Urged to undertake MBA

I work for a larger SME in the senior HR ranks. The CEO is urging everyone at our level to undertake an MBA.

Dear Laurence,

I work for a larger SME (150 employees) in the senior HR ranks. The CEO is urging everyone at our level to undertake an MBA in order to get a better understanding of the business and its future potential. How important do you think formal education in this space will be for an HR leader like me? Are there other ways of building that knowledge without going so deep into what seems to be a completely different functional area?

Reluctant master, Jakarta

Laurence SmithThere are several interesting aspects to your question. One is: the CEO is urging you to do this, but are they funding it? If they are, I think this is a great opportunity and you should take it. If not, I suggest as senior HR leader and representing the others in the management team, you ask the CEO to align their words and actions and support the funding, as each of you will be committing your time to do this.

Generally speaking, I would recommend HR leaders who get the chance to do an MBA to take it, because I do think building that broader organisational skillset that an MBA offers is very valuable and far too many HR people are too insular, inward looking, and administrative focused. Building the broader business savvy I think would be ideal, as would the value of the network that you will build.

The other part of your question asks if there are alternatives. There are indeed, but they also take time and effort. So I highly recommend that if HR people get the chance to do a cross-function assignment, a short-term rotation, or even take on a line management role for a few months, to do so.

In many organisations that is difficult, and an MBA might be a better option.

Laurence Smith is a board-level advisor to Smartup.io. With 25 years of working experience in consulting and HR, his career has spanned across different industries and countries, including stints and projects with LG Electronics, GE Capital, McKinsey, the World Bank, and as Managing Director of Learning and Development for DBS Bank.

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