Management skills are a clear focus of any MBA programme. Acquiring the skillset needed to further your professional development and join the ranks of C-level executives is, in many ways, what postgraduate business education is all about. So, it’s about time to clarify exactly what the most-desired management skills among employers are, as well as to look at what these employers mean when they assert the importance of such skills in their organisation.
In this article we take a look at the hard skills needed. Keep a lookout for the next article that will feature all the soft skills.
Technical skills, also known as ‘hard skills’ refer to your abilities and expertise in particular areas, based on knowledge acquired through academia and professional experience.
What has changed is that the hard skills listed below are starting to seem like a minimum requirement. In a Harvard Business Review blog, HBS professor Boris Groysberg detailed his findings from a survey of global executive search firm consultants, writing that, “Many consultants said that technical skills – once the prime goal of executive searches – are still important but have become merely a baseline requirement.”
As these management skills are quantifiable by nature, they are also easier to define, but there’s no harm in ensuring that you have taken them all into account.
Academic Achievement: Your track record in formal education. This is a measure of your success in attaining good grades both in your MBA or related degree and prior to this during an undergraduate degree or other professional qualification.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR): At heart, CSR represents a business’ internal attempts to monitor its practices and ensure that they comply with ethical standards, international convention as well as the spirit of the law. Companies also utilise CSR for the ‘giving something back’ part of their feeling of responsibility towards society through implementing practices and initiatives designed to yield a positive social or environmental impact. The inclusion of CSR in MBA programmes has been rapidly evolving in recent years due to the economic difficulties caused by the global recession the end of the last decade, which has led many to demand greater levels of accountability among large companies. In fact, integrity or having an ethical reputation, which for its basis on personality belongs to the soft skills, is becoming a valuable asset in itself to be increasingly sought by employers.
E-Business: Coined by IBM in 1996, this term denotes knowledge of business practices through electronic methods. It is far wider in its scope than the term ‘e-commerce’ with which it is often confused. Instead, ‘e-commerce’ refers specifically to the buying and selling of goods via computer networks, such as the internet.
Entrepreneurship: In its inclusion among hard skills, this is a person’s ability to spot a business opportunity and be able to make it a reality. As well as sourcing resources and financial backing, new ventures also need people to make the call on whether an idea is worth pursuing and to shoulder responsibility for any eventual outcome. An entrepreneur that performs this type of role within a large organisation is known as an intrapreneur.
Finance Skills: These are an embedded feature in all postgraduate business programmes and should require no explanation. It’s essential for effective managers to have a good head for figures regardless of whether or not they ever intend to enter the finance industry. Financial aspects underpin businesses in any industry.
International Awareness: That employers now increasingly want their staff to have a global outlook in business is one the biggest company trends since the turn of the century. Given the importance of global markets, organisations know all-too-well how an understanding of those markets, as well as the cultural practices pertaining to each, is closely tied to a company’s success overseas. Someone already boasting substantial international awareness and work experience will therefore be attractive to a lot of major recruiters.
IT/Computer Skills: There was once a time when senior managers could leave much of the details involved in working with computer systems and data to others, and instead concentrate on a supervisory role. However, the growth of technology has been so rapid and wide in its influence that this is no longer the case. Any manager working with technology will be constrained in their role if they do not fully understand the systems or products at a company’s disposal, making IT skills essential.
Marketing: Understanding the key concepts of marketing is integral to running a successful business – ensuring it stays ahead of the competition and seizes upon opportunities for expansion. Branding, understanding consumer behavior and retaining client loyalty all fall under the remit of marketing skills.
Multi-lingual: Similar to international awareness – if you can speak another language then this will undoubtedly help you in forming a global business outlook and in your appeal to employers – especially if you happen to speak a language of particular use to the company in question!
Relevant Experience: Related past or present employment to the industry or area in which you wish to apply is also a big consideration for employers, and where you can prove your wide selection of management skills as an MBA graduate.
Risk Management: Every element of risk represents a potential loss to a company. Hard skills in identifying, analyzing and prioritizing risk are therefore important to any C-level executive, but of particular relevance in industries where uncertainties play a central role. These could be uncertainties in financial markets, threats from competitors or legal liabilities to name but a few. In short, senior managers will often have to make difficult decisions and the understanding and preparation for elements of risk are vital to do this effectively.