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Rapid rise beckons mobile workers

Challenge for employers to retain skilled staff

By Ian Grayson for CNN

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Executives looking fora rapid career rise are embracing job mobility.

FACT BOX

FT's Executive MBA Rankings
1. Wharton, U.S.
2. Hong Kong UST, China
3. London Business School, UK
4. Instituto de Empresa, Spain
5. Fuqua, Duke, U.S.
6. Chicago GSB, U.S.
7. Columbia, U.S.
8. Kellogg, U.S.
9. Stern, NY, U.S.
10. Cass, City University, UK
Source: Financial Times 2006

FACT BOX

EMBA SNAPSHOT

Executives taking the top EMBA courses in the U.S., Europe and Asia have average salaries of around $130,000 to $200,000.

A typical EMBA student is likely to be aged in the early 30s, with 6-10 years of working experience.

A top EMBA course can cost $100,000. Customized courses start at a few thousand dollars.

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Schools

(CNN) -- Rapid career advancement is a key driver for students enrolling in an MBA or EMBA degree, yet the same thing can cause trepidation for existing employers.

Armed with new skills, insights and contacts, degree graduates believe their journey up the corporate ladder will be faster and the final destination higher than it would otherwise have been.

From a personal perspective, such a boost can only be attractive. In an increasingly competitive global business marketplace, constantly upgrading professional abilities is no longer an option -- it's become a necessity.

But for employers, having their staff continually improving their skills is a double-edged sword. While it brings obvious benefits to the company, it also makes them more attractive to the opposition.

The rapid salary increases enjoyed by many graduates brings the challenge into stark relief. While some achieve the rises while remaining with their current firm, a significant proportion get them by packing their desk and moving on.

In the Financial Times 2006 MBA rankings, graduates of the top-placed Wharton school reported salary increases of 139 per cent in the period from starting their course until three years after graduation. Students of the Yale School of Management reported increases of 154 per cent. Many of these advances were achieved by changing to a different employer.

The FT rankings also measured the degree of international mobility enjoyed by students, based on their employment movements since graduation. Top ranked schools included Swiss-based IMD, Trinity College Dublin, and France-based HEC Paris. Students from these schools not only changed employers but were also prepared to change countries in search of their next position.

HEC associate dean Bertrand Moingeon says the hefty price tags attached to many top degrees can be one way for companies to ensure staff graduates do not leave quickly after completing their degree. Moingeon says between 70 per cent and 80 per cent of EMBA students at HEC are sponsored by their companies.

"Sponsorship can in fact be a way for companies to either reward their high performers or to retain their high value executives in a company," he told CNN. "Participants may enter agreements with their company committing them to staying for X amount of years in return for sponsorship on a program."

Microsoft's director of human resources for Australia and New Zealand Mark Newton says his company puts a strong emphasis on encouraging senior staff to undertake further education.

Newton says staff can either seek out a course they wish to undertake or the company's HR team may identify suitable courses and suggest them to particular employees. "Microsoft certainly does support employees who wish to study for an MBA by giving them time off for study, exams and some financial support," he told CNN. "Microsoft is a large employer of MBA-qualified executives as well. We actively target this group to help ensure we have the best and brightest talent."

While recognizing that qualified senior staff are valued by all companies, he is not concerned that encouraging staff to undertake further study will lead to them walking out the door to competitors.

"The secret of retaining them is not worrying about rivals but instead, it is about making Microsoft the best place to work," he says. "And Microsoft is a great place to work, which is reflected by our high staff retention rate, high staff engagement rate and low attrition rate."

Like many large international companies, Microsoft has established an internal structure for all employees to ensure they have a defined professional development program.

"The development program becomes a critical part of their career objectives," says Newton. "When you take this seriously it increases your organization's retention because we are helping people to fulfill their career goals."

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