Double-edged education Featured

8:00pm EDT July 26, 2008

Many Executive MBA graduates say their experience profoundly transformed both their professional and personal lives. And many look back at their EMBA journey as the most fulfilling period in their educational career, leading them to new challenges and preparing them for increased leadership responsibilities.

But what about the second constituency served by the Executive MBA degree — the employers?

“The challenge for all EMBA programs is to serve both constituencies with distinction,” says Dr. Michael Salvador, Ph.D., chairman, Department of Leadership and Executive Development, Coles College of Business, Kennesaw State University. “And the result should be a truly exceptional value opportunity for the contemporary EMBA student.”

Smart Business recently spoke with Salvador about how EMBA programs are addressing the specialized needs of experienced professionals seeking an MBA and building a pool of high performers ready to fill the needs of the business community as the baby boomers retire in record numbers.

How do EMBA programs differ from other advanced management degree programs?

EMBA programs are specialized venues for midcareer management training, differing from other advanced management degree programs mostly in the areas of curriculum content and delivery models. The first differentiator is the cohort class structure, meaning EMBA students typically join a single group of students at inception, called the cohort, which stays together as a group throughout the entire curriculum. Some programs additionally subdivide the cohorts into permanent teams.

The second difference is specialized curriculum. Because of the diversified background and level of work experience of its students, a typical EMBA program is expected to cover a wide range of business acumen learning and interpersonal skills development delivered in smaller, more compact teaching modules to fit the broad curriculum into weekend classes.

A third difference is a highly integrated curriculum to assure the students are gaining an executive perspective of the pedagogy.

Who is the typical EMBA candidate?

Unlike traditional MBA programs, the typical EMBA student averages 35 to 40 years of age, with 10 to 15 years of post-university work experience. Accordingly, attaining the skills required to effectively lead others is a primary element of the value proposition for the EMBA student-customer. This involves not only learning what has been codified about leadership, per se, but also acquiring the critical interpersonal skills associated with successful leadership execution.

What separates EMBA faculty from traditional MBA faculty?

The ideal EMBA faculty resources are educators with actual business experience to augment their academic credentials. Many EMBA programs supplement their academic faculty with members of the business community who serve as guest lecturers.

How are EMBA programs serving employers?

The case has never been clearer. Several factors have emerged in recent years to accentuate the relevance of EMBA programs to the strategic agenda of the business community. First, the globalization of business means employers will need a new breed of midmanagers conversant in the global enterprise, experienced in multinational virtual teaming and willing to continuously learn. Second, recent dramatic demographic population shifts, such as the retirement of the baby boomer generation, are creating a mentoring and coaching void in the workplace that EMBA students are being prepared to fill. Finally, the next generation of senior managers is far more likely to engage in career mobility than their predecessors, meaning that retention of high performers is a crucial initiative for organizations.

EMBA programs historically have been a proven way for an organization to support identified high-performing midmanagers whom the organization wishes to retain while, at the same time, influencing the selection of the particular program that best suits its own specific needs. In many parts of the world, some universities have even been engaged to deliver EMBA programs in-house to actualize this value proposition.

What is the greatest business challenge addressed by EMBA programs?

With succession planning having been identified in some business publications as one of the greatest challenges facing business in the new century, new senior managers need to be equipped to lead without the benefit of in-house mentors and coaches. And these new senior managers need to know how to mentor and coach others. Many EMBA programs are intensifying their focus on this critical ‘soft skill’ development.

Other trends are clearly just beginning to materialize, and their impact will be significant. While graduates of business schools around the world continue to populate the entry-level employee ranks with future managers via their traditional MBA programs, EMBA programs are uniquely positioned to create exceptional value for experienced managers, their current and future employers, and the business community at large.

DR. MICHAEL S. SALVADOR is chairman, Department of Leadership and Executive Development, Coles Executive Education Programs, Coles College of Business, Kennesaw State University. Reach him at (770) 499-3685 or