January 14, 2011

What leaders really need to know

Long ago, in an economy far, far away, companies would cover the full cost of their executives earning MBAs. Call it an investment in the company – as long as the new MBA stayed with the firm.

Also call it an investment in personal advancement. According to a new survey by the Executive MBA Council, the average salaries and bonuses of working execs enrolled in MBA programs rose 11.4 percent last year compared with a 9.4 percent increase in 2009. Thirty-seven percent of students reported receiving promotions and 68 percent said they received new responsibilities during their program time.

While the demand for executive education remains strong, since the economic meltdown of 2009 firms have been less willing to send their people back to school full time. Leaner staffs mean individuals can’t afford the time away from work, and, let’s face it, the tight job market has made it easier for employers to cut such costly perks. A full MBA from the University of Phoenix can range anywhere from $27,000 to $37,000 depending on the area of concentration, according to Brent Seifried, campus director at the Fort Collins Learning Center.

“In this global economy, executives have to stay current to gain a competitive edge,” Seifried said. “Everyone is putting in a lot of hours at the job and busy with their families, so where do you fit in that training?”

Enter the executive MBA and related programs, designed for people who are in the middle of successful careers and can’t take two years off to earn a degree.

“The three things that keep people from investing in their education are time, money and fear, the fear that they might not learn the right information to benefit them and their company,” Seifried said.

To help alleviate that fear, the University of Phoenix offers a completely online core MBA program of 36 credits, with 15-credit concentrations available in specific areas such as energy management, project management or small business management. Students take one six-week class at a time and can finish the program in 18 months, but there is some flexibility to allow for the schedules of working adults, Seifried said.

Genuinely helpful tools

“Companies are looking for much more easily accessible programs,´ said Michael Leonard, director of Leadership Education at the Monfort Institute, part of the Monfort College of Business at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. “They want good solid training, but they also want genuinely helpful tools their people can take back to the organization and build on.”

To meet that need, the Monfort Institute has put together a series of five half-day workshops based on the Performance Excellence model employed by the Malcolm Baldrige award process. Monfort College received a Baldrige award in 2004. The topics range from strategic thinking to developing people, and each workshop can be taken on its own. The sessions are spaced a month apart and attendance is capped at 20 participants.

“The Sustainable Transformation program deals with managing and increasing performance, and gets to the heart of how to transform an organization or department into one that is high-performing,” Leonard said. “The response has been quite good; we are currently offering our second series, with participants from as far away as south of Denver.”

The workshops are held at the UNC location in Centerra in Loveland, and registration for each standalone session costs $399. Companies who want to send several executives through the training can get a group discount of $249.

The Monfort Institute has also partnered with Poudre Valley Health System, another Baldrige recipient, to offer an intensive two-day health-care specific version of the workshops for $1,995 in March.

Colorado State University’s College of Business has also developed leadership training in the half-day format. The next five-workshop series, designed for executives and leaders of nonprofits, begins Jan. 14 at The Ranch in Loveland, and costs $250 per session, according to Jim Francis, director of the Center for Professional Development and Business Research in the CSU College of Business. Topics include working with volunteers and building a viable board of directors, and can be taken alone or as a series.

“At this point in time, there is an opportunity cost to people missing days from work for training,” Francis said. “Not only do they have more job duties, but they are thinking in regards to job security. If you have a job, you want to keep it, and adding education and professional development can help you do that.”

The university also offers a program that leads to a certificate in organizational leadership through its location in Denver. The all-day sessions meet the first Friday of the month for six months, and the entire series costs $4,900, which includes all class materials, lunches, a graduation reception, and what Francis calls the most important aspect, one-on-one coaching.

“After the second, third and fifth session, they see how they’ve implemented what they’ve learned in the real world,” he said. “That’s the advantage of the classroom setting; it’s all about interacting and learning from the other participants who are likely to be facing the same kinds of challenges in their companies.”

Regis University, which has a campus in Fort Collins, offers a hybrid program of online and on-campus sessions that lead to masters in business administration, organizational management and nonprofit management.

Long ago, in an economy far, far away, companies would cover the full cost of their executives earning MBAs. Call it an investment in the company – as long as the new MBA stayed with the firm.

Also call it an investment in personal advancement. According to a new survey by the Executive MBA Council, the average salaries and bonuses of working execs enrolled in MBA programs rose 11.4 percent last year compared with a 9.4 percent increase in 2009. Thirty-seven percent of students reported receiving promotions and 68 percent said they received new responsibilities during their program…

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