A recent survey commissioned by the Financial Times found that, of the 600 business leaders surveyed, the majority believed investing in the development of their executives was more important than hiring new talent.
The report focused on the elements of business that stimulate innovation and improve financial prospects and, although executive learning is clearly high on the agenda for many, just under half of the survey respondents said they found it hard to measure the exercise against profitability.
Resource constraints and short-term focus were cited as primary reasons for executive learning and development often taking a back seat, but its potential to drive businesses onto greater successes is compelling.
Here are some of the ways that executive learning and the continuous training of senior employees can help significantly with business success:
1) It encourages commitment
Dealing with executive churn is difficult for any business. Given the level of that person’s involvement within the company, finding a replacement and avoiding the spread of negative feeling throughout the ranks is challenging.
Invest in the learning and development of your executives, and they’re more likely to feel valued and commit to the business for the long term. In that respect, they are no different to ground staff, yet its often the latter that is the sole focus of L&D investment.
2) It creates an opportunity to improve corporate social responsibility
Corporate social responsibility (more commonly referred to as ‘CSR’) refers to a business’s willingness to go beyond its commercial goals and take on initiatives that help improve social wellbeing and the environment. But how does this link to executive learning?
It’s quite simple; CSR presents a brilliant opportunity for executive development because, if you can find a social or environmental project for which a senior employee can become a mentor, they’ll build their leadership skills while improving the CSR of the company.
3) It claws back lost hours
A research paper produced by the Department for Business Innovation & Skills (BIS) in 2012 discovered that lost working hours cost UK businesses over £19billion per year. Proof, if it were ever needed, that inefficiencies in productivity cost businesses dearly.
Lost hours are rarely the result of deliberate procrastination and executive-level employees are no different to any other member of staff when it comes to inadvertently falling into the habit of working harder rather than smarter. Productivity and time management can be taught and there is no reason those at the top of the business should miss out on such learning.
4) It permeates throughout the business
The same BIS report found that 43% of UK managers rated their own line manager as ineffective. Insufficient learning and development in the boardroom will always have cascading effects throughout the business. If ground staff feel that those above them are ill-equipped, engagement will suffer and employee turnover likely rise.
The willingness for top-level management to learn is contagious and demonstrates a business that values the development of every person, no matter their position on the company tree.
5) It encourages growth
Perhaps the most obvious benefit of executive learning is that it enables any business to keep up-to-speed with the latest best practices, skills and emerging trends within their chosen industry. By improving leadership and management capabilities, businesses are better positioned to grow and adapt to changing market conditions.
If executives stagnate, the business will, too.
The more you invest in the on-going learning and development of executives, the more chance the business will have of staying strong and competitive in the treacherous economic climate. Improved leadership throughout the company will also ensure that rough patches are dealt with effectively and opportunities for growth seized upon.