02 Feb 2018 21:41 IST

What India Inc expects from MBA graduates

Management graduates at interview

Fresh B-school graduates are expected to display balanced intelligence and emotional quotients

Indian employers clearly look at three components while hiring students from premier B-schools: the knowledge component (facts, frameworks and theories), the practice component (doing and execution) and the ‘being human’ component (values and ethical boundaries, commitment to organisation, attitude, and beliefs towards work, optimism and empathy).

Premier B-schools in India are strong on preparing students in analytical skills, that is, in the knowledge component, but not in ‘practice’ or ‘being human’, which are at the heart of practical management across segments. Employers clearly expect certain functional roles to be filled by fresh MBA graduates, along with a hands-on approach to work. This indicates that while designing the curricula, business schools must retain a focus on their current strength in the knowledge component, while augmenting stress on the practice and being human components.

Practical approach

‘Practice’ means executing policies effectively by recognising organisational realities. This approach involves team work, people management and building perspective. It can be done through ‘action-learning’ labs or ‘track trips’ focussed on specific areas such as analytics, sustainability, entrepreneurship, innovation and the like.

It could also be a trip to a specific type of company or a geographic region to facilitate hands-on experience away from the campus for a few weeks to build real-world critical thinking skills to help students sense opportunities and define problems in the corporate world. This will also help the students focus on a particular area of interest before choosing elective courses.

The ‘being human’ component means understanding the moral principles that anchor a person in one’s career and commitment to organisation, while developing adaptability, a positive attitude towards work and life, by leveraging the power of integrative thinking.

This can be achieved through additional immersive programmes that may be two or three weeks long and that specifically focus on such themes as effective teamwork, ethics and social responsibility, leadership and corporate accountability, social innovation, and the like. This is where the challenge lies for for B-schools, because these components are not easily developed in a classroom setting and call for more experiential methods of learning.

Strategic roles

Recruiters in the initial years expect MBA graduates to handle functional roles such as the client-customer relationship, business development and intelligence, moving on to market analyst, brand manager, digital marketing executive and manager, social media manager, sales manager, operations manager, and the like. These roles imply a practice component or a hands-on approach towards work.

Those recruited from management schools are assigned strategic roles. They are placed as ‘executive assistant managers’ to senior business leaders and are expected to help them in strategy formulation and work as a resource team for them. Generally, MBAs are expected to play supportive roles to the middle level management, who are team leaders, to formulate policies and set directions. Their main role, in the initial years, is execution and implementation.

The ‘being human’ aspect is reflected in the workplace after gaining five to six years of work experience, when the MBAs reach the middle-level management cadre and work as team leaders and business leaders. They must be sensitive enough to the social impact of business and the ethical standards that are expected from them in strategy development.

The new roles and skills that corporate world now demands from MBAs require a different kind of curriculum and business schools need to rebalance their curricula if they are to re-establish the value addition they offer to corporate world.

This indicates that B-schools in India must balance all the three components in developing holistic business managers who can have a balanced intellectual and emotional quotient to face the daily challenges of the corporate world.