Covid-19 has made publication of The Financial Times’ influential annual executive education rankings impractical this year. Radical change in the sector accelerated by the pandemic will take some time to settle and become measurable again in useful ways for both the supply and demands sides of the executive education industry.
Whilst acknowledging that massive disruption with a hiatus on their own business school rankings, the FT are not taking a holiday from their role in shining a light on business education, and the evaluation and analysis of the market more broadly. To that end they have today published their first ‘CLO survey’.
The survey draws together data and opinions from 363 CLOs from all over the world, and has been fielded in association with UNICON, AACSB and EFMD.
The survey shows that over 75% of CLOs intend to either increase their spending on executive education or retain their 2020 budget levels. Just 17% plan to make cuts. At a time when many companies are just getting back on their feet after the pandemic disruption, this strong commitment to the development of middle and senior managers is encouraging—and essential if businesses are to succeed in a fast-changing world.
The findings of the FT research reveal some interesting priorities, not least that CLOs are specifically focused on the need to address change. The top three learning priorities were:
- Leadership—cited by 82% of respondents
- Change management—cited by 57%
- Diversity and inclusion—cited by 55%
Other themes that figured highly were: Digital transformation, strategy and innovation, resilience training, wellbeing, and collaborative remote/online working.
Over half of those surveyed would be turning to university-based business schools for executive education this year. However, while cutting-edge knowledge is highly rated, it is clear there will be a greater demand than ever for customization that targets specific needs and enables learners to work on current and pressing challenges. Finding better ways to demonstrate return on investment was also a high priority for CLOs.
The survey highlights the value placed in robust online platforms, flexibility, and the need for virtual programs to be interactive and engaging (passively listening to long lectures is a no no). Many respondents said they still very much value face-to-face learning and the way forward must surely be a collaborative hybrid mix of online and face-to-face.
As they emerge from the pandemic focused on realigning their business strategies to thrive in the ‘new normal’, it is not surprising that CLOs emphasized the need for increased alignment between business school programs and the strategic goals of their organizations. There is a clear demand for participation in programs to be directly connected to project- or performance- based outcomes, and for there to be an effective transfer of learning from participants into the organization and to other employees. You can read the full FT commentary on their CLO survey to get the complete overview.