MBAs are particularly relevant for HR practitioners who are looking to broaden their business knowledge. HR Leader examines the process of choosing the ideal MBA school and program and how to get the most out of an MBA
While an MBA is a respectable credential for
any business professional, HR
practitioners possibly stand to gain the
most from an MBA, compared to their
peers in other functions.
Historically, there has been a
considerable gap between what HR folk
learn at university and what they
experience in the real world of business.
While this gap is closing at some tertiary institutions, HR professionals
often have to turn to other sources to bring their skill set up to speed with
the expectations of most senior management teams.
For this reason, MBAs are a particularly effective option for HR
professionals seeking to increase their business credibility and nous.
However, MBAs are not cheap, with prices in excess of $60,000 for the
top programs in Australia. Given MBAs also require a significant
investment in terms of time and effort, experts agree that it is worth HR
practitioners’ while to do their MBA homework before signing up with
one of the more than 40 Australian business schools that offer MBAs.
Doing your homework
All business schools around the world are ranked by organisations such as
the UK-based Financial Times, the US-based Business Week and the Wall
Street Journal and Economist Intelligence Unit.
Jennifer George, dean and director of
Melbourne Business School, says it tends to be
true that higher ranked schools are going to
attract better students and faculty members, and
they’re going to indicate something about the
placement and career prospects of people from
the program. “Your fellow students are going to
form your future network and because you care
about the value of your education in 30 years
time, you should also care about the network
that you will take with you,” she explains.
It is also important to look at the quality of
the prospective program faculty, she adds.
“You need to find out if the faculty actually
care about business,” says George, who says it is
worth considering whether the business school
has regular consulting relationships and/or
strong business connections, the number of
times business people come into the school to
speak, whether it has student clubs that are
engaged with business and facilitated by faculty
members, if its career placement services
network with the business community, and if
students get the opportunity to do real-life
projects that are actually based in companies
and on live cases.
“The third thing you should think about is
how effectively your business school will help in
your future job search,” says George. “Look for
schools with good placement statistics. These
statistics form a regular part of rankings and
schools do collect that data so ask for it.”
The alumni network is another thing to think
about, and George says it’s important to
consider how engaged the alumni are, whether
the school has international alumni chapters in
parts of the world where you wish to work, and
if the alumni returns to the school to engage
with current students.
Advice from the field
Graham Rowe, manager – organisational
development and learning for General Motors
International Operations in Shanghai, says there
were a number of major learnings outside of his
vocational area of HR that came about through
his completion of AGSM’s executive MBA.
“It gave me a great grounding in areas that I
have not had a lot of experience, but which are
becoming increasingly important in my role. I
particularly liked the broad nature of the course
– it covers accounting, finance, data analysis and
economics, all the way through to softer topics
such as HR and managerial skills,” he explains.
“It drives a structured and strategic approach
to thinking, and provides the tools and
resources to execute this type of thinking,” says
Rowe, who adds that he also enjoyed the
opportunity to work with people from other
industries and to increase his personal network.
For HR practitioners considering an MBA,
Rowe says it is important to do your research.
“Really think about why you are doing the
course and what you want from it,” he
recommends. “Think about the time
commitment, and choose a course after you
have considered your individual needs and how
the course will meet those needs.”