groomed to think strategically. They will also benefit from someone who has a very strong network of contacts and can leverage it.”

What about loyalty?

“It’s a two-way deal between you and your company,” says Eric Cornuel, director-general of the European Foundation for Management Development. “Helping people to do MBAs is a way of developing an environment where talent is retained and developed.”

He adds that perhaps people are looking at it the wrong way: rather than trying to convince a company that you will not leave, you should explain that an MBA is more likely to make you stay. “You can’t ask managers to be loyal to companies if companies are not loyal to managers ... Investing in people’s future is a part of a social and economic contract.”

Dave Wilson, president and chief executive of the Graduate Management Admission Council, points out that if you invest in someone’s future, they tend to believe they have one. “By and large any candidate who gets their MBA paid for is likely to be more loyal, not less,” he says.

Are there more concrete ways of ensuring loyalty?

Mr Wilson says that one scheme that works well is that the candidate takes out a loan in their name, which the company pays off over three years; that way, if they leave then the loan is theirs. People also sometimes sign contracts stating that they will remain for some period after their MBA or have to pay back some of the cost.

You could also offer to share the knowledge you gain with others in the company, either during the course or on your return.

Does it make a difference if I do it part time?

Mr Wilson says recruiters tend to focus on the full timers. “You see two groups of people doing MBAs – career changers and career accelerators,” he explains. “Changers tend to do them full time and want to swap roles, from, say, engineering to banking. Accelerators are trying to move their career on from wherever they might be and are much more likely to do part-time MBAs.”

Is there a payback time?

It is a good idea for both sides to have a rough understanding of when you might reasonably be considered to have paid your debt to the company so that you can do whatever you want with a clear conscience.

“Typically, I think it’s between two and five years although it varies with sector,” says Ms Fougea

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