The Case for the Employer Sponsored MBA
We recently came across this article, where the Dean of Loyola Marymount’s business school eloquently makes the case that, by investing in employees’ continuing education, employers can cultivate a higher-performing, more committed workforce. We agree and want to add our two cents – as two women who have benefitted from access to top MBA programs and now coach those on their journeys to do the same – to the discussion. Here is why we feel there is a strong case to be made for the employer sponsored MBA.
I think we can all agree that, on a societal level, COVID did a number on people’s loyalty to their employers and the connection they feel to their workplace communities (it’s so hard to build relationships via Zoom). In speaking with our clients, many of whom began their jobs during the pandemic, we can definitively say that they have missed out on much of the mentorship and ‘learning by osmosis’ that we both enjoyed in our early careers.
The current state of the economy, with new headlines about substantial layoffs emerging seemingly every day, will further sever the dwindling sense of employee loyalty that remains. This is not new news and the discussion about ‘quiet quitting’ even feels a bit stale at this point.
What hasn’t been discussed to a great enough extent, however, is where we go from here. Our clients, most of whom are two to three years out of college, are the business leaders of the future. What they do and how they lead will not only define their own careers but the careers of the generation that follows.
Part of our engagement with these high potential, young professional clients involves challenging them to share their most ambitious dreams and goals with us. They are a passionate and inspiring bunch, with visions of improving the sustainability of healthcare, transforming workforce readiness, and overhauling the current educational model to make it more equitable and accessible. Passion and work ethic are not dead, we just need to redefine how we nurture and harness them.
Ensuring these young people are set up to successfully actualize these plans is not only great on a societal level. It also makes good business sense. What company wouldn’t want to hire ambitious people with transformative ideas swirling in their heads and the innate confidence to say them out loud when asked, ‘what is your long-term dream job?’
That said, ideas are not enough. As we move into a post-pandemic world with what appears to be a shakeout in the tech sector, the firms poised to benefit most are those who have upskilled their workforces correctly. In addition to having great ideas, our future business leaders must be able to determine whether they are financially viable, communicate them powerfully, and motivate a team to implement them. As MBAs ourselves, we can wholeheartedly say that skills like these were some of the most critical things we took away from our two years on campus. This is where the employer sponsored MBA comes in.
By encouraging and subsidizing employees to further their education with an MBA, whether that is through tuition reimbursement, application coaching or both, companies convey the message that they want a growth-minded, ambitious workforce. Not only will such people self-select into those organizations, they are more apt to be highly engaged and stay there.
The case for the employer sponsored MBA extends beyond a part-time schooling model, where employees remain employed while furthering their skills. It may be less direct and sound counterintuitive, but companies can benefit from encouraging employees to ‘fly the coop’ and attend a full time MBA program. As Sting put it best, “if you love someone, set them free.” Of course, with the right incentives, employees may return to their pre-MBA employer after business school. The top management consulting firms, who offer retroactive tuition reimbursement to high-performing associates who ‘round trip’, have proven this to be the case.
However, the less obvious but perhaps most long-term benefit comes from what we’ll call the ‘network effect’ that is particularly powerful amongst the MBA community. By sending their best and brightest off to the top MBA programs, companies deploy strong advocates and ambassadors – evangelists, even – of their corporate culture and the growth opportunities they offer to employees. In turn, employers strengthen their position in the fight for top talent.
About the Authors
Katie McQuarrie is Vantage Point MBA’s Director of Marketing and a Senior Admissions Consultant
Melody Jones is Vantage Point MBA’s Co-Founder and President