The changing business environment is forcing exciting trends in the executive education space. The primary ones include, firstly, more and more companies are now beginning to be more skeptical about the off-the-shelf open management development programs offered by leading business schools. Instead, there is a growing emphasis on programs that are customized for the organization. This involves the faculty's immersion into the company, viz., interaction with the top management team to understand the foreseeable challenges, meetings with the potential participants as also their reporting managers to understand the requirements better. The program design evolves from such interactions with the company,which is then vetted by the client. It has been found that such interventions have better application than the usual off-the-shelf training modules.
Another key trend is the drive for measuring the return on investment on these programs. While earlier the companies would have been content with sponsoring an employee's ‘sojourn’ treating it as a perk, the ruthless environment today does not afford the organizations that luxury! The focus has shifted to measuring the impact of training through the various levels suggested by Kirkpatrick.It is also becoming more of the norm that the participants do not receive the program completion certificates till they have demonstrated their felicity with acquired skills and insights in action. Action learning projects following from the learning imparted are being increasingly used to assess how well the participants have learnt from the program.Quite a few firms are also beginning to realize the importance of short ‘refresher’ capsules that recharge the participants with the insights/learning that they had acquired in the original training.
While it is true that a lot many beyond-the-person factors impact the application of what is learnt during the program, it is still possible to calculate the ROI on such investments. One such tool is available online, including the one available on the Government of Australia training website. However, the challenge in all such tools is to be able to isolate elements under individual control, and those that are not but still impact the application of learning in the workplace. Incorporating action plans into the programs is another way where insights gained can inform what the participants may apply once they are back on the job. On-the-job behavior on action plans (for example, increased sales, reduced waste, shorter collection times, better route planning, less absenteeism) prepared during the program do provide a yardstick, which can be used as a measure of the ROI. The organization can easily calculate the amount spent in implementing the action plans and benefits that accrue therefrom. However, the major benefit from the developmental programs may perhaps be non-monetary, viz., changed mindsets and improved relationships.