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Executive MBAs Training options for HR MARCH 2017




MARCH 2017

Welcome to HRM Asia’s Annual Sector Guide to Executive Education and Professional Development in 2017 – your onestop guide to the year’s trends and happenings in learning and development strategies. The Masters of Business Administration (MBA) has long been the go-to academic programme for business talents looking to expand their corporate leadership skills and opportunities. But in recent years, a new type of course has been winning over senior-level students. Executive MBAs target the most experienced business professionals, allowing them to study in intensive blocks among a cohort of similarly-placed peers from different industries and types of organisations. Our exclusive cover feature tracks the rise of executive MBAs and how their different curricula are being designed to cater to a very niche demand. This sector guide also considers the rise in training options for HR professionals themselves. Jonathan Ramsay, Head of SIM University’s Master of Human Capital Management programme, explains how the range of choices for HR professional development has exploded in recent years, and is likely to only get broader in 2017.

FEATURES 2 Learning from the best Executive MBAs are fast-becoming the development programme of choice for senior leaders looking to move even further up the career ladder. HRM Asia takes a closer look at the added value these programmes provide through their common focus on group learning

8 Building HR skills Jonathan Ramsay, head of the Master of Human Capital Management programme at SIM University, explains how HR-specialist training is now taking off across a wide range of platforms

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umaira Hayat says she would not be where she is today professionally if she had not undergone a 14-month executive MBA programme in 2011. At that time, she had found herself at a personal and career crossroads, having taken a two-year sabbatical from her work at oil and energy conglomerate Shell to tend to a young family. She had always wanted to do a fulltime MBA degree, but never found the time or opportunity to. So during the break, she started to explore alternatives that would allow her to balance the demands of family with those of the studies. That was when she came across the Global Executive MBA programme at Insead. Today, Hayat is global marketing lead of Shell’s business-to-business fleet sector, and she credits the executive programme for giving her “the right platform to bounce back into her career”. “In a company this big, it can be difficult to move into a completely new area. But now I’m using the knowledge of other industries that I gained through the programme to work across our retail and fuel businesses in value-chain optimisation,” she said.

Executive MBAs are fast-becoming the development programme of choice for senior leaders who want to move even further up the ladder. HRM Asia takes a closer look at the added value these degrees provide through their keen focus on group learning Kelvin Ong

School. “The aim is to ensure that you have the know-how to get promoted to the level of a divisional head, general manager, Chief Operating Officer and CEO,” says Wirtz, adding that these roles often require individuals to run finance, HR, sales, and marketing disciplines. “So you have to be equally competent across functions.” NUS Business School’s Executive MBA programme offers a total of 14 modules across a broad range of subjects, including leadership, corporate strategy, business analytics, managerial economics, corporate governance, and business strategy stimulation. Students learn a mix of soft skills and technical concepts, says Wirtz. The modules are conducted over a 15-month period, spread across six intensive two-week residential segments, consisting of 10-hour classes

each day. Week One of each residential segment is held at NUS Business School, before the cohort flies out to the campuses of an overseas partner university in China, India, Australia, or Indonesia for Week Two of classes. During the overseas portions, students participate in immersive learning through site visits to companies like L’oreal and Hero Motorcorp, and dialogue sessions with industry and political leaders.

Career acceleration French graduate business school Insead’s Global Executive MBA programme also has a core focus on leadership development, designed to accelerate participants’ career progress into leadership positions. The Leadership Development programme, in particular, consists of

Multi-disciplinary Certainly, one of the key benefits of executive MBAs is their ability to equip seasoned professionals who have already progressed to the top of their respective specialisations with the knowledge and skills needed to make the jump into general business managerial roles. It also enables veterans like Hayat to make career switches and move into new functions. These transitions are possible because executive MBAs allow students to learn in-depth about a range of different aspects of business management, from accounting and finance, all the way through to business law and operations management. So says Jochen Wirtz, Vice Dean of Graduate Studies at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Business

“A lot of the learning actually comes from the interaction, not so much from the professors. You gain insights beyond book learning.” Professor Jochen Wirtz, Vice Dean of Graduate Studies, NUS Business School






group coaching, 360-degree assessments and team activities, aimed at developing unique and effective leadership styles. “If you are further along in your career, the executive MBA will help you acquire the bigger business knowledge and skillsets needed to help you develop and grow within your career track,” says Steven Burton, Managing Director of Executive Degrees, Insead.

