Gone are the days when training used to be offered by the organisation for promising employees. The word training has been replaced with ‘upskilling,’ with many executives proactively searching for learning opportunities that help them remain relevant. There is also an increased desire for a meaningful professional life. It manifests in the acquisition of as many skills as possible.
Added to this, the explosion of the edtech market in India has made education reachable, affordable, and precise. Participants can choose a course and the university from various offerings. Learning outcomes have become measurable. And the utility of learning is instantly realisable.
While having a choice is empowering, making a choice can be draining. With various executive education programmes on offer, finding participants enrolled in an ill-considered one is not unusual. It may result in a loss of money and valuable time. Here’s how one can make better choices in a crowded executive education landscape.
Finding a fit
The two-year executive MBA (EMBA) is like being in an interactive laboratory. You are made to put the organisation on a crucible and critically examine its limbs (read functions). Especially on what can go wrong and how the functions can be made to cooperate for the organisation to thrive amid competition. Every stakeholder and its influence on the business is critically studied.
In a nutshell, EMBA integrates thought leadership with skill development. The aim is to build reflective and conscientious managers who will grow with the organisation, eventually climbing the hierarchy to steer it someday. Choose this option if you have at least three years of work experience and desire to engage with an organisation meaningfully.
There are three broad categories of training programmes offered to executives — senior management and leadership development (SMLDP) programmes, functional expertise programmes (FEP), and skill development programmes (SDP). The focus of SMLDP is primarily on developing strategic thinking, crisis management skills, industry appreciation skills, political and influential skills, and personal leadership.
Sometimes the programmes come with a coaching component to prepare the executives to take higher roles. These are for participants in very senior positions with rich experience of around two decades or more who still have the fire to work their way to the top.
Making a leap
On the other hand, FEP is for participants who want to better appreciate different facets of a function and desire to grow within it. Alternatively, it is for those participants who wish to make a functional shift in their careers. Choose an FEP if you have at least three years of work experience with a passion for excelling in a function.
For example, in an SHRM training programme, participants learn all facets of HRM function — right from hiring to personnel exit. They also learn how the function is strategically aligned to serve the business goals. Choose an FEP if you have at least three years of work experience with a passion for excelling in a function.
SDP is meant for those participants who want to learn newer skills that are more visible in the current labour markets. They are supposed to keep the participants in sync with the times and provide alternative pathways.
For example, we see a lot of programmes nowadays on data analytics, digital marketing, AI in business, or even blockchain technology. Anyone interested in learning a skill, irrespective of functional affiliation, is welcome here. It is always good practice to have a conversation with the programme coordinators before registering. It helps assess your fit into their offering.
If the most respected warrior like Arjuna needed coaching right on the battlefield, one could imagine the relevance of upskilling ourselves in these uncertain times. Happy learning.
(Prof Prantika Ray is Assistant Professor and Prof Surya Prakash Pati is Associate Professor, IIM Kozhikode.)