For corporations across all industries and locations, one commodity remains precious: talent. Hiring the right employees is a big part of staying ahead, but retaining and investing in the talent you do have is just as vital. How do corporations hang on to talent in an increasingly competitive work environment? Sponsoring an employee’s Executive MBA (EMBA) program may be the solution.
The EMBA, unlike a traditional one- or two-year MBA program, is ideal for executives who already have considerable professional experience and well-established careers. EMBAs are undertaken part-time, which makes them more convenient and practical for executives than full-time study programs.
The format of EMBA programs varies, but the best programs are usually modular. They intersperse residential study periods with chunks of time spent back at the office, allowing participants to apply what has been learned. Though part-time, an EMBA program is a major commitment; a full degree program, condensed into intensive bursts of academic work, can take up to 18 months to complete at our school, INSEAD. Meanwhile, the participant continues his or her usual work duties.
Yet the benefits of this “sandwich learning” are significant – both for the student and for his or her home company as well.
For the corporate sponsor, EMBAs are important tools for improving performance within leadership positions. Most immediately, EMBAs help develop in-house talent, preparing the best executives for the most senior levels of management. An EMBA education helps executives master new management disciplines and create action-oriented solutions for real business situations. These skills are implemented not once the entire program has been completed, but rather as soon as the executive returns to the office after the first module.
While companies reap benefits from having better-skilled executives, sponsoring employees’ EMBAs also pays off in terms of talent retention and recruitment. Employees are much more likely to stay at companies where their career advancement has been made a priority. Few firms would invest tens of thousands of dollars on an employee they did not want to see develop and improve.
In addition, it does not take long for people outside a company to recognize an organization that nurtures talent. Gaining a reputation as a firm that invests substantially in its people makes recruitment easier.
At INSEAD, 80% of our EMBA students have full or partial corporate sponsorship. EMBA students and their parent companies have an understanding that the employer will grant enough time to the student for him or her to attend the learning modules for the 15 or 18 months needed to complete INSEAD’s two EMBA programs.
Some employers go further, not only accepting requests from talented executives to do an EMBA, but also allowing them to choose their preferred school and agreeing to pay half the tuition fees and travel expenses.
Since corporations themselves are offering funding, they want to ensure that their money is being well spent. They expect a good EMBA program to have a leadership component that incorporates all kinds of exercises that feed directly into improved performance at work. These may include: 360-degree feedback on progress being made in the program, group coaching and peer exchanges, which pair off participants to experience each other’s work environments.
These evaluations and feedback mechanisms enable both students and their companies to gauge the incremental and marked improvements in leadership ability being made by students. EMBA programs aim to take students’ learning out of the traditional business-school subject silos and place it closer to the real world of general management, where things are always a little less tidy.
Edward Buckingham is INSEAD’s associate director of EMBA programs. INSEAD offers two EMBA programs: The INSEAD Global EMBA and the Tsinghua-INSEAD EMBA, a dual degree program offered through a partnership with China’s prestigious Tsinghua University.