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Your BPO is sponsoring an MBA. Should you apply?

Smita Naniwadekar | November 05, 2004

Work and study for your MBABPO employees never had it so good.

The latest among a string of HR policies to retain quality employees is company-financed (in part or full) MBA programmes for their employees.

This offer may yet be the cherry on the cake.

BPO employees can now plan their career curve while maintaining well-paying, full-time jobs.

All of which sounds well on paper. But how does it operate in real time?

How it works

Trying to cope with rising attrition rates, BPOs have come up with free MBA programmes as a sweetener.

It goes this way: The company ties up with a particular institute to offer a part-time management course.

These courses are offered at discounted rates to the employees. Else, the company may offer to refund the employee's course fees if s/he has maintained a certain average in his/her coursework.

What you need to do

Before you join an BPO, do ask if they offer this incentive.

If they do, and you decide to go for the MBA programme:

Check up on the institute through which your company is offering the course. This is very important, says an HR professional at a BPO, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

~Some organisations tie up with a particular institute to offer a course.

~Others just require the employee to submit fee receipts on completion of the course, after which they are reimbursed the fee in instalments.

~Clarify the type of course being offered. Some organisations offer a year-long course, which is usually a post-graduate diploma in management.

A part-time MBA usually lasts three years.

~Also, please check how you are going to receive instructions during the course. Most programmes usually conduct courses during the weekends.

Which institutes are doing this?

The Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies, Mumbai, through its Direcway Education programme, beams the course modules by satellite. Instructions are given through computers.

Corporate organisations throughout the country avail these instructions. The institute offers a year-long post graduate diploma in management through this programme.

Good news -- the Indian Insitutes of Management aren't out of it either.

IIM-Kozhikode, for example, has tied up with several corporates to offer year-long management diplomas to BPO employees.

e-Serve International Limited has tied up with the ICFAI Business School to offer their three-year part-time MBA course to its employees.

"Confirmed employees have an open entrance exam followed by a personal interview after which they are chosen for the course. The employee's regular work performance is also monitored during the programme," says Vijay Iyengar, HR executive, e-Serve International. 

"This, combined with the course grades, is considered at the time of the employee's annual appraisal," he adds.

"Depending on his performance, the employee is reimbursed either 75 per cent or 100 per cent of his course fees."

What's in it for the company?

It is good for the company because the employee remains at the organisation for the length of the course, which typically lasts three years.

But what happens if the employee decides to quit during the course? 

"Well," says Iyengar, "then he has to quit the programme. This has been facilitated exclusively between ICFAI Business School and e-Serve exclusively for our employees. Otherwise there is no bond on the employees to work for a specified time period to qualify for the programme."

What about the employees?

Some employees don't really mind such a contract. "I am already working under a bond with my company. So I don't really mind if my company sponsors my MBA on the condition that I work for the stipulated amount of time," says Pradeep Pai, a BPO employee who is currently pursuing a part-time MBA.

"We considered this programme keeping in mind our employees' welfare," adds Iyengar.

Employees don't mind enrolling in a generously discounted MBA programme from a good institute because:

~It is a fillip to his/her future prospects.

~Most important, s/he has a steady paycheck during it all.

Is this really your thing?

But such a sweetener doesn't attract everyone. "My company doesn't sponsor an MBA, but I wouldn't leave it right now to join a company that does. I'm focused about what I want right now," says Pai.

One must think carefully about what is being sacrificed for an MBA degree.

Even if an employer doesn't stipulate bond contracts, the employee will still be spending the duration of the course, ranging from one to three years, in the same company. That is considered a long time today.

"This sponsored MBA makes sense for freshers. But, face it: If you are already two to three years into the job market, being tied to one organisation in order to get your degree is a drawback," says Vijay S, an independent part-time MBA student who is now working with a multinational bank. "You have an enormous responsibility towards your company," he says.

True enough. "If your company sponsors your MBA, there is little scope to stay home for a day to study for an examination, as you are also accountable for your regular projects at work," feels a BPO employee.

"The biggest problem for a working person doing a part-time MBA is getting to your class on time," says Rohinee S, an independent part-time MBA student who interacts with a lot of MBA aspirants as part of her regular job.

"An MBA is not like other courses. It is extremely demanding on your time and life. Not everyone can meet those demands," she warns.

"There are many occasions when a student has to work beyond his/her shift. At these times, MBA classes are clearly second in priority to work. The student is doubly beholden in such situations if his company is sponsoring the course," she says.

Also, typically, post 25, an employee has more responsibilities at home.

So balancing a full-time job, an MBA class and home makes it really tough.

"These two to three years will have a big effect on your career ahead, not to speak of your personal life," says Vijay S.

If you are not clear about your personal goals, your career can go freefalling after these three years.

It makes sense to outline what you want out of your MBA and your job.

It might be wise to wait to avoid buying shoes because you get the socks free.

Make sure both fit your feet first.

Image: Dominic Xavier

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