Wednesday, August 15, 2007

MBAs in demand in Germany

Despite a downturn in recruitment over the past few years, MBAs are now coming back into demand with major corporations, banks and management consultancies. But, while there seems little doubt that an MBA is a worthwhile investment for Germans looking to work on the global stage, how is it regarded in Germany itself? Huber, who is also studying for his MBA in the UK, comments: “It’s true that the qualification doesn’t yet have the profile and respect in Germany that it has in many other countries. However it’s certainly gaining ground, with more and more people aware of it. And, while smaller companies still seem more interested in domestic qualifications, the bigger, international, organisations based in Germany are now beginning to insist on the qualification for some of their more high profile roles.”

One of the international organisations, which has shown a real commitment to the value of an MBA is the global healthcare company Bayer, headquartered in Leverkusen. Bayer recruits potential future managers into a professional apprenticeship scheme, which encompasses sponsorship of an MBA at a school in the USA, UK, Spain or Singapore. Susann Blankenhagel from Dresden joined the scheme straight from university and has now been sent by the company to study for an MBA at the Spanish business school, IE-Instituto de Empresa, which is based in Madrid. “One of the main reasons for joining Bayer was because it offered the chance to work overseas,” says Susann, “so it was a real bonus to be able to study for what is now recognised as the top international business qualification.”

The increasing interest in the MBA for young professionals seems to be stemming from a distinct trend amongst Germany’s leading companies to focus outside the country rather than within it. Deutsche Post World Net, for example, has undergone a transformation since the reunification of Germany, changing from a domestic postal service into a key player in the global logistics market. Now they are seeking to develop the management team that will keep them in that role in years to come. “In our current phase of development the international experience and outlook of MBAs is extremely attractive,” says Joerg Staff, who heads up the company’s Human Resources Development function, “as is their experience of working in multi-national, multi-cultural teams and their capacity for lateral thinking. In the longer term I envisage them forming a significant proportion of our management team in all areas of our operations.” Staff goes on to admit, “Like a lot of international companies with their roots in Germany, we came relatively late to the systematic recruitment of MBAs, but we are keen to make up for lost time. We’re currently working with careers departments of a group of major schools in the USA and Europe as well as a number of the newer players in developing economies such as India and China.”

Another German company that has developed a global business is Allianz, which now owns businesses in some 70 countries around the globe. According to Michael Diekmann, Chairman of the Board of Management, Allianz sees MBAs as an important source of international management talent in the same way as Deutsche Post World Net. “In Germany, for example, top MBA graduates with prior work experience may enter the ‘Fast-Track’ Management Development program in insurance, finance or IT”, says Diekmann. “This consists of assignments over three to four years building towards a significant strategic management role. The employee is mentored and supported in their professional development by a member of the Board of Management.”

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