Two-for-one Featured

7:00pm EDT November 25, 2007

In today’s ultracompetitive business environment, companies need every edge they can get. One such edge is top-quality talent, employees who have a willingness to learn and become leaders.

There’s no doubt that employees who pursue higher education and achieve a master’s in business administration bring more skills to a company than employees who don’t. Just ask Dr. Margaret Britt, professor of human resource management at Mount Vernon Nazarene University in Mount Vernon, Ohio.

According to Britt, employees who hold Master of Business Administration (MBA) degrees have more analytical and conceptual skills that help them to think in new and creative ways.

Smart Business spoke with Britt about what value employees with MBAs can bring to companies and what companies should be doing to encourage their employees to pursue higher education.

What options are available for a company that wants to encourage employees to achieve an MBA?

Many companies will have some sort of a tuition reimbursement program based on a formula for the number of years of service that the employee has attained. Thus, an employee can receive payment from 10 to 100 percent, based on his or her longevity in service. A few companies offer flex hours and partial payments to attend. Some other companies will send their executives to a residential MBA program that meets mainly on weekends. There will be an arrangement that the program will go from Friday night to Sunday night, one weekend per month for about two years. However, these programs are geared only for executives, are expensive and won’t accommodate the majority of students who could benefit from an MBA.

Some employees go to a part-time MBA program at night. Many students complete an accelerated program, similar to the adult program we offer at MVNU. The greatest learning takes place when there’s a real-life application with the graduate theory that’s being learned. This is important since real-life problems will be discussed and potentially solved in the classroom. In this environment, everyone learns valuable lessons. This is part of what Dr. Peter Senge calls the lifelong learning process (1).

What benefit can a company achieve by encouraging employees to get an MBA?

The research team of Zhao, Truell, Alexander and Hill found that people who have achieved MBAs have better skills in problem-solving, leadership and team collaboration (2). Judith Samuelson’s research revealed that people who have achieved MBAs have better analytical and conceptual skills, which enable them to think in new, creative ways (3). In a global economy, this will definitely give these companies a competitive edge. An MBA curriculum utilizes all of these skills with an emphasis on global business.

Which employees should be encouraged to enroll in MBA programs?

Employees who have analytical or quantitative skills and who desire to be in a leadership position make the best MBA students. Also, employees will sometimes inform human resources of their interests for career advancement, so these employees are often good candidates.

What should a company look for when considering an MBA program?

Companies should look at the curriculum and see how this will advance their business as well as their industry. If they want a particular executive to attend an MBA program, then they should look for executive MBA programs. Regional accreditation is also another important factor. Any employee attending an MBA program should check to see if the regional accreditation body has accredited that program. Finally, companies should ask their employees what they think of the programs they’re attending. The human resources department can develop a survey, which should highlight the important factors for the company’s industry that a graduate program should cover. Based on the employees’ responses and the survey, human resources should recommend various programs. However, the most important factor is competitive advantage. Companies should ask, ‘How will this degree enable our employees to gain the competitive edge in our industry?’ and, ‘What will this MBA do for the employee both from a professional perspective and a personal perspective?’

REFERENCES 1. Senge, P. (1990). “The Fifth Discipline.” New York: Random House. 2. Zhao, J., Truell, A., Alexander, M., & Hill, I. (2006, May/June). “Less Success Than Meets the Eye?” The Impact of Master of Business Administration Education on Graduates’ Careers. Journal of Education for Business, 81(5), 261-268. 3. Samuelson, J. (2006). The New Rigor: Beyond the Right Answer. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 5(3), 356-365.

DR. MARGARET BRITT is professor of human resource management at Mount Vernon Nazarene University in Mount Vernon, Ohio. Reach her at (740) 392-6868, ext. 4758. For more information about adult and graduate programs at MVNU, call (800) 839-2355 or visit ags.mvnu.edu.