One More Time: What Makes a Manager?

By Sharma, Baldev R. | Indian Journal of Industrial Relations, October 2009 | Go to article overview

One More Time: What Makes a Manager?


Sharma, Baldev R., Indian Journal of Industrial Relations


Gainers & Losers

Thirty-seven years ago, I published a paper in which I tried to demonstrate how selection procedures can act as a gateway for some and a barrier for some other candidates aspiring to become the future managers of business and industry (Sharma 1972). Analysis of longitudinal data from a premier management institute revealed that the gainers were candidates from relatively well-off families of urban origin, whereas their poorer cousins from villages and small towns found it difficult even to get called for an interview. The main stumbling block for the rural poor was found to be the so-called objective test used as one of the parameters for short-listing around 10 per cent of the top-scoring candidates and rejecting the remaining 90 per cent. The findings of the 1972 study showed that even though the rich and the poor candidates had more or less similar previous school and college achievement record, the rich performed better than the poor candidates in the "objective" screening test because of which the former stood a better chance of getting short-listed for interview and getting selected for admission.

To make sure that the findings reported above were not unique to one particular institution, I took up in 197374 a much larger research project on the subject with the help of a research grant from the ICSSR (Sharma 1978). The new study was based on a sample of 1674 students from well known institutions of higher education representing six major professions (architecture, engineering, law, management, medicine, social work). The findings of the 1973-74 study that was much larger in scope were in general agreed with those of the 1972 study (Sharma 1976; Sharma 1977).

Except for reservation of seats for the scheduled caste and scheduled tribe candidates (that too only in the government-aided institutions), no remedial measures have been taken so far to make opportunities for higher education more inclusive. More than three decades have gone by since I undertook the two studies mentioned above. At that time, there were only two all-India institutes of management, both financed by the Government of India. Today there are more than 1000 schools of management in India, most of them being in the private sector and self-financed. With this mushroom growth of management education in the recent past, it was decided to revisit this enquiry into the socioeconomic background of the future managers.

In the 1973-74 study, two out of the twelve institutions covered were the two IIMs. Together those two government-aided institutions accounted for a combined sample of 238 students. For replicating that study, it was decided to cover two well-known management institutes in the private sector, both located in the National Capital Region (NCR). The combined sample from these two institutes was of 258 students. In each case, the selected sample constituted a representative cross-selection of both first and second year students of the two-year postgraduate programme in management. In both institutions, candidates were shortlisted for interview and group discussion, etc. based entirely on their performance in the Common Admission Test (CAT). Data from the two institutes were collected during 2007-08 with the help of a self-administered questionnaire.

The Findings

The findings from the two studies are presented in a summary form in Table 1. Eight parameters were used to compare the background profile of students from the two studies. The last column of the table shows whether or not the differences between the two samples are statistically significant.

1. Age

The average age of the postgraduate students of management continues to be the same (23 years) even after 34 years. However, a closer look at the age distribution of the two samples shows significant differences. Both the younger (less than 22) and the older (more than 25) students are fewer today than were their counterparts 34 years ago. …

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