Executive Education: Why Learning Shouldn’t End with an MBA

Executive Education: Why Learning Shouldn’t End with an MBA main image

If you thought that taking an MBA at a top business school would teach you everything you needed to know for the entire duration of your career, you might want to think again.

More and more business schools are emphasizing the need to keep pace with changes that affect every industry in every location – from uncertainties and fluctuations in the market, to game-changing technological innovations.

That’s where the concept of lifelong learning and executive education comes in. And it’s something that HEC Paris’ Inge Kerkloh-Devif wants to inform its MBA alumni community about.

The executive director for global business development with HEC Paris’ executive education wing says that the longer careers awaiting today’s MBA graduates only serve to increase the chances that their industries will be affected by the kind of disruptive innovations that necessitate a rethink in their business approach.

A means of following the concept of lifelong learning

“People really need to come back to school – not looking for a degree but perhaps for an open program or certificate,” Kerkloh-Devif says, adding that these executive education options give MBA alumni the chance to update their knowledge and to specialize in new areas.

HEC Paris recently topped the FT’s combined executive education rankings, and it’s a format that fills Kerkloh-Devif with enthusiasm. A graduate of master’s in executive education at HEC Paris herself, she says the format has had a huge impact on her professional life.

A primary reason for this is that executive education provides a means of fulfilling the concept of lifelong learning that is instilled in MBA students before they graduate from business school.

Kerkloh-Devif has been tasked with increasing HEC alumni network’s awareness and understanding of executive education and how the possibilities within the format have grown along with recent developments in the market. 

Executive education goes global

The school’s executive director thinks the possibilities presented by executive education have exploded recently, largely due to the increasing availability of technological advancements.

“I really believe that executive education is already, but is becoming even more, of a global marketplace. There are a lot of new players coming in from different regions of the world and because of the technology, so it’s a growing market, a more and more global market,” she says.

A large part of this is demand and appetite for executive education is coming from emerging markets. Here, an entirely new set of circumstances brought about by rapid economic progress and development has fuelled companies’ desire to train and to nurture their talent effectively – as well as to start turning a watchful eye to employee retention as they strive to keep expanding.

Alongside meeting the lifelong learning requirements of business school graduates, Kerkloh-Devif thinks that serving the needs of such economies is executive education’s most prominent raison d’être right now.   

The demand among emerging markets

“I don’t like to call them emerging markets, but developing markets, because they’re not so emerging anymore – they’re already there. They have such huge needs in the executive education market because they are facing all these new opportunities and they don’t have enough managers,” Kerkloh-Devif says.

Executive education can play a role in allowing companies to take advantage of new prospects and to meet the challenges of expansion. She talks of the widely-known expansions in China and the Middle East, but also in Malaysia, Indonesia as well as in Africa – where she says HEC Paris has trained people on a governmental level – to help them manage unprecedented levels of investment arriving from overseas.

In many cases in emerging markets, companies are looking to make use of customized programs – one of executive education’s two main formats.

Customized programs are courses that can be designed on the basis of a company’s specific needs. The program can then offer companies the chance to work towards solutions for a particular project. For example, multinationals often employ such programs as a vehicle to bring together colleagues in different countries.

Today, customized programs are trending in two areas according to Kerkloh-Devif – companies hoping to move onto a global level and those who are looking to kick start change and transform an organization.

HEC Paris highlights importance for employee retention

In emerging markets, however, companies will often seek to throw some business essentials into the mix of their customized program projects for management staff that are less likely to have had access to formalized business training in the past.

“Sometimes they need more fundamentals. It’s a different approach but technology is helping us,” Kerkloh-Devif says in explaining the change in tack needed for those lacking the advantage of an MBA under their belts.

However, Kerkloh-Devif believes this is an important step to make in terms of employee retention. She outlines an example scenario in which a company in a fast-growing market has been recruiting local talent for a couple of years and is now ready to move these employees up to C-level positions or higher management roles.

We can see here the role executive education can play in employee retention, facilitating internal progression and allowing ambitious workers to achieve their career goals.

And it seems commonsensical that commissioning a company-wide program (for those with the resources) can have much more of an impact on employee retention than encouraging, or even sponsoring, individuals to pursue an online program because of the power of collaborative and hands-on learning in driving ideas forward and building team spirit.

“When it comes to executives, at one stage I think you need the in-class experience because you have this peer-to-peer learning, the network, and the interactivity with the professor in a very small group,” Kerkloh-Devif surmises in weighing up the benefits of in-person executive education; a perspective which will no doubt be familiar to anyone who has contemplated or completed a traditional MBA program…

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Written by Tim Dhoul

Tim is a writer with a background in consumer journalism and charity communications. He trained as a journalist in the UK and holds degrees in history (BA) and Latin American studies (MA).

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