PR firm Hill & Knowlton asked 500 MBA students in Europe, the US and Asia about the importance of reputation when they’re choosing between employers – and nearly three-quarters of them apparently insisted that it was very important. It’s apparently the reason why so few are keen to work in the tobacco, chemicals or alcohol industries – and pharma and oil companies are starting to be tarred by the same brush (so to speak).
It’s also the reason why MBAs are much less keen to work in emerging markets like Russia, South Asia, the Middle East and Africa than they are in more developed economies. (Though since Russia is currently in the process of shaking down those suspicious characters at the British Council, the dastardly folk whose job is to build cultural links between the UK and Russia, it’s not surprising that the world’s top business students feel a bit nervous about working there). And it’s not as though these MBAs are shy about moving overseas – two thirds are either studying or planning to work outside their home country.
But what does this ‘reputation’ amount to, exactly? The most popular factors cited by respondents were a fairly old-school list: the top four were quality of management; quality of products; employee talent and financial performance. More fashionable notions like social responsibility and use of corporate assets came in a lowly seventh and eighth.
And ultimately, having an impressive environmental and CSR policy will only get you so far. When asked to list the most important factors in choosing a job, the MBAs opted for career opportunities, corporate culture and compensation package. In other words how much do I get paid, how do I get ahead, and how soon do I get promoted? Whereas right at the bottom of the pile were CSR efforts, marketing messages and green policies (which only a third of respondents cared a fig about).
So reputation’s undoubtedly important if you want these high-fliers to sign on the dotted line – as H&K EMEA boss Andrew Laurence puts it, ‘top MBAs see career risk on reputationally challenged companies’. But for now, they’re less interested in a company that does all the right things, and more interested in one that helps them pay off their MBA debts in the fastest possible time...