Executive Education

Sponsoring for Success: How Companies Invest in Their Employees Through EMBAs

sponsor emba

Not all EMBA program participants will be self-selecting and choose to pursue executive education out of their own, personal initiative.

Some will come to their programs with the prestige of having been nominated by their employers for a sponsored education. In many cases, these employees are rising stars within their organization that upper management wishes to groom for their special, high-potential futures. While most Executive MBA students today are self-funded or receive some tuition reimbursement from their companies, these sponsored program participants will often have their tuition bills sent directly to their organizations for payment.

While enrolled in an EMBA program, this star employee will still be working full time for her organization. She will require some flexibility for international travel, should the program require it, and often a couple days a month for classes. With one foot still firmly planted within her organization, she will also receive career-broadening experiences that can open her and her company to a global network of business leaders and contacts. An EMBA, after all, is a professional degree and not an academic one rooted firmly in theory as opposed to practice.

The Sloan School of Management at MIT has a particularly active corporate sponsorship program. Many organizations come to MIT to nominate top EMBA prospects that the school then whittles down to the best fit for that year’s cohort. Because of its highly selective admission rate, companies are not expected to sponsor a candidate every year—in some cases, not every candidate will be accepted to MIT.

At NYU’s Stern School of Business, the EMBA program touts its sponsored students’ ability to immediately put to use the lessons learned in class. The program also suggests that companies use the reward of EMBA sponsorship as an honor for top performing employees they wish to retain and advance for the future. Some of Stern’s top sponsors over the last five years have included JP Morgan Chase & Co., IMB Corporation, Citi and Ernst & Young. Hundreds of others have also sponsored employees and the diverse bunch runs the gamut from SpaceX to Tiffany & Co. to the United States Army.

While many fully-sponsored students may be nominated by their organizations to pursue an EMBA, that should not stop would-be applicants from notifying their employers that they wish to seek executive education. In fact, while Wharton at the University of Pennsylvania does not require a company to fully sponsor its students, the admissions page notes that receiving total funding from one’s organization can send a strong and positive message to the applicant that his company is supporting him.

For a corporation with one of these high-potential staffers on hand, sponsoring this employee’s higher education may seem divergent from the company interest: time spent on the job will decrease and there could be a chance that the employee will take his higher education and depart the organization for greener pastures at some point in the future. However, by becoming a corporate EMBA student’s sponsor, an organization can reap three-fold benefits.

First, the company will see the growth and development of an already high-achieving employee. The organization will benefit from this employee’s new network and access to a top-tier university’s resources. That employee will be more likely to stay with the company that paid for his education and will feel rewarded for his hard work.

Second, the company will see other ambitious employees taking on more initiative in a bid to win future sponsorship in years to come. With positive reinforcement in evidence as the current EMBA student brings back exciting stories of his cohort and higher education experience, current employees may wish to remain in the company longer in the hopes of receiving a similar benefit in the future.

While many of the schools that educate these sponsored EMBAs tout an increase in employee loyalty, there is also the third benefit of attracting future top talent. A prospective employee being wooed by multiple corporations with exciting job offers may take note of the fact that one organization in particular sponsors its top talent to pursue higher education. This point may be the deciding factor in that prospective employee accepting an offer at that company as an advanced education can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in tuition alone—plus myriad advantages for advancement as well as personal and professional growth.

About the Author

R. Kress is an Emmy Award winning journalist whose reporting and writing has appeared in national media from NBC News to the International Herald Tribune. She has covered news from cities around the world including Jerusalem, Krakow, Amman and Mumbai.