The readiness of Masters of Business Administration (MBA) graduates' in South Africa to manage organisations profitability during economic downturns.
“A manager needs to plan for a recession as they don’t just occur suddenly” (Respondent 22) The capabilities and readiness of MBA graduates were brought into question for the lack of management and responsiveness to the 2008 “Great Recession”. Current recession management strategies and models are not suited to the South African context and do not take into account variables within the South African context. In 2008 the “Great Recession” was only identified once the economy was in a recession. Businesses were taken off-guard and were unable to strategically defend themselves during a recession, resulting in business failure’s due to weak management and implementation of unrealistic recession management models. A majority of MBA graduates were in management postions during this time. The objectives of this study were to were linked to the Managerial Optimistic Model which provided five strategies to assist in managing a recession which was linked to each of the research objectives, which were to: identify MBA graduates readiness to encourage the need for diversification during a recession; to determine MBA graduates readiness to explore the scope for new opportunities during a recession; to ascertain MBA graduates readiness to employ corporate governance during a recession; to understand MBA graduates readiness to use paradigm shift during a recession; to ascertain MBA graduates readiness to employ appropriate space creation during a recession and, to understand MBA graduates readiness to use economic recovery strategies during a recession.. The quantitative method of investigation was adopted for this research, and the research instrument for this study was an online questionnaire. The online questionnaire was placed on MBAconnect.net website which is an online community for MBA graduates. The target population also included the MBA alumni body of the University of KwaZulu–Natal (UKZN), the Graduate School of Business and Leadership (GSB&L). The target population comprised of 25000 members from MBAconnect and 700 members from the UKZN MBA alumni body. The sample size, after several challenges were experienced, was 111 participants from MBAconnect and the UKZN MBA alumni body. The sampling technique for this study was convenience sampling. The data for this study was analysed with SPSS version 21. Validity for this study was ensured by the use of face validity and reliability was ensured by the use of Cronbach’s Alpha. The research identified that the readiness of MBA graduates to deal with a recession is at a lower level than expected which is a cause of concern. It has further been identified that there is a gap between the curriculum offered by business schools and the requirements of the business environment, as well as the application of the MBA curriculum in the South African business context. It was identified that the Managerial Optimistic Model proved to be supported by the respondents. The findings further suggest that corporate governance, need for diversification and scope for new opportunities, were viewed as the most important strategies of the Managerial Optimistic Model in managing a recession. The model identified that corporate governance was seen as the most important strategy, yet only 9% of respondents had completed corporate governance during their MBA, highlighting the need for corporate governance to be included into the curriculum. It was identified that respondents supported the concept looking for new opportunities, yet when these opportunities arise through networking events these the opportunities are not taken. It is recommended that business schools focus on developing MBA graduates who are ready to manage a recession. The need to focus on incorporating practical hands on training, role playing and simulations into the MBA curriculum is critical. It is also recommended that development and further testing of the Managerial Optimistic Model is necessary to allow for it to be included in the MBA curriculum to assist MBA graduates to manage a recession. The MBA curriculum has come under great scrutiny and the findings of this study also suggest shortcomings in the MBA curriculum. It is proposed that future research should assess the MBA curriculum and the incorporation of contemporary business examples, cases and simulations as an effort to improve the readiness of MBA graduates to manage any business cycle successfully and profitably.