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Jon Kennard


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Insight: Leadership development for senior team key to promoting growth


Leadership development for senior managers has, for the first time, become the top priority for learning and development in 2012 according to the Corporate Learning Priorities Survey 2012 carried out by Henley Business School’s Corporate Development team.
47% of respondents made this their first or second priority (compared with 35% last year). While 71% said their number one learning priority for 2012 was to use learning and development as a tool to aid growth (up from 64% in 2011). 
Clearly, respondents are focusing on the development of key skills for leaders and see this as key to business growth.  As one respondent remarked: “be more rigorous in who are truly managers and who the leaders are, or could be. Sort the wheat from the chaff”.
As business conditions continue to be tough it appears that learning and development has moved from the preserve of HR and L&D departments to become a priority for senior management as a whole. In 2010 just 40% of respondents were non HR, in 2012 61% are non HR with 73% at Director level or above. Economic turmoil has not affected organizations recognition that learning and development is crucial to success, with 84% of respondents saying they would be doing more or the same learning and development activity in 2012. 
What has changed is the way organizations seek to learn. A pragmatic, ‘back to basics’ skills focus is revealed by such priorities as “purely tactical skills development”, “to improve sales capability” and “to equip talent with cross functionality skills to make them more versatile”.  Equally, organisations will be seeking to leverage existing knowledge within the organisation, with 55% saying they will be doing more informal knowledge sharing between peers and 59% saying they will increase their peer mentoring.
For the first time pragmatism has overtaken reputation as the key driver for organisations when selecting a business school partner.  The top three requirements are: delivery by experienced practitioners (81%), reputation of school (64%) and use of up to date case studies (62%).
Delivery by well known faculty was the least important criterion whilst the importance of the “inclusion of recent, original research” has dropped from 86% in 2010, 72% in 2011 to 41% in 2012. 
“Respondent’s comments echo the requirement expressed by our clients for development interventions that are pragmatic, that address current and future business challenges and that equip leaders to lead collaboratively, ethically and sustainably. As one respondent succinctly commented, ‘Credibility of course and faculty – not, absolutely NOT, academic pedigree and papers published on esoteric, theoretic and desk research for the sake of self-aggrandisement/profile raising.’” says Hugh Evans, Vice Dean, Executive Education, Henley Business School. 
Other key findings of the report include:
  • Learning still seen as key to employee engagement (70 %)
  • Using learning as a tool to help manage change still a strong priority (63% 2012 vs 52% 2011)
  • Whilst development of leaders seen as top priority, development of middle managers is still important (45%)
  • Developing hi-potentials (31%) third priority for learning - talent still crucial to sustainable organisational success

Author Profile Picture
Jon Kennard

Freelance writer

Read more from Jon Kennard

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