Is the MBA Worth It for CHROs?


Chief Human Resources Officers have earned their place in the C-suite especially since the start of the pandemic, so some are considering whether they should earn MBA degrees. Many of them are responsible for transforming the workplace and ensuring talent is ready for the future of work. With these big responsibilities, a formal education may provide a framework for success.

READ: What CEOs Want in CHROs

What Is an MBA in HR?

The Masters of Business Administration or MBA degree is earned at business schools. Top business schools include Harvard Business School, Stanford Graduate School of Business, the Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania, and MIT Sloan School of Management. However, there are many more colleges and universities that offer this graduate program in different formats, including full time, part time, weekend and eveing, and executive education. 

READ: Should You Stop Hiring College Graduates?

Those who have already earned a bachelor’s degree are eligible to apply. At top-tier schools like Harvard, the competition to enroll is fierce. The cost is also steep. Depending on the program, it can cost anywhere from $55,700 to $161,800.

Still, the programs may help CHROs and aspiring CHROs by giving them lessons in general management. At business school, or b-school as many call it, students learn how to read and assess financial reports.

They gain an overview in subjects like operations management and marketing. Much of the curriculum is based on case studies that offer real world examples that required leadership and informed decision making. 

Most programs include an ethics and leadership component. Today’s top MBA programs usually broaden horizons beyond domestic learning by including a global experience. Often, there are also opportunities for hands-on projects. 

What draws many students to business school is the chance for networking. The schools teach students how to network and create opportunities for both organic and planned networking. The alumni base is the starting point for students’ networks. This allows for mentorship but also partnerships and career growth. Of course, MBA programs introduce leaders to advanced technology, including data analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence

REPORT: The HR Guide to Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence

Why Should HR Care?

Human Resources leaders can benefit from this sort of education, especially if they want to impress other C-suite executives. By understanding financial statements, marketing, and taxes, they can better understand how talent fits into the overall vision of a place. They can communicate in the same language with other leaders like the CEO. They truly break away from the outdated perception of HR as an administrative arm.

WATCH: Important Steps to “Free Up” Managers to Become Leaders 

Having a network is also useful because it can serve as a talent pipeline for either succession planning or other general management roles. In addition, HR leaders themselves can use their network for their own career progression. 

Workshops in leadership can help people hone soft skills, including communication, teamwork, and inspiration. At a time when HR leaders are shifting gears and seeking empathetic leaders over stricter, more rigid ones, this kind of training is important. HR leaders who go through these MBA programs can identify these leadership traits in others, too, which makes for better screening of job candidates. 

READ: CHROS: Welcome to the C-Suite

Added Validation

CHROs can probably do their job – and do it well – without an MBA. However, the degree provides an additional validating data point. They can immediately apply what they learn in an MBA program. It also provides an additional credential, which helps put them in the sphere of C-suite executives.

The general management foundation helps them understand how talent management fits into and relates to other business goals and the company’s longterm vision. While the MBA is not a must, it can be helpful for those seeking senior executive positions in Human Resources. 

Photo by Ekrulila for Pexels

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