Studying for an EMBA : Tips to help persuade your employer
Published on 24 February 2021 by NEOMA
- Executive MBA
You’ve given it a lot of thought: you want to do an Executive MBA. From your point of view, you feel you need to restart your career. You want to extend your skills, widen your network, take on new responsibilities, be able to access new posts, and more. But what about your employer? He or she will really need to be persuaded. Here, Olivier Lefaivre, Director of the Business Unit Global Executive MBA at NEOMA Business School gives his advice on the best way of getting them on your side.
1/ IDENTIFY YOUR ALLIES
There will be one single person in your hierarchy who will be able to give you the go-ahead, authorise you to take time off from your original role, pay or help to pay for your training. This is the decision-maker. He or she is the person you must deal with first-hand. Once you have identified him or her, think about his/her career trajectory and personality. A bit of psychology will help you approach this person with a greater chance of success. Who knows, they may see your new qualification as a threat.
But before making an appointment with them, Olivier Lefaivre advises you to obtain the support of a sponsor. “A sponsor is a person who is in favour of your project. They support you, encourage you, reinforce your desire to do an Executive MBA,” explains the Director. “This person must have experience, influence and leadership.” The aim is for them to support your initiative with the decision-maker and give you the key to persuading him or her.
You should also include your family among your allies. Over a period of eighteen months you are certainly going to be less available for them. Make sure you have their support.
2/ SELL YOUR PROJECT
“It’s not so much about persuading a decision-maker as selling an idea to them,” suggests Naveed Mirza, an agile coach. So you don’t just have to respond to their concerns, but also show them what they have to gain from allowing you to study for an Executive MBA.
Your manager wants the work to get done. How are you going to perform your duties when you will not be there for four days a month? “Let your employer see how it will work,” says Olivier Lefaivre from NEOMA. “Make a 6-month schedule, put in the tasks that need to be done, the deliverables to be produced, the events that must take place. Demonstrate that you will be really organised. Explain that you will ensure you are free to attend important meetings. For some tasks you will delegate. Everything is under control, the business will carry on.”
A manager expects their employee to focus 100% on the job in hand. But doing some demanding and difficult training could distract your attention. It could make you less effective. So offer to use your EMBA to help progress the company’s projects. Show that the programme is in line with company strategy. At NEOMA, you will indeed have to produce a Business Plan over several months, called the Capstone Project, so you will be able to address an issue or a development plan from your own company, allowing you to seek expert advice. A win-win situation.
What a manager is most worried about, of course, is spending money for no reason. They are afraid of seeing you leave once you have finished the EMBA, and never seeing any return on the investment. You need to prove, with your calculator in your hand, that they will very soon be reaping the benefit. You will be working on company projects, for which they would have had to employ consultants, experts who cost some thousands of euros per day. The total can soon mount up astronomically. After two or three months, it will be as much as the price of your training. But after two or three months you will still be there, along with your new skills. The operation is therefore very cost-effective.
3/ ACCEPT THE RESPONSE
The best result is when your employer is convinced that this training will bring real added value. He or she thinks you have great potential, and that you are destined for one of the highest roles in the organisation. They give their go-ahead and sign the cheque. “But you should also prepare yourself for a negative response,” advises Olivier Lefaivre of NEOMA. “They may think you already have a great background and that an EMBA is superfluous. You might feel very frustrated. Be careful how you behave, and don’t get into an argument.” Having said that, the answer is more often somewhere between these two extremes, and funding is often a mixed model. The employer may offer to pay half or one third, or to let you train during working hours. “Take time to think about it,” advises the Director of the Business Unit.