2019 Trends in Executive DevelopmentExecutive Summary

BTS sponsored research conducted by the Executive Development Associates (EDA)

Did you know that executives today are lacking strong visionary leadership? And that high-potential senior leaders need to be better prepared for leading in the new business environment?

Factors around us continue to change the world at a high speed. This naturally impacts the way organizations do business, and the way executives need to act and lead for the business to thrive. The BTS-sponsored 2019 Trends in Executive Development Report was carried out by Executive Development Associates (EDA) and reveals shifting trends in the market and the need to re-focus executive development efforts.

Adjusting to Digital Disruption: Enabling Business Strategy and Digital Innovation Leadership Capabilities Are Key

The top five most highly influential conditions impacting executive development can all be traced to the digital culture shock that companies are experiencing across virtually every industry. This change incites a new way of doing things and requires a fresh approach to leadership. Technology is shifting the world drastically and executive development programs must prepare leaders for leading in the new environment.

The most cited influential condition, changing business strategies, suggests that executive development professionals need to build programs that are tied more closely to the business’ strategy and context. This allows leaders to develop the alignment, mindset, and capabilities needed for successful execution.

Secondarily, in combination, concerns about digital transformation and the need for increased innovation produce the most influential condition. This combination demonstrates leaders’ need for new knowledge and skills to operate in this rapidly changing environment.

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Growth mindset, agile innovation, design thinking, digital transformation, and neuro-leadership are all showing up as trends in executive development.

- Peter Mulford, CIO BTS

The Top Priorities and Key Objectives for Executive Development in the Next Two to Three Years

The most influential conditions impacting executive development demonstrate that addressing key business issues and challenges is the top priority for the next two to three years.

However, accelerating the development of high potentials comes in as a strong second, appearing for the first time since 2009. The global economic climates in 2009 and 2018 both reflect significant change, which is likely the cause for the resurgence of this trend.

In the years between 2009 and 2018, the economy was recovering from the 2008 financial slump, and senior leaders who were still employed stayed in their roles. Turnover was low, and as a result, little importance was placed on succession planning. This meant that there was no need to focus on accelerating leaders’ development.

In 2018, a new shift occurred. The economy started moving and so did executives. Now on their way to retirement or willing to change companies, the time has come to focus on the up-and-comers. In fact, over 50% of the organizations surveyed feel that their bench strength is weaker than it was two years ago.

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Key Leadership Capabilities That Must Be Addressed

Based on changes in the external environment, it is unsurprising that the foremost critical capability that senior leaders must address is the need to drive empowerment down to the frontline in their organizations. With technology placing information in the hands of the customer, the empowerment of those closest to the customer is now a requirement for a successful business. This finding does not consider the demands of younger generations who insist on having a voice early on in their work experience.

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The Top Types of Development Activities That Senior Leaders Are Most Likely to Experience

Top methodologies for developing executives are conferences, executive coaching, mentoring, experience-based leadership development (action learning and business simulations), and assessments followed by development feedback.

Conferences are the primary way leaders will experience development. Executive coaching and mentor follow in suit. Senior executives rely more on individual coaching, whereas high potential leaders receive more mentoring.

Experience-based development (action learning and business simulations) have become more mainstream. These approaches are considered more engaging than traditional lecture and case-based approaches. Additionally, these methodologies provide rich opportunities for leaders to immerse themselves in the strategic context of their business, allowing them to learn by doing and make mistakes in a risk-free environment.

Additionally, assessments followed by development feedback have grown in popularity due to their effectiveness and rich feedback components.

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Spending on Executive Development is Up or Steady

80% of organizations say they will increase spending or remain the same with regards to executive development, and 12% expect to increase their budget considerably. Spending is steadily increasing for both formal external and internal classroom education and development. Corporations are bearing more costs centrally, which reflects the value and impact of closely tying programs to the CEO’s agenda.

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Key Takeaways

  • Given the tremendous changes occurring in the external environment, development professionals need to make sure that their executive programs are increasingly tied to the business’ strategy and context.
  • Combined, digital disruption and innovation make up the foremost internal and external influences impacting executive development.
  • High-potential development is a priority as companies need to strengthen their bench strength and succession planning.
  • Key leadership capabilities that need to be addressed demand that senior leaders push empowerment down into the organization.
  • Conferences, leadership coaching, mentoring, experience-based learning and business simulations, as well as assessments followed by development feedback are the key ways to develop senior leaders.
  • The vast majority of companies plan on increasing spending on executive development programs in 2019 and more spending is coming from the corporate center.

After more than 30 years, the Trends in Executive Development report has become the leading compilation of research on trends in executive development. The report focuses on the top key competencies in demand, highly influential conditions, executive development objectives moving forward, and future development hot topics. The information in the report comes from a variety of sources, including survey respondents, interviews with leading organizations, and analysis and insight from EDA’s advisory board. The 2019 survey captured the perspectives of 272 leaders from 270 global mid- and large- sized organizations across 26 industries and input from 13 of EDA’s Advisory Board.

To learn more, contact us. To purchase the full 2019 Trends in Executive Developments, click here.


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