“Executive MBAs are meant for people who want to move beyond their functional roles into more strategic and leadership roles.” Under its Global Executive MBA, students learn about 11 fundamental business practices including economics, strategy and business ethics, through an approach that combines theory and practice.

Life after the executive MBA: Asia’s bigger paydays


The Financial Times’ annual global executive MBA rankings in 2016 found that the top 30 programmes all reported an average salary growth of at least 30% after students graduated. The Tsinghua-Insead Executive MBA and the Insead Global Executive MBA placed second and fourth on last year’s rankings, recording 63% and 52% salary rises respectively. The National University of Singapore Business School meanwhile came in 17th place, with graduates commanding an average annual salary of more than S$380,000 three years after graduating, an average salary increase of 48%. The highest salary increase among the top 100 schools was seen by graduates of Kedge Business School, whose incomes more than doubled. 2016

School name



Programme name

Salary (S$)

% growth


Kellogg / HKUST Business School






Tsinghua University / Insead

China / Singapore / UAE Tsinghua-Insead / France EMBA





France / Singapore / UAE

Insead Global EMBA




Washington University: Olin


Washington-Fudan EMBA




UCLA: Anderson / National University of Singapore

US / Singapore





Shanghai Jiao Tong University: Antai


Antai EMBA





US / UK China

Ceibs Global EMBA




University of Chicago: Booth

US / UK / China





National University of Singapore Business School


NUS Asia-Pacific EMBA




Nanyang Business School


Nanyang EMBA



Source: The Financial Times



“Our modules are developed to help students apply the theoretical frameworks into their work,” says Burton. This has made unfamiliar curriculum much less daunting for students like Hayat. She says she was initially intimidated by the complexities of the finance function, but found herself breaking down the self-imposed barriers soon after classes began. “My comfort zone got bigger and bigger with every subject and class we completed,” she says.

Similar to NUS, Insead’s programmes also see postgraduate students travelling to each of its three campuses in Singapore, Abu Dhabi and France, providing a global context for class concepts. This resulted in over 50 nationalities being enrolled in its 2016 cohort, with that diversity also becoming a powerful peer-to-peer learning tool. Because most executive MBAs only accept professionals with at least 13 years of work experience, students often find themselves in good company, among very senior auditors, finance managers, brand directors, and other experts from a large number of industries. This allows them to learn from each other’s experiences, rather than from textbooks alone. “A lot of the learning actually comes from the interaction, not so much from the professors,” says Wirtz. “You gain insights beyond book learning,” “In every module, there are people who are real experts in that subject area, who can tell you how it works in a dotcom company in the US, versus a commodities company in Australia.” Steven Ng Ngai, Chief Corporate Officer of OUE Limited, who graduated from the NUS executive MBA in 2015, says the classes provide a platform for “deep-dive” discussions with other busy senior executives about a wide range of topics. “As executives, most of the time we


do not have to opportunity to consider deeper issues and appreciate other perspectives, and views of fellow classmates,” says Ng. “Also in our day-to-day business, we have a tendency to dismiss academic discussion.” He says the visits to different countries around the region, in particular, has helped him to gain deeper insights into how other businesses are run. As Arnold Longboy, Executive Director, Leadership Programmes at London Business School (LBS) further explains, the requirement of a 35-year-old senior manager in an executive MBA programme differs from a 28-year-old MBA student just embarking on their first management role. This means executive MBA students have the advantage of “learning from others who have been executing at the highest levels, not just those who aspire to be at the highest levels”, says Longboy. But LBS’ postgraduate study curriculum also gives participants of both its MBA and executive MBA programmes access to a number of electives. It is thus not uncommon to find both levels of students interacting with each other.

