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Management Development Programmes update and improve employee skills.

FACULTY MEMBER, Father Peter Francis, talking to senior executives at LIBA campus, Loyola College.
FACULTY MEMBER, Father Peter Francis, talking to senior executives at LIBA campus, Loyola College.

T.M. Gopal

In this new dynamic scenario, learning continuously is essential. Continuous upgrading of skills will give a distinct advantage to an organisation over its competitors.

"The purpose of an organisation is to enable common men to do uncommon things. No organisation can depend on genius; the supply is always scarce and unreliable... " Peter Drucker in his 1973 book Management

Traditional organisations are changing as globalisation has created global markets and global supply sources. This is having an impact on organisations both large and small irrespective of the nature of their business.

Therefore, in today's dynamic environment, it is not enough to be good in your current environment, but you must have a vision of the future. Everybody knows the world is changing and changing fast. What is new is that predicting change is becoming more and more difficult.

In order to succeed in this fast changing world, forward-looking organisations will need to update and improve the skills of employees, whether management or staff, on a continuous basis.

Therefore, programmes that update employee skills are essential due to the rapid changes taking place in the business environment, the difficulty in envisioning the future, discontinuous change, rapid changes in technology , as an investment, as real life examples for learning and so on. These training programmes combine theory-driven knowledge and real application with the strategies to implement them.

Management Development Programmes (MDPs) are one such tool available to organisations to update and improve employee skills. MDPs can either be long term or short term, and the long-term programmes can be for as long as two years. Typically, these programmes lead to a post-graduate diploma in business management.

These programmes are ideal for middle level management personnel with five to ten years work experience, who have had no formal exposure to management studies. MDPs will help employees take up future positions not only in their areas of expertise, but also in other departments of the organisation. Such programmes are ideal for personnel who cannot take time off from work for a typical two-year MBA programme. The classes for these programmes are usually held in the organisation's training centre in the evening, for about two hours, three-four days a week.

Value addition

The organisation gains not only by upgrading the skills of its personnel, but also by forging a sense of belonging among employees as typically either a portion or the full tuition costs are borne by the organisation.

According to K. Shanker, Managing Director, Technip India Ltd, MDPs for the company have enabled its line managers "who are pure technocrats" to obtain management education. He adds that changes in some of those who participated in the MDP augur well for the organisation.

Similarly, G. Ramesh, Senior Vice-President (HR), Hyundai Motors India Ltd, says that an MDP started for a batch of 24 of the company's managers is likely to help participants and also add value to the organisation on a long-term basis.

"This would prove to be a great value addition, as also provide them the platform to demonstrate their learning in their work spheres," he says. Managers of both organisations are undergoing a two-year executive postgraduate diploma in business management.

Significantly, the trainers themselves learn a lot because of the maturity of the students, and the questions they ask are from real experiences in the workplace. There is also a great deal of participation and trainers really enjoy taking these classes.

One of our faculty members spoke of his satisfaction when some of his students came to him after a particular session and said: "Sir, you are forcing us to think and think differently." I had a similar sense of satisfaction when a student of my marketing management class, which was filled with engineers, told me: "We never knew that there was so much to marketing, and this has been a real learning experience."

There are also medium-term MDPs where the study period can be from three to six months. These programmes typically concentrate on a particular subject that is studied in depth.

The study would be in say marketing, finance, foreign trade, supply chain management and so on. These programmes are tailored for specific organisations and also for the general public. Short duration programmes can range from half-a-day to ten or fifteen days.

These would cover specific new development in different areas of management. It could also cover areas such as communication skills, business etiquette, leadership skills and so on. These types of programmes are very popular and most organisations expose their personnel to such programmes on a continuous basis. These are usually conducted for specific organisations and their employees.

distance education

A recent development in MDPs is distance education. By this I do not mean postal education, but fascinating new uses of communication technology. For instance, we have a satellite-based post-graduate diploma in business management, where the trainer sits in a studio and teaches to a camera that is linked via satellite to many centres throughout the country.

Students visit these centres at pre-arranged times and use a monitor and keyboard to hear the lecture. The student can view the trainer and interact with him in real time using the keyboard.

The advantage of this type of distance education is that the programme is not specifically tailor-made for any organisation and, therefore, any member of the public can enrol for this programme.

Also, though it is a distance programme, it is highly participative as the students and faculty can interact in real time like in a lecture hall.

Another key advantage is that even if the student is travelling and is not in his home city, he can access the tutorial in whichever city he happens to be by checking into a classroom in that city using his unique identity number. These programmes are usually conducted over a period of 14-15 months, with classes being held two-three days a weekfor a duration of two to three hours per session.

virtual university

Another new development is the concept of a virtual university.

The Loyola Institute for Business Administration has an ongoing programme with a virtual university in Singapore, where our students participate in a classroom via the Internet. They are taught by some of the top professors and have access to a large bank of quality case studies. They have assignments and exams via the Internet, followed by weekend workshops-cum-lectures at our institute.

Again, the great advantage of this medium of education is that the student can access his classroom from wherever he happens to be.

Another advantage of this methodology of teaching is a disparate group of people from different working and educational backgrounds can take part. MDPs are essential for any organisation to survive profitably in a fast changing world where technological innovation and globalised markets are the norm.

In this new dynamic scenario, learning continuously is essential. However, the focus has changed from just teaching new skills to individuals, to the organisation itself. Continuous upgrading of skills will give a distinct advantage to an organisation over its competitors.

(The writer is Director, Management Development Centre, Loyola Institute of Business Administration, Chennai).

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated April 3, 2006)
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