Employers need specialist MBAs

Imperial CollegeEmployers are increasingly seeking graduates with sector-specific specialist MBAs in a variety of fields, Dean of the Imperial Business School, Professor G. Anandalingham has told the Association of MBA’s annual Employers Forum.

Professor Anandalingham said that “hard” skills of analytical and strategic thinking were still important but soft skills such as oral and written communication, presentation skills, adaptability and the ability to negotiate were becoming increasingly valuable.

He said recruiters still did 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.

Professor Anandalingham, emphasised that an MBA was: “the premium, flagship programme – hence schools should partner with corporates to produce the kind of graduate they are looking for”.

The forum heard that due to a changing landscape for employers, graduates and business schools, employers did not necessarily want staff to possess a financial services MBA, but now sought graduates with sector-specific specialist MBAs in a variety of fields.

This was reinforced by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) data showing that 64% of Deans expect MBA programmes to increasingly specialise, while for multinational company Johnson & Johnson: “specialist masters come into play for specialist skills”.

A recurring theme throughout the event was that employers were in desperate need of 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.

Multinational management consulting, technology services, and outsourcing company 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.

Ben Ready
Ben Ready founded MBA News in 2014 and is the Managing Editor. He is a former business and finance journalist with Australian Associated Press (AAP) and Dow Jones Newswires in London. Ben completed his MBA in 2012 and was awarded the QUT GMAA Entrepreneurship Prize. He is also the founder and Managing Director of RGC Media & Mktng (rgcmm.com.au).