Exposure for employees It is often the employers themselves who send their staff for further studies. These organisations believe executive MBA students can bring fresh insights back to their jobs, says Dr Tan Boon Leing, Head of School of Postgraduate

Studies, PSB Academy. They also feel the added education will help their high potentials to become even more confident and knowledgeable at making difficult decisions for the business, he says. Executive MBA programmes also expose employees to a larger network of senior executives, which will in turn bring about multicultural and multidisciplinary perspectives on business strategy. The University of Hull’s executive MBA programme, offered at PSB Academy, also focuses on coaching and leadership training, where students learn more about their managerial styles and return to the office as more effective leaders, Tan adds. “The executive MBA curriculum is created to enable working professionals to identify new trends and swiftly turn them into opportunities for the organisation,” says Tan. Moreover, while regular MBAs generally have to be entirely self-funded, the tuition fees of executive MBA’s can be covered by employers who stand to benefit from the new skills that attendees acquire from the programme.

All breadth, no depth? One common argument against executive degrees has been their lack of depth. But it’s an issue these programme directors quickly put to rest. The impression that executive MBAs are less comprehensive or rigorous than a full-time MBA comes largely from the

fact that modules are condensed into 14 months, with only six weeks of hands-on learning. But this is a misconception, says NUS’ Wirtz, who is adamant that the Singapore university’s executive MBA curriculum is just as rigorous as that of its MBAs. “Both programmes have very clear-cut learning objectives. Even in the executive MBA, if they don’t put in the time and don’t perform up to standard, we will still take them out of the programme,” says Wirtz. Insead’s Burton says this type of thinking “has largely gone away”. Ten years ago, the belief was that executive MBAs were an option for people who could not qualify for an MBA, he suggests. But executive degrees have since developed and strengthened to the extent that they are highly recognised and equally valued today. At LBS, executive MBA participants earn the same degree as MBA students, so Longboy says the school has to “be sure that EMBA students abide by the same academic rigour for quality assurance purposes”. “Thus, we put a lot of emphasis on setting the right expectations at the admissions stage because we will not compromise on quality.” High entry criteria – from having at least 13 years’ experience, to being in specific management roles – have also increased the prestige of executive MBAs. In fact, EMBA students often express the challenges of balancing both the demands of work and studies. Ng recalls how difficult it was to juggle both the study and his ongoing work. “The requirement to do pre-course assignments and readings, class presentations, exams and post-course assignments were most definitely a big drain on our mental resources,” he says, adding that he used to run in and out of class to answer work calls. “But it is a mental exercise that strengthens our resolve to overcome all hurdles put before us, and it’s all been worth it!”




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HR has always had an important focus on building up learning and development opportunities across the organisation. But it has only been relatively recently that the profession has started to look closely at its own career development. But as Jonathan Ramsay, head of the Master of Human Capital Management programme at SIM University, explains, HR-specialist training is now taking off across a wide range of platforms





Looking at back at 2016, what were the biggest changes that SIM University saw in relation to how HR professionals are building their own skillsets and developing themselves? Training and development is increasingly valued by all types of employees, and there is a growing acknowledgement that both individuals and organisations have a responsibility for career development and the building of skills. This is doubly important for HR professionals, since they are both enablers of this trend and individuals with their own aspirations and career goals. The education and training market is becoming more and more diverse, and this is good news for HR practitioners. Parttime undergraduate and graduate degrees, “nanodegrees”, bite-sized courses, skills-based training… there are so many MARCH 2017 SUPPLEMENT





options for those wishing to upskill. Given the big changes affecting the profession, it’s vitally important that these options are available.

Do you expect these trends to continue in 2017? Are there any other changes on the horizon? Yes, I expect these trends to continue. There will be more diversity in terms of the types of education and training available, as well as the kinds of institutions or organisations that are providing it. It will be increasingly important for HR professionals to have a clear idea of the new skills required, both within their organisation and the wider market, and to be discerning about the trainers and educators they engage with. HR professionals should look to institutions with a strong track-record in HR education, and find a qualification or programme that works for them.

