THE MBA qualification came about because of demand from a group of business people wanting to know more about their field, to better understand and enhance their own enterprises. Before the MBA was first mooted in the 1900s, education in business was much like a trade school – no basic knowledge was really required, despite the fact that business is truly a complex machine. Some of the practitioners realised this, and decided that a higher education degree would be just what was needed to address the vacuum in existing knowledge.
Within the hundred or so years that it has been in existence, the MBA that we are familiar with is one that has evolved to meet the current demand for niche specialisations, and the needs of the mercurial business environment. While it had begun as a general qualification for people who wanted to sharpen their business prowess, the knowledge from such an education increased their market value – and created a demand for more people with such qualifications.
A Variety of Management Skills: An MBA is a postgraduate qualification of choice usually based on one of these three reasons: to enhance business skills, to obtain specific knowledge and to nurture interpersonal skills.
One of the advantages of an MBA is that you can gain a better insight on the challenges facing the business sector. Obtaining specific knowledge in industries that you practice in or intend to practice in is often necessary to improve the level of competition. For example, noting the significance of the retail and hypermarket industry, UNIRAZAK offers an MBA in retail and hypermarket. This sector plays an important role in view of encouraging growth and expansion of retail stores and hypermarkets in Malaysia, yet we observed that not many people are formally trained to meet the needs of the industry. If we don’t address this now, in three years’ time, Malaysia may face another human capital shortage that will be too late for us to resolve.
Without an MBA, certain skills would normally take decades to develop through work experience.
An important aspect of an MBA is that the courses should include case studies, where students are required to apply what they have learned into situations that they might very well face in their working lives.
People are inherently varied; and these diverse characteristics can often give rise to complex situations. This is especially so in Malaysia, where our society is richly diverse in ethnic groups, social background and religious beliefs. For example, let’s say you are a factory manager and 40 per cent of your staff wishes to take a week off for a religious holiday. But you also have to meet a production deadline around the same time as this holiday. What do you do? You can’t deny their right for leave, but at the same time you have a responsibility towards your business. You have to find a balance between practicality and compassion or social desirability.
These are the things that managers need to be aware of. If they are unable to deal with it in a competent manner, workers will become demotivated, and they might leave the company.
A side benefit of the large MBA classes, numbering between 30 and 60 students, is that it gives you the opportunity to get into contact with people from a wide range of businesses and corporate entities. An MBA is not just about gaining textbook knowledge; it’s about learning skills like networking that benefit you in day-to-day operations as well.
A Lifetime Investment: A question that potential MBA students should give thought to is where they are going to pursue their MBAs. Will you choose to pursue it locally or overseas? Limitations like family and work commitments may remove the choice of studying overseas for you, but if you do study overseas, another question arises: a regular institution, or one with name recognition?
This is where you have to calculate your return of interest (ROI) before you make a decision. Reputable universities may cost up to RM 500,000 for an MBA, but it also comes along with a much higher ROI, as employers are more likely to recognise their value. You also have to take into account the fact that the industry in Malaysia may not be able to support the higher level MBAs in terms of payment. Say you graduate with an MBA from Oxford and are expecting a salary of RM30,000 to RM40 000
a month; is that a practical expectation for working in Malaysia? Would you then have to consider a career overseas, and what is the realistic job market like there? In the end, you have to ask yourself what is the ROI of your MBA, and is it what you want from your career.
What Employers Want: The European Foundation for Management Development has found in their research that the top five MBA competencies that employees consider important are managing strategy and innovation, strategic and systems skills, knowledge of general business functions, managing the decision-making process, learning, motivation and leadership competence, and generative thinking abilities like innovation and analytical thinking.
This gives us a clear picture of the kind of management education we need to prepare our students with. For a quality MBA, we should ensure that there is a blend of theory and practice that involves both academicss and corporate practitioners in the classroom. The value of an MBA is greater when the two worlds of theory and practice are well-assimilated and integrated in the teaching and learning of business education.
Professor Datuk Dr Zabid can be reached for any feedback firstname.lastname@example.org