Friday, Jun 2, 2023

Executive Education: How to Get the Job Done in the New Normal

As life under COVID’s shadow continues, one thing has never been clearer: there is no static “new normal.” This pandemic has driven changes and..

Executive Education: How to Get the Job Done in the New Normal

As life under COVID’s shadow continues, one thing has never been clearer: there is no static “new normal.”  This pandemic has driven changes and innovations, oftentimes overdue, to the way business is done, and it will continue to do so. Succeeding in a climate like this means staying agile and understanding what clients’ ever-evolving “jobs to be done” are — something that many executive education programs have struggled with historically.  That’s according to research from The International University Consortium for Executive Education (UNICON). As management educator Tom Ryan found when conducting that research, individuals and companies are looking at their jobs to be done in this changed world and seeking solutions for the new skills and capabilities they require. Traditionally, executive education has been a go-to for finding and developing those solutions — but, as Ryan states, “surveys suggest that a substantial number of businesses find university-based executive education does not fully meet their needs.”  In particular, there’s a belief, per UNICON’s research, that executive education programs today “fail to demonstrate an understanding of what clients really need and their jobs to be done.” Part of this may be rooted in misperception; as Ryan puts it, “A firm is a solutions provider only when its clients see it as such,” and schools should be doing more to ensure that their capabilities are seen and understood as relevant.  In order to remain relevant, the UNICON recommends  that executive education programs focus on improving in the following areas. Executive education programs must take a more client-centric, customized approach. Many business schools choose to emphasize empirical knowledge as their main offering to clients. However, as UNICON’s report found, the ability to provide solutions that meet client needs through customization is seen, now more than ever, as far more critical — which may be why as many as 75% of respondents to a UNICON and Financial Times survey said they planned to use non-university training partners.  The survey, in fact, found customized executive education to be the most sought-after criteria by clients when choosing a  provider. Nearly 40% of respondents considered it extremely important, compared to less than 5% who prioritized research-based and empirical knowledge. According to another 2021 UNICON report, “Why Companies Don’t Use Business Schools,” a provider’s ability to create content clearly related to a client’s individual business needs and challenges was also seen as key criteria. Customization, clearly, is part and parcel of what it means to have a customer-first vision — and that’s likely why companies are increasingly opting for tailor-made solutions, like those prioritized by HEC Paris , instead of a more traditional business school approach. They must adopt a solutions provider mindset. As a Harvard Business School marketing professor famously said: “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.” Competitive programs in the executive learning space, including those offered by HEC Paris , are sharpening their client-centered business models with one goal in mind: to better deliver solutions to clients’ needs. In today’s climate, the only way for an executive education program to stay relevant, after all, is to position itself not simply as a tool, but as a provider of solutions.  Though an exclusively customer- and solutions-centered focus may not be possible for universities due to structural factors, UNICON’s report found there are some tactics, particularly when it comes to choosing staff and faculty, that executive education leadership teams can take. “One of the most important antidotes to the lack of customer-centricity,” Ryan wrote, “is to hire and develop people with the perspective and skills to help the client meet that job to be done.” Carefully selecting the faculty of your custom programs, as HEC Paris does, can help schools “build the human capability needed to be client-centric and solutions-oriented,” he adds. By offering customized learning experiences and putting faculty with both empirical expertise and real-world experience at the helm, programs can better position themselves as in-touch with today’s business challenges — and their solutions. They must employ new systems for learning. As UNICON’s report underlines, with the shut down of business schools’ physical campuses in response to the pandemic, the “competitive advantage of location fell aside — and made the need for offering customer-centric solutions even more prevalent.”  The business schools that experienced the least amount of friction as executive education moved online were those that had already embraced digitally supported models, like HEC Paris. And, rather than characterizing a moment in time, this era’s new, digital-heavy learning methodologies must continue to be utilized. As UNICON’s report highlights: “The ability to deliver content virtually or in an asynchronous online form can enable schools to make better use of their capability and to provide solutions to our clients’ jobs to be done.”  In an environment as competitive — and as unpredictable — as the one we’re in currently, executive education programs have no choice but to innovate. It’s high time, as Ryan emphasizes, that more of these programs make their own job to be done out of “providing client-centric relationship management and delivering meaningful solutions with real-world application to the learning and development needs of organizations.”


By: HEC Paris
Title: How Executive Education is Getting the Job Done in the New Normal
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Published Date: Fri, 04 Feb 2022 13:00:06 +0000

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