MBA schools have long been the finishing school for ambitious students willing to pay $100,000 for a year or two of study that promise to launch them into high-paying employment. According to executive education specialists CarringtonCrisp in London, the venerable recipe is showing symptoms of strain.
This year, the business questioned 508 employers from 22 countries and discovered that 77 percent felt the MBA needs a facelift. Companies and B-schools have drifted away since the 2008 financial crisis, according to Andrew Crisp, co-founder of CarringtonCrisp. The coronavirus epidemic has worsened the inequality by causing economic and work-place changes. He claims that there is a gap between what businesses want and what many business schools have to give.
Corporate finance is a big part of MBA programs. According to the consultancy, which published the poll results in July, employers want graduates to be able to handle major projects such as broad-scale digital transformation. Many respondents stated that the MBA degree must evolve in order to remain relevant in the future, and they were interested in changes to education delivery, such as co-creation of content with B-schools; non-full-time degree approaches; and short, inexpensive, and flexible programs that deliver appropriate skills for employees and meet the requirements of lifelong learning.
According to Mary Francia, a partner at recruiter Odgers Berndtson, business schools are trying to respond to changing employer needs, and many have made inroads in teaching hot topics like sustainability and diversity and inclusion, though much of that education is bolt-on courses rather than core to their programs. She cited Cornell University’s SC Johnson College of Business’s Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise as a model to follow. Many grads have a strong foundation in fundamental competencies, but she claims that employers are now looking for emotionally sophisticated leaders. “What they don’t offer is a lot of knowledge of the importance of social skills and the necessity to engage employees,” Francia says.
Even so, employers should expect to do some of their new employees’ training, particularly with regard to digital tools like Slack and BaseCamp, which can be taught during onboarding processes, says Bernt Blankholm, CEO of Highered, a Norwegian consulting firm that is a global strategic partner of EFMD Global, a coalition of business schools and companies focused on management. According to him, the MBA’s basic abilities are still valuable, and the rest can be taught elsewhere. Blankholm says, “Students require new digital abilities that aren’t actually taught in schools.”
According to Cary Cooper, professor of organizational psychology at Alliance Manchester Business School and past president of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, a human resources industry group in London, part of the challenge for B-schools is to move beyond the “generic” and broad nature of the traditional MBA program.
He explains, “It covers everything you need to know, but it doesn’t specialize you in anything.”