Executive L&D in 2016

Key lessons learned from an international study

A comprehensive survey has been has been conducted by the University of St. Gallen in collaboration with Vlerick Business School in which 350 executives and managers from 13 countries participated to identify what separates Executive Learning & Development (Executive L&D) champions from challengers and novices. You can download the main conclusions of this comprehensive study here!

The main conclusions of the study are:

1. Executive L&D is important yet ineffective at most firms.  
Companies rank executive L&D amongst the most critical success factors for long-term success.
The vast majority of firms recognise that executive learning and development is an extremely useful asset in generating and defining a competitive advantage. The majority of firms seek to increase their operating efficiency and innovative capacity but are held back by resource constraints and a myopic focus on short-team business goals. Overall, respondents are dissatisfied and consider executive L&D to be ineffective in their teams.
2. C-level commitment is the most important driver for executive L&D effectiveness.
C-level commitment refers to the extent to which the top management team is involved in designing and facilitating executive learning and development initiatives.
We found that high C-level commitment is the strongest predictor for a firm to become an executive L&D champion. A genuinely strategic focus on executive L&D trumps any operational decision about (for instance) learning forms or instruments. Firms that aspire to excel in executive L&D should involve their top management team and empower a dedicated learning steward (e.g. Chief Learning Officer) among their ranks.
3. C-level commitment trumps new technology-based learning formats.
Once firms have achieved high C-level commitment and formulated their executive L&D strategy, they benefit most from initially developing more traditional, face-to-face learning formats.
Technology-based learning formats only become effective after companies have secured top-level strategic ownership and implemented traditional learning formats. Our research shows that firms benefit from different learning formats depending on their stage of development. To advance from L&D novice towards becoming a challenger, firms should first focus on putting traditional learning formats in place; after this stage, technology-based learning can bring substantial L&D benefits to advance from challenger to champion.
4. Executive L&D will become even more strategic and expectations will expand further.
By 2019, firms expect to pursue a greater scope of executive L&D activities, including new formats and instruments.
At the same time, individual L&D activities will have to generate a higher marginal impact by strengthening the link between the firm’s overall strategy and the executive L&D strategy.

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