Get ahead in executive education – measure your impact

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In the same week that Chartered ABS launched their report on the 'Impact of Executive Education', LinkedIn launched 39 new skills development courses.  These courses are now part of a library that now extends to over 10,000 different programmes. The market for executive education and management development is evolving rapidly, so what can business schools do to compete?

The Chartered Association of Business Schools asked CarringtonCrisp to look at the question of the impact of executive education from their member schools in the UK.  If a school can demonstrate a great return on investment for an individual or an organisation having completed one of their programmes, that’s a powerful recommendation for others to engage.

If only it were that simple.  The study - ‘The Impact of Executive Education: A Review of Current Practice & Trends’ - revealed the complexity of measuring impact.  In almost every case, there will be a host of other factors that might have contributed to a positive change in an organisation rather than just a management development programme.  New technology, a change in leadership, external economic conditions – the list is lengthy, so how do business schools measure the impact of their programmes?

The bare minimum is the instant assessment at the end of a programme.  An assessment can be made of the quality of delivery and the experience as well as an expectation of impact in the workplace, but whether this matches reality in the future is another thing all together.  Just under half (47%) the schools in the study use KPIs agreed in advance with clients to measure success.

Assessing impact six months after completion of a programme seems a more satisfactory approach than the instant review on course completion.  Respondents are close enough to the experience to remember it clearly, but have also begun to appreciate how it has impacted on their working lives. The top five items assessed by schools when looking at individual impact in the workplace are clarity of strategic thinking and approach, increases in personal confidence, improved leadership, effectiveness of problem solving and influence in their organisation.  With corporate impact, just over half (52%) of the schools seek to assess the achievement of specific organisational goals.

Impact also works in other ways, in particular for the business schools themselves.  Building a strong relationship with a client through executive education can lead to opportunities for research, graduate careers, guest lecturers, awareness raising and much more.  Investment in executive education brings returns to both schools and their clients.

The research suggests that UK schools are making good progress in the field of executive education and creating positive impact.  Despite growing competition and price pressures, two-thirds of the responding schools agreed that their total revenues from executive education have grown in the last three years.

Maintaining that success in to the future will be a challenge with the growing impact of providers such as LinkedIn, management consultancy firms, international business school entrants to the marketplace and sole traders assembling expert teams as required.  Two actions seem to be important for ongoing success – collaboration and better assessment of impact.

Collaboration will come in many shapes and sizes.  Nine out of ten schools in the study anticipate working more closely with their parent university, delivering a wider range of programmes to more diverse audiences.  However, collaboration will be more than on campus.  Many schools also foresee growing collaboration with external organisations, with consultancies and between business schools.

Better assessment of impact probably means better use of technology.  An overwhelming number of schools expect to deliver more programmes with technology and extending that usage in to impact assessment seems sensible.  It will mean experimentation and potentially analysing large amounts of data, but the prize of being able to demonstrate significant and lasting impact for participants and their organisations through management development is substantial.

The importance of executive education is clear.  In their 2016 assessment of the executive education market St Gallen University found that “93% of respondents have put executive leadership development as their first or second priority for their organization in terms of its future success.”

Andrew Crisp, Director, CarringtonCrisp - an education market research and consultancy for business schools and universities.

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