width=280The Executive MBA provides graduates with greater strategic vision and skills that can be immediately applied to their current position; this in turn can benefit leadership development and result in a higher salary.

Along with this progression is the opportunity to immerse oneself for two years in a stimulating and rewarding learning environment. Recent surveys show that the actual payback period for an EMBA has been reduced from 28 months to 23 months over the past year, despite the fact that program costs have risen from $57,954 in 2007 to $62,905 in 2008. It also took less time for students who funded their own education to enjoy a return on their investment: 45 months in 2008, compared to 52 months in 2006.

An increasing number of students are selffinancing their studies with the proportion of students paying their own way increasing from 25% in 2003 to 34% in 2008. Meanwhile, the number of organizations offering students full reimbursement in 2008 was 32%, down from 40% in 2003. That said, business schools expect, at the very least, to see companies supporting their employees, allowing them to take time out for study and recognizing the additional workload that they face.

Putting theory into practice
Most employers understand the major benefits they can receive from having an employee with improved managerial and leadership skills, not to mention the reinforced loyalty of sponsored EMBA participants. Courses often give students the opportunity to put into practice the theories they have learned in class immediately. As Charles Galunic, Dean of INSEAD's Executive MBA Program and Professor of Organizational Behavior explains, Due to the modular format of the program, EMBAs are able to take their ideas from their course straight back to the workplace so that they can learn by doing. Their workplace becomes their laboratory and we provide assignments that give them opportunities to implement and use the ideas they are gaining concurrently in the classroom.

The company not only benefits from a direct return on investment from the rich course content, but also sees the increased confidence and broader communication skills the employee brings back after each module. This prepares the ground for new responsibilities, not only for the EMBA participant preparing for the next level, but for the organization developing healthy succession planning within. Interestingly, Executive MBA students foresee these benefits, but underestimate their power. According to the Executive MBA Council, 37% of students exiting an Executive MBA program expected a promotion - 43% were actually promoted. Not only that, but once promoted they are more likely than graduates from other programs who received a promotion, to report an increase in their budgetary authority, according to the 2007 GMAC Global Graduate Survey.

A win-win proposal
Joan Coonrod, Director of EMBA Admissions at Emory University's Goizueta Business School stresses that EMBA programs can play a powerful role for companies by helping them step up their retention efforts. She asks companies to reflect on the development paths available for top performers. Offering a top Executive MBA program as part of a menu of leadership development experiences is a really powerful retention strategy. It's interesting that executive recruiters tell us that companies that do invest in this way to build their leadership are well-known, and are consistently more successful in attracting top talent, she says.

Brook Hardwick,  Associate Director of IESE's Global Executive MBA program, advises future participants to get their companies on board as soon as possible, and to find somebody within the organization - a mentor or a supervisor - to provide support. Your company will have to feel like your partner in this process, so focus the argument for pursuing your EMBA not just in terms of the lifelong network you will be creating for yourself, but also the immediate impact that the program will have on your ability to view business issues - read the bottom line, see things from a global perspective, and help your company grow.

FinancingIn essence, the EMBA program becomes a tripartite partnership between the school, the EMBA participant and the sponsoring organization. According to current Ashridge EMBA student Chris Parker, there are strong arguments in favour of a company spending a figure of around £30,000 on sending a senior manager to an Executive MBA program. This is the sort of money that might be spent on getting consultants in for a fortnight, but the short term benefits from something like that are far outweighed by the long term benefits that a manager with an EMBA can deliver to a company, in terms of enhanced management knowledge and experience from practical assignments. Many schools such as IESE and INSEAD provide assistance to strong applicants on how best to present their case to their employers, and  numerate the advantages of the program to the organization to turn the project from 'cost' to 'investment'. Fordham's Director of Executive Programs, Francis Petit, says he strongly  believes that the EMBA is a sound investment regardless of the economic climate and financial environment. The goal of each program should allow candidates to think in an entirely new way in regard to business opportunities, markets, value, strategy and innovation. This personal discovery can be applied to a student's career well beyond graduation.

The benefits beyond
Promotions and increased earnings are just one side of the coin. An EMBA also allows students to start 'looking around with a new set of eyes'according to Gabriel Mesquida Masana, an EMBA student at Henley Business School. You start seeing things that weren't there before and thinking of new solutions to old problems: from operations to strategic management. In my case there was a star subject: managing people. I've been given more responsibility and more complex situations to manage. I've seen my self-assurance grow, along with skills and abilities. I've grown professionally, he says. In Germany, Human Resources Departments and corporate decision-makers perceive the Executive MBA program as an additional strategic component of retaining high potential managers. Those participating in an Executive MBA program receive increased support from their organizations, both financially and in terms of allowing students time away to follow modules. The number of self-sponsored EMBA candidates is not significantly higher at Kellogg-WHU, but co-sponsoring (between the student and the company) is growing, as firms encourage employees to share the responsibility for their career development, says Bernadette Conraths, Head of Kellogg-WHU.

As is the case with many other top business schools, each Executive MBA candidate at INSEAD must have corporate endorsement to get his or her application package reviewed by the Admissions Committee. For the school this means the employer believes the candidate would benefit and thrive in the EMBA program, and acknowledges the necessary time commitment he or she needs to complete the program. Edward Buckingham, Director of the Executive MBA Programs at INSEAD, explains. Companies often approach us to discuss talent management, retention and succession planning and use the EMBA as a way to assess, retain and promote managers. This is especially true for those companies facing talent shortages and also in technical sectors such as energy.

The decision to make a serious18-24 month commitment - from the admissions process to managing an overbooked agenda, bosses' expectations as well as respecting family commitments - goes far beyond rising compensation packages. There is much, much more to the EMBA adventure: an incredible learning experience, a stimulating environment and the chance to meet people from all corners of the globe with rich, diverse backgrounds - people who form a network with whom participants can keep in touch years after completing their programs. All of the EMBA alumni we spoke to would whole-heartedly relive their EMBA experience without changing anything, and as the EMBA Council reports, a spectacular 84% of EMBA students would uncategorically recommend the EMBA as the idea launchpad for rising executives ready to take on a new challenge and upgrade their career paths. Perhaps Rachel Killian of Warwick Business School sums it up best: When the economic climate is tough and unemployment is high, then the best investment people can make is to invest in themselves.