MANAGEMENT EDUCATION IS BACK in demand as the over-hiring in the tech sector is unwinding following the correction of the Covid-powered digitalisation boom.
The cost-cutting and layoffs in the tech sector are forcing young graduates to reassess their career options and hedge against job volatility by acquiring management education.
The conventional companies are using the turbulence in the tech sector to mop up talent to refresh their management cadres. They prefer candidates who bring a combination of tech and management know-how.
However, in the new job market, neither the students nor the employers have much use for the off-the-shelf MBA. While MBA is changing in steps, the world is moving by leaps. The gap between the economy and management education is growing wider instead of narrowing. Management education needs instant and radical upgrades to deliver efficiency and growth in the new economy.
However, bringing the management education ecosystem up to speed is easier said than done. The structures and systems have been around for too long and are deeply invested in the status quo. Most of the attempts to catch up with the knowledge and technology-driven economy are incremental.
The bulk of the business schools are still delivering a 20th century MBA in the 21st century. The mass-market MBA has devalued management education and there has been a growing concentration of students and recruiters in a few elite and innovative institutions, which have responded better to the emerging business trends.
A growing economy needs MBAs who can steer business transformation and competitiveness through great change and uncertainty. The modern MBA needs to reflect the emerging mixed reality of the business universe comprising the physical, online, and virtual realms. Contemporary managers must know and exploit digital means and methods.
The proliferation of technology and its advances are determining the form, aims, strategies, processes, and the competitiveness of businesses. Modern MBA also needs to prepare students to factor in the environment, societal and governance (ESG) imperatives into management.
The students are worried about the returns on their MBA degree, which continues to cost an inordinate amount of time and involves a high financial burden. The employers complain that they have to retrain MBAs after hiring them, not only in organisation-specific work but also in the latest business knowhow. This reflects in the some of the employers’ growing preference for general graduates who can learn management on the job.
The elite and the innovative business schools are trying to cater to the high-fliers who are preferring focused and accelerated management courses over the basic MBA. All India Management Association, which is the pioneer of affordable, distance post-graduate management diplomas in the country, has added a bouquet of new-age short courses to help managers bridge the gap between their generic qualification and the new knowledge and know-how needed in the emerging business environment.
AIMA has recently introduced high-intensity courses in Digital Business Management, Digital Innovation and Transformation for enterprises, Design Thinking for business innovation, Cybersecurity and Data Privacy, and Sustainability Management, and a few others. These 3-6 month courses are offered online and are delivered by experts from top companies and academic institutions. Globally, the most popular management learning programmes are in these kinds of areas, and with 6-12 months’ duration.
However, the conventional MBA continues to be the bread and butter of most of the business schools and young students. The MBA’s core has not changed much in the past hundred years, and it continues to reflect the aims, organisation, and processes of the old economy. It is easy to see, and many experts have pointed to the mirroring of conventional enterprise structures and behaviours in management education.
The foundation of MBA is still built on the blocks of historically separate functions and skills, such as finance, marketing, HR, etc. Most of the regulators and the faculty in business schools have their grounding in the old economy and they struggle to adequately grasp the unprecedented businesses models and the necessary management methods.
There are many aspects of MBA education that are at odds with the new highly digitalised and knowledge-driven economy. One is that the people are merely a factor of production and all the enterprises’ profits come from minimising their cost. Typically, MBA education does not focus enough on handling the workforce as capital.
Another oddity is that the MBA still focuses on the enterprises’ priority of maximizing the margins by penny-pinching, whereas the enterprises in the digital economy are led more by the need for rapid scaling up of revenues and building capacity for high-potential innovations. Also, MBA still does not adequately prepare students for managing the digital-first businesses, such as aggregation and matching platforms for various products, services, and transactions.
While it is the norm in education to teach the past and provide definite answers to specific questions, today’s management education needs to impart not merely the approved information but also the ability to learn further. Given the kind of time and money an MBA costs, it needs to have a long enough validity for the students to recover their expenses and realise a decent return on their education.
Even as business schools try to modernise their education content and delivery, today’s management students rely on multiple sources of learning to build a broader skillset than their predecessors.
Online learning platforms are filling in the gap left by business schools. Management education providers need to acknowledge that technology is now a primary knowledge and skill. They need to enable students to acquire the essential know-how to work with code, data, machine learning, artificial intelligence, online platforms, virtual worlds, and more.
Further, the new generation is becoming more connected with social and environmental politics. The young managers are looking not just up, but also sideways. They have a need to reconcile the rank, power and entitlement-driven management structures with democratic values. They need to balance winning and profits with their concern for equality and environment. They need to learn to leverage diversity without diluting merit. Business schools must try to meet the young students’ learning needs across business, technology, environment, and social management.
While the demand for management education will continue to rise and fall with economic and technological trends, its value at all times will depend on the providers’ ability to keep up with the emerging business models, methods, and morals.
About The Author
Rekha Sethi is director general, All India Management Association (AIMA)
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