Corporate learning: All hands on deck to tackle uncertainty

5 September 2017

Corporate learning: All hands on deck to tackle uncertainty

Our survey of business leaders from over 50 countries has unexpectedly revealed that, in contrast to previous 'crisis' periods, firms are preparing for events such as Brexit and fluctuating global markets by investing heavily in employee development in order to future-proof their business and avoid a mass-talent exodus.

From Superhero Leader to Team Resilience: All hands on deck as businesses tackle economic uncertainty

Our survey of business leaders from over 50 countries has unexpectedly revealed that, in contrast to previous 'crisis' periods, firms are preparing for events such as Brexit and fluctuating global markets by investing heavily in employee development in order to future-proof their business and avoid a mass-talent exodus.

Researchers found that 81% of companies plan to maintain or increase their training budgets to build on organisational capabilities and leverage the potential in their own workforce. The survey also shows a complete shift in development priorities in response to recent political and economic events, with a focus on investing in leadership and upskilling across all management levels to improve agility and resilience. 'Adaptability' and 'being nimble' are traits which senior leaders identified as being key to firms prospering and retaining their competitive edge in the face of an uncertain economic outlook.

Now in its eighth year, the Corporate Learning Survey acts as a barometer of business training priorities and this year's results show a dramatic strategic rethink from previous years, with 'adapting to the speed of change' identified as the major area of concern that leaders face. Respondents to the survey include around 450 CEOs, Managing Directors, Directors, Heads of Departments and other senior executives from both the UK and overseas. 

'Leadership capabilities' were named as the biggest priority for all levels of management from executive and senior management to middle management and high potentials, demonstrating that leadership is no longer just considered the preserve of senior levels in the organisation. There is also an emphasis on the need to be able to lead in a complex and uncertain environment — as well as to execute strategy. The position of 'entrepreneurial thinking' was another big change, moving up in importance from 13th in 2016 to 8th place in 2017 in terms of priority for executives and senior management. 

The results also identified a focus on needing to be agile and looking at collaborative leadership, rather than individual leadership, in order to deal with changing contexts. A shift from hero-based to team-based leadership can increase a company's chance of thriving by creating a wider pool of talent to draw upon when opportunities and threats arise. The Survey shows this change in leadership style is already in motion, with greater emphasis in training and development plans than in previous years given to skills building for first-line managers, high-potential and middle management. 

Claire Hewitt comments: 

"The survey results reflect that businesses are entering unchartered territory and recognise the need to strengthen from within. All staff need to step up, collaborate and work together, which is why we are seeing people at all levels being encouraged to build their capabilities. This is fantastic news for employees, who can now benefit from companies investing more heavily in their staff, providing a valuable opportunity for them to build on their skillsets. Challenge-based learning, which is designed around live, current challenges faced by an organisation, and 1:1 and team coaching will be key to achieving this, as these development approaches deliver immediate, tangible and measurable outcomes for both the individual and the firm."

Developing leadership and management capabilities will remain key for companies to maintain a competitive advantage but they are feeling the pressure in the current economic landscape, indicating that managing costs will also be a key area to focus on, ranking third in the Survey for organisational challenges. This is followed closely by 'succession planning' in fourth place, which suggests that employers are now looking at internal succession and development plans to weather the storm in an increasingly unstable climate. 

The full report and video content is available on our Survey Hub.

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