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The new MBA: a five-point failure?

The new MBA: a five-point failure?
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First Published: Sun, Jun 20 2010. 08 42 PM IST

Straight and narrow: Most B-school students are theory junkies who flounder if their role doesn’t fit the textbook definition.
Straight and narrow: Most B-school students are theory junkies who flounder if their role doesn’t fit the textbook definition.
Updated: Sun, Jun 20 2010. 08 42 PM IST
Hiring an MBA graduate from a reputed B-school campus is all about acquiring a prized asset. Organizations believe these young minds can make business decisions that will eventually translate into quantum jumps in the company’s balance sheet. This should bea happy honeymoon for both the new recruits and the organization.
It isn’t. Most organizations, after hiring MBAs who come with minimal or no work experience, complain that these recruits are unfamiliar with basic work etiquette. Industry experts put these problems down to lack of exposure or, in some cases, inflated egos. “B-school freshers (MBA graduates with no prior work experience) need to be aware that the organization they join invests a lot in their learning. They need to know that they are potential future leaders and need to be sensitive to the norms, policies and practices (etiquette, dress code) of the organization they join,” says Shivakumar J.S., general manager and corporate head, human resources, Ramco Systems, Chennai.
There are two categories of B-school graduates with no prior experience, explain Pramod Parkar and Alina Menon, senior trainers and business coaches in people development, Edify Consultants Pvt. Ltd, Mumbai: Mr Know-All, the quintessential premier institute graduate, and Mr Know-Nothing, the lost-in-the-woods graduate from a B/C-grade institute. “Both these grads enter the corporate world with no idea of what the real world looks like. It is tough to assess these graduates’ capability to manage everyday work, behaviour at workplace with peers, seniors, customers, vendors during the campus interviews,” says Menon.
Straight and narrow: Most B-school students are theory junkies who flounder if their role doesn’t fit the textbook definition.
But shouldn’t they have learnt the ropes at that elite B-school, with its summer projects and work experience placements? Not necessarily, argue B-school teachers. “This is not just in the Indian context but happens globally too,” says Shekhar Chaudhuri, director, Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta. “Respect for (other) members on teams, a sharing attitude, are values that one believes are taught to students in their homes, hopefully. I am not condoning the B-school freshers’ attitude, but I feel they reflect what society has unfortunately become—money is the only thing that counts. But it is only a matter of disciplining them at the start by organizations and they will come around.”
Jayaram K. Iyer, marketing professor, Loyola Institute of Business Administration (Liba), Chennai, adds, “It is up to the firms to push B-school freshers into the deep end of the pool: They may either sink or come to ground level, but definitely not swim on cloud nine thereafter.”
“Some B-school freshers don’t respect workplace discipline and are often found talking very loudly to each other as well as cracking jokes,” says Joby Joseph, CEO, Freshersworld.com, Bangalore, a job portal for fresh graduates from any discipline. “At one organization,” he recalls, “on the first day of office, some freshers were loudly talking to each other on how ‘bad’ the culture was at the company when their own future manager was standing in the elevator with them.”
Lesson: A constant source of irritation is talking loudly in office premises and cafeteria, and lack of phone etiquette. “No fresher should call attention to himself by talking loudly. Where phone etiquette is concerned, the mobile phone must be on silent mode in the office premises. Be careful not to use funky caller tunes. Always talk softly on the phone and never take calls while at an official meeting,” advises Minocher Patel, founder, director, Ecole Solitaire, a residential finishing school and international corporate training consultancy in Pune.
Communication skills
Some candidates from premier B-schools, who seem promising when they speak, trip up in their written communication. That is why Bhavin Turakhia, founder, chairman and CEO, Directi, Mumbai, has potential recruits submit a written expression of interest (EoI). “It helps us evaluate their vocabulary, sentence formation and their ability to put their point across precisely,” says Turakhia, adding: “Quite often we find EoIs with missing articles, mixed tenses, spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. We have come across EoIs where the first sentence reads, ‘I belong to IT industry’ or ‘I am kind of an assertive person’.”
A related problem is the use of casual SMS-speak, full of awkward contractions and “short forms”, in all communication. “Casual culture or the chalta hai (anything goes) attitude seems to be percolating to written communication,” says Menon, who is a business etiquette coach too.
Lesson: Short-form style is not going to take the B-school fresher as far as formal written communication, Menon says. Turakhia agrees, emphasizing the need for attention to detail. “Since B-school freshers are applying for a business development and marketing position, their communication skills—written and oral—need to be impeccable,” he says.
Aspiring B-school professionals, who would like to make a mark in the corporate world, should groom themselves to be able communicators and work towards building soft skill sets that form an essential element at the workplace, suggests Turakhia.
Pride in performance
Udit Mittal, director of Unison International, a Delhi-based HR solutions company, recalls: “I asked a B-school fresher who we had hired for sales and marketing to verify the addresses and phone numbers from a list in an organization and asked him to share the feedback or status of the person—whether the person still holds the same designation or is still with the company. At the end of the day, he sent a list which had stale information.”
Lesson: No matter how mundane the task, it needs to be done well. “You will not be able to succeed anywhere if you don’t know how work is done at the basic level,” says Ryan Barretto, manager, human resources, i-Mint, a Mumbai-based coalition loyalty programme company (i-Mint is a single card that can be used across a network of brands and local merchants to accumulate points). Mittal says, “To avoid any confusion, understand what is required of you before going ahead and saying you have completed the job.”
Dress code
Mumbai-based Amol Date, head of human resources, South Asia, DHL Express, remembers a management trainee who turned up in formal attire but habitually paired it with Osho chappals. “He managed to go unnoticed for quite a while till he was formally asked to wear shoes,” says Date.
Deepak Kaistha, director and managing partner, Planman HR Pvt Ltd, an HR consultancy firm in Delhi, says: “Young recruits normally do not have the willingness to adhere to a specific defined dress code. Most lack proper knowledge of the importance of defined dress codes in organizations.”
Lesson: Kaistha suggests that dress codes should be clearly explained to all new recruits during their induction programme to avoid embarrassment on all sides.
Flexibility and adaptation
The current B-school system is creating “theory junkies, who only know what they read in books”, says Parkar. But in real-world workplaces, roles are often not as clearly defined and functions deviate from the textbook definition of a role depending on organizational norms and situational exigencies. Devang Vyas, group president, corporate strategy and business development, the Yash Birla Group, Mumbai, gives the example of a fresh MBA hired as a logistics manager who baulked when asked to source infrastructure for his own warehouse.
Lesson: “Often someone has been hired for a particular role, but in several companies employees are expected to multitask and perform functions not in their defined job profile. This sometimes throws freshers into confusion,” says Vyas. Often non-MBA freshers score here, as they start without the preconceived notions of textbook learning, says Date.
Sharad Gangal, general manager, HR, HDFC Standard Life, says: “In (B-school grads) idealism is high; (so) there is difficulty to navigate through the organization process and system. It takes B-school freshers far more time to settle down and they need handholding in the first two years.”
Write to us at businessoflife@livemint.com
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First Published: Sun, Jun 20 2010. 08 42 PM IST
More Topics: MBA | Graduation | Education | Management | B-School |