Why pursue a Master of Business Administration (MBA)? One motivation is the potential financial gain. According to the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), employers expect to offer recent MBA graduates a median starting salary of $110,000 in 2017. Compared with $60,000 for those with a bachelor’s, it is easy to see how an MBA may pay off.
The GMAC survey also found that 89 percent of respondents said they planned to increase the number of recent MBA graduates they hire. When it comes to getting hired, then, what gives MBA graduates an edge? An overwhelming majority of survey respondents indicated that communication and teamwork skills are key.
An MBA program can do more than provide a foundation in business skills and knowledge. Students pursuing an MBA at Fitchburg State University, for example, participate in collaborative learning groups that promote essential communication and teamwork skills. Fitchburg’s fully online MBA also offers professionals the flexible scheduling they may require.
What Skills Matter Most to Employers Hiring MBA Grads?
Results of the 2017 GMAC Corporate Recruiters Survey provide some useful insight into hiring trends. Employers were asked to rank the importance of five skill sets when hiring recent MBA (or business master’s) graduates:
Overall, employers ranked communication skills as most important, followed by teamwork. The study also ranked the importance of a subset of 25 skills across five categories. Examples of these skills include ability to inspire, adaptability, qualitative analysis and innovation/creativity.
Again, the communication skill set continued to rank as most important. These are four specific skills employers are looking for.
- Oral communication.
- Written communication.
- Presentation skills.
Specific skills in teamwork also ranked as more important than those in leadership, technical and managerial categories. The following teamwork skills took four of the top 10 spots:
- Valuing others’ opinions.
- Ability to follow a leader.
- Cross-cultural sensitivity.
What Is the Importance of Communication?
Communication is known as a “soft skill.” Unlike “hard skills,” such as computer programming, soft skills are more difficult to measure. Still, they are the top-ranked skills that employers from many industries are seeking in MBA hires.
The words “excellent written and verbal communication skills” are commonly seen in job postings. And, as the GMAC survey found, these are highly sought-after skills. But higher-level communication skills involve much more than the ability to write and speak. Effective communication is a two-way process that requires tuning in to what others are saying and doing.
Whether it is selling someone on an idea, negotiating a sticking point, collaborating on a shared goal or providing performance feedback, communication skills are an everyday workplace requirement. Yet, according to the Forbes article “How the Most Effective Managers Give Feedback,” a majority of managers say they are “uncomfortable communicating with their employees in general.”
A look at the technology industry further highlights the importance of communication skills. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a robust job outlook for computer and information systems managers, who commonly have MBAs. With a 2016 median annual wage of $135,800, the pay is much higher than in management occupations overall.
While technical expertise may be required in computer and information systems occupations, GMAC found that technology industry employers still rank oral communication as the top skill for new hires. This is true in other industries as well.
What Is the Importance of Teamwork?
Like communication, teamwork is a soft skill. Teamwork is all about achieving a group goal, and employers in many industries look for it in their hires. Like a sports team, effective teams in the workplace rely on the individual skills and strengths of each member to achieve desired outcomes.
Some individuals may have a talent for delegating effectively. Others may be able to take the lead in cross-cultural team building.
Not surprisingly, teamwork and communication skills go hand in hand. Valuing other’s opinions, for example, requires being able to listen to and understand what someone is saying. In today’s work environments, listening is as vital to solving complex problems as speaking.
Although collaboration is at the heart of teamwork, conflict is inevitable. Does one team member dominate the conversation? Is there a lack of agreement on the expected level of effort? Again, communication comes into play. Effective teams address differences to move toward a collective goal.
The demand for MBA graduates is strong in a range of setups, from startups and small businesses to larger companies in a variety of industries. To take advantage of this favorable job market, MBA students will want to hone the skill sets that matter most to employers. Alongside core MBA coursework, this means gaining proficiency in both communication and teamwork skills.
With Fitchburg’s focus on collaborative learning groups, MBA students can participate in the sorts of experiences they are likely to encounter in today’s workplace. In the process, they can build the competencies that companies rank most highly when it comes to hiring recent MBA graduates.
Learn more about Fitchburg State’s online MBA programs.