The Singapore government is expected to launch a certification system for the HR profession this year – how do you think

that will impact HR practitioners locally? Anything that strengthens the HR field has to be a good thing. I know a lot of work has gone into the development of the National HR Professional Certification Framework, and it’s clear that it is targeting the right areas, where HR professionals have not been strong traditionally, such as change leadership or business literacy. I’m sure many professionals will choose to pursue certification in addition to formal HR qualifications.

Will it also change the way universities and training providers operate in the HR professional development market? I think universities and training providers have been observing the same trends that prompted the Singapore government to develop the framework, and many will have modified their curricula and methods accordingly. Certainly at UniSIM we have developed undergraduate, graduate and Continuing Education and Training (CET) courses that develop core HR competencies

Jonathan Ramsay (PhD), Senior Lecturer and Head of Programme, Master of Human Capital Management, SIM University 10 MARCH 2017 SUPPLEMENT


while at the same time instilling a more strategic mindset and ensuring fluency in business fundamentals. There has been widespread agreement for a while now on how the HR profession needs to change, and so there’s a natural alignment between the government’s proposed certification framework and the training we provide. One will support the other.

What programmes does SIM University offer HR professionals looking to further develop their careers and skillsets? Firstly, we offer a part-time Bachelor of HR Management programme designed for working adults wishing to study for a first undergraduate degree. The curriculum has recently been redeveloped and is, we believe, the most comprehensive HR coverage of any undergraduate degree in Singapore. Secondly, we also offer a part-time Master of Human Capital Management programme, which is aimed at first degree holders wishing to move into the HR profession or current HR professionals looking to build up their skills as HR leaders. Classes are during evenings and weekends, enabling students to balance work, study, and personal time. Thirdly, we offer a wide range of modular CET courses. These can be taken individually, yet are “stackable” in the sense that they provide credits towards larger qualifications including undergraduate degrees. Many of these courses are also eligible for the use of SkillsFuture credits, making it even easier for professionals to study. UniSIM is in the process of becoming a fully autonomous university; independent of the SIM Group and under the ambit of the Ministry of Education. This is an exciting time for our university, and the strength and depth of our HR training will continue to grow. Our commitment to applied, lifelong education will remain, and we’re looking forward to welcoming more learners who wish to be a part of this journey.


Asia Employment Law Congress 2017 13-14 June 2017 | Singapore

Asia Employment Law Congress 2017 provides you with the latest employment law updates, best practices for compliance and regulatory issues including termination management, antidiscrimination, hiring and firing across APAC region to help you fight litigation risk, stay compliant while protecting business interest. A snapshot of the Labour Law sessions in Asia to be covered; Singapore Non-competition clause in practice: Protection of business interests through the enforcement of post-termination restrictive covenants Hong Kong: Combat data privacy frauds and breaches and conduct employee surveillance Indonesia: Work permits & visas, and new different types of leaves Malaysia: Managing misconduct and poor performance in the workplace Staying prepared for Taiwan Amended Labour Act and Vietnam Labour Law Amendment

Key Event Highlights 16+ APAC country-specific topics to address complex workplace legislation 80% new speakers who are recognized at Top Legal500 on Employment Law across Asia 6 customised “Ask-a-lawyer� consultation slots at exclusive HR Legal Clinic Interactive formats of panel, consultation clinic and casebased scenarios to allow concrete takeaways

Join us at Asia Employment Law Congress 13-14 June 2017 REGISTER TODAY! Tel: (65) 6423 4631 | Email: | MARCH 2017 SUPPLEMENT




EVENTS CALENDAR first and second quarters, 2017 Mar



Singapore Talent and Recruitment Show


3-4 HR Summit & Expo Asia 2017

3 Social Media for HR Professionals Masterclass


15-16 HR Business Partner Congress

Employee Health & Wellness Congress

30-31 Strategic HR Business Partnering Masterclass 12 MARCH 2017 SUPPLEMENT



13-14 Employment Law Congress

HRM March 2017 Supplement  

Executive Education and Professional Development Guide 2017

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