Growing your human capital Featured

8:00pm EDT October 26, 2009

Today’s sluggish economic conditions may be just the start of a lengthy recession. And while experts point fingers and prognosticate, employers large and small still have a business to run.

To keep their doors open, employers are downsizing through layoffs, enacting hiring freezes and implementing early retirement packages. It’s a scary time to be an employee.

“The question is, who is tough enough, capable enough and committed enough to help employers get through these challenging times?” says Anthony Rohach, Esq., MBA, J.D., associate professor, Delaware Valley College. “An MBA can certainly provide a strong signal that you can.”

Smart Business spoke with Rohach about why now, more than ever, employees with advanced skills will be in high demand.

How does an MBA add value?

An MBA improves the most important source of wealth for most people, ‘human capital.’ Most people aren’t born with a well-diversified portfolio of securities and real estate holdings. Most people have to build their own wealth by contributing what they have in most abundance — human capital — or to put it another way, ‘what can I do that adds value?’ It doesn’t matter if the value added is for yourself, in the case of an entrepreneurial operation, or by adding value to an existing entity as an employee. Added value can take the form of improved decision-making capability and greater appreciation of the balance between business research and application. After all, an MBA isn’t going to be hired to take tests, he or she will be hired to understand the underlying nature of business problems and bring together both theory and practice to arrive at an effective solution set.

In what specific ways does an MBA enhance human capital?

The improvement to human capital that an MBA adds takes many forms. However, the main goal of enhanced human capital is to improve productivity. Through an MBA, this is accomplished by providing increased direct business knowledge and the ability to seek new knowledge by improving research skills. MBA training also improves analytical and problem-solving skills as well as improving leadership development and superior critical thinking and reasoning skills. Written and verbal communication skills are emphasized because communication attributes — whether internal or external to the organization — are the cornerstone of an organization that understands marketplace needs and can execute internally to provide those needs. It also provides an important global perspective on business operations and strategy and hones strategic thinking skills. Futher enhancement to human capital occurs when the productivity of an MBA has a synergistic effect on other employees, which also enhances total labor productivity.

Why is an MBA so critical during volatile economic times?

While pursuing an MBA, networking opportunities become available through classmates and teachers. This may aid in seeking employment. And, even though the economy is going through a rough patch, not every employer is going out of business. Despite the certainty of current layoffs and the probability of future layoffs, employers still have to run their businesses. The significance of fit provided by an MBA is important in turbulent economic times when employers tend to lay off employees who are marginal, but either keep or seek new employees with qualifications that tend to be successful at their particular organization.

How does an MBA enhance personal success and well-being?

An MBA aids in helping individuals to find the right job for their respective skill sets as well as the right opportunity to utilize those skills. The training can facilitate finding and developing skill sets they may not even know they possess. It’s only when people are in a position where they have to accomplish tasks that they never would have initiated on their own do they truly discover what they are capable of doing. For instance, most people are terribly afraid of public speaking and will avoid it at all costs. However, most MBA programs emphasize clear and effective communication techniques, including public speaking. It has been my experience that most people have some self-imposed limitations that come with well-established comfort zones developed over time. An MBA program places you in a position where you must come out of those comfort zones to create a new personal and professional environment and a new definition of success.

What does an MBA really represent to potential employers?

An MBA operates as a signal to potential employers that as a possible employee, you possess both advanced skills sets and a desire to be successful. This is indicated by the willingness to spend the time, effort and money to gain such advanced training. This signal also tells employers that you are capable of understanding a wide range of business issues on an advanced level. After all, if you can’t understand the problem, how can you provide an effective solution set?

An MBA signals that you are an advanced problem solver capable of dealing with constantly changing facts to arrive at effective solutions. This capability allows employers to be confident that you can do the job.

ANTHONY ROHACH, Esq., MBA, J.D., is a tenured associate professor in Business Administration on the undergraduate and graduate level, Delaware Valley College, in Doylestown, Pa. Reach him at (215) 489-2929 or Anthony.Rohach@delval.edu.