Education – a Benefit or a Value?

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Written by Tom Adams, Founder and Chairman of Quantic School of Business and Technology

In previous decades, investing in employee talent was considered standard. Back in the 1980s, corporate Universities were all the rage and there were plenty of companies focused on developing their own home-grown management talent. The employer-employee relationship was mutually beneficial and both sides understood it.

But over the years, things started to change. The recession gave rise to a glut of under-employed and unemployed talent, leading to a competitive environment that gave employers the upper hand. Employers moved away from investing in their employees’ long-term career development and training. The world of work moved towards a far more transactional nature; involving frequent restructures and an expectation of job hopping that became the default for young workers. Coupled with the rise of the gig economy, employers had the opportunity to bring on short-term help when they needed it without the overheads.

As a result, investing in rising stars became a lower priority for many companies. Emphasis on retention was lost to increasingly competitive employee attraction tactics and contract work. Millennials felt it. A 2016 study reported that millennials were job hopping at rates that far surpassed other generations and were the least engaged at work among other generations, with 16% saying they were “actively disengaged”, meaning, they were “more or less out to do damage to their company”.

Then Covid-19 hit and things changed again. Many workers have reassessed their priorities. In the US, certain sectors have seen workers quitting in record numbers. In the UK, there are reports of employers struggling to fill vacancies. Employers are now sensing that they need to get workers back – but simply increasing compensation isn’t going to be enough. Trust needs to be restored, with employers demonstrating that the employer-employee relationship can be committed rather than simply transactional.

Supporting workers in their education is one way to start healing the rocky relationship between employers and workforce, while increasing the output, innovative thinking, and loyalty of employees. In research from the US, 87% of millennials said “professional or career growth and development opportunities” were important to them in a job. As Richard Branson once said, “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to”.

Today companies have an opportunity to go further. Seeing education as just another box to tick in a checklist of benefits on the recruitment menu is missing half the point. Supporting learning and development as a value rather than simply as a benefit means taking a different view. To take it a step further, the best companies view ongoing education as a strategic imperative that permeates the culture of the entire organisation. Investing in staff in this way is about taking a long-term view – valuing the personal development of people and their education has intrinsic benefit. Providing financial support for education is a show of trust; trust that the person is prepared and able to undertake the work required for their studies as well as their job, and trust that the results will be mutually beneficial.

MBAs remain the gold standard for top talent with strong ambitions for their career. As the world recovers from the pandemic, GMAC has reported that the percentage of recruiters planning to hire MBAs is projected to increase from 77% in 2020 to 89% in 2021. The broad base of the MBA curriculum is about enabling specialists to become generalists – and in today’s MBA intake this does not need to be limited to sectors traditionally associated with MBAs such as banking, law and consultancy. At Quantic we have seen engineers, technologists and social innovators equally able to apply their learning from the MBA programme to their sector. Highly skilled individuals are able to take their specialism to the next level in management and growth with the additional knowledge and experience introduced by the MBA. More than 90% of Fortune 500 respondents to a survey by the Graduate Management Admission Council said they were confident or highly confident in a graduate business school’s ability to prepare students to be successful in their organisation.

At Quantic, our programme has also been designed from the outset to help people overcome the usual barriers that prevent people studying for an MBA. From the student’s point of view, the fact that Quantic students can study from anywhere in the world, at a time to suit them and at their own schedule, means they can fit the MBA around their other commitments. These benefits also work equally well for the employer; the flexibility of the programme means that students can remain in full-time employment whilst studying. There is also no escaping the fact that cost is a significant barrier for those considering an MBA – with many students turning to their employer for support. According to the 2020 EMBAC Membership Program Survey, which included 1,619 students from 60 EMBA Programs, 17.6% of students received full sponsorship and 28.6% partial sponsorship for their studies.

By creating a programme that is online first (not a traditional programme that has simply moved online in response to the pandemic) and a tuition model that leverages a network of corporate sponsors, we have been able to make our courses significantly more affordable. An employer can support 20 students through Quantic for the equivalent cost of supporting just one student completing an Executive MBA from Wharton. Furthermore, two-thirds of employers said the ability to navigate the challenges of technological disruption has become more important as a skill as a result of COVID-19. What better place to start than completing a formal qualification through remote learning – involving remote (as well as in-person) networking and collaboration.

When an employer supports an employee through educational programmes it demonstrates that they are doing something they believe to be beneficial for that person. What is good for the employee is good for the employer, and working on that basis, both are then aiming for outcomes that are mutually beneficial. For those with the highest ambitions, the opportunity is too great to ignore.

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