Employers now increasingly seek graduate hires with sector-specific specialist MBAs in a variety of fields. ‘Hard’ skills of analytical and strategic thinking are still important, but soft skills such as oral and written communication, presentation skills, adaptability and the ability to negotiate are becoming increasingly important. Recruiters still do not consider job seekers from online business programmes to be of the same calibre as those that have graduated from a face-to-face MBA programme.
Industry is seeking specialist MBAs - and business schools are reacting to this increased demand. The Dean of Imperial Business School, Professor G. Anandalingham, emphasised that an MBA is “the premium, flagship programme – hence schools should partner with corporates to produce the kind of graduate they are looking for”. Due to a changing landscape for employers, graduates and business schools, employers do not necessarily want staff to possess a financial services MBA, but now seek graduate hires with sector-specific specialist MBAs in a variety of fields. This was reinforced by GMAC (the Graduate Management Admission Council) data of “64% of Deans expecting MBA programmes to increasingly specialise”, while for Johnson & Johnson, “specialist masters come into play for specialist skills”.
A recurring theme throughout the event was that employers are in desperate need for MBA graduates with ‘soft’ skills. As the 2014 GMAC Employer survey demonstrates, the days when the ‘hard’ skills of analytical and strategic thinking dominated are over, and it’s oral and written communication, presentation, adaptability and the ability to negotiate that industry are asking the schools to teach their students. Accenture, for example, introduced a ‘soft’ skills measurement technique which combines “defined critical characteristics for success, which are assessed by behavioural questions”.
A discussion of the future of learning covered the topics of moving towards a blended model of MBAs and experiential learning replacing classroom based learning, and how both can be of benefit to employers. Yet the evidence is that corporate recruiters are still immensely reluctant to consider MBA graduates from online business programmes.
The Association of MBAs’ annual Employers Forum, held at Imperial Business School last week, attracted 24 leading multi-nationals (including KPMG, Goldman Sachs, Bloomberg and BP) and recruitment and career managers from 22 AMBA-accredited business schools.