Executive Education Fosters Transformational Corporate Learning
Executive Education Fosters Transformational Corporate Learning

Companies’ development strategies require tailored solutions and inspired agents of change. Leading international business schools provide diverse options to serve the specific training needs within the organisations. The efficiency of the corporate learning programmes is a result of the creative cooperation between corporate HR teams and business schools’ faculty and training managers.

As a global digital media communications company, we need to transform. We need to drastically change. The Universitas is the place for this change to happen,” shares Rory Simpson, Chief Learning Officer at Universitas Telefonica’s customised programme with IESE Business School. The tailored programme is a prime example of how companies and universities can work together to encourage business growth.

Corporate transformation is always unique

To maintain their competitive advantage, companies have specific development needs for their employees. Some of them can be accommodated by degree, certificate or open enrolment programmes. However, addressing key business issues usually requires a customised executive education approach. Tailor-made courses ensure that the curriculum and training methodology is adapted to the specific requirements of the company, so that the skills, knowledge, and group dynamics gained during the programme can be immediately applicable to implementing the corporate development strategy.

Anna Chiara Lucchini, Head of Leadership Development & Group Academy at Generali Group, highlights: “We spent several months into developing our strategy, presenting it and defining how to translate it into the way we work. We need to have a sustainable growth in terms of talents and leaders, so we identify the best people in the different layers of the organisation and then expose them to high quality leadership development experiences.

The cooperative approach

Effective customised programmes are usually co-designed by the company and the provider. Professor Charles Galunic, INSEAD director of a customised programme for Generali Group, highlights: “To customise a programme like this you have to talk across all levels. It’s a constant iteration. It’s a back and forth between their [the company’s] side reflecting on some of the things that we are suggesting, and us making adaptations and changes to the eventual programme content. We spent a lot of time with the Generali Leadership Development and HR teams.” Co-designing a programme is an essential step. On the one hand, it helps the business school understand the needs of the company. On the other hand, the provider-client iteration helps set realistic expectations about the results of the training programme for the company.

In addition, each company has its specific goals, challenges, and a unique culture. The content and teaching methods of an effective tailor-made programme take into consideration each aspect of the company’s organisation.

Another crucial aspect of ensuring the efficiency of executive education programmes is monitoring the implementation and results of the participants during and after the training. IESE Business School’s professor Marta Elvira Rojo describes the key pillars of the highly successful Vivero corporate development programme developed for Airbus Military: “A unique aspect of Vivero is the engagement of the management board throughout all the stages of the development of this programme – design, delivery and outcomes. The programme has been co-developed, co-delivered and followed-up by both organisations. It has a steering committee to guide and follow-up the participants along the implementation of the learning from the modules.”

How customised can a programme be?

Executive education programmes are fully customisable and adaptable. They tailor the curriculum and schedule to each company’s needs and goals. Business schools have developed a really complete portfolio to address the needs across industries and cultures.

Corporate clients, but also entrepreneurs and even managers of SME and family businesses, can choose from a diverse training portfolio available at international business schools.

  • Programmes focused on functional areas such as General Management, Top Management, Human Resources, Corporate Finance, Finance, Marketing and Sales, Strategy, Operations Management, Entrepreneurship, Family-Owned Business, Leadership, Digital Transformation and Innovation;
  • Programmes focused on specific industries such as Healthcare, Media and Entertainment, Information Systems, Travel and Tourism;
  • Programmes can be curated in terms of content, participants, teaching methods and culture;
  • Executive education programmes are usually delivered in a blended format that mixes on-campus, in-house, online training, self-study and individual projects.

Executive education providers

Traditionally, customised and open enrolment executive education programmes have been provided by business schools, in addition to their degree programmes such as Master of Business Administration (MBA), Executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA), Master of Science programmes in Finance and Accounting, Management and Organisation, Business and Strategy, certificate programmes and free massive open online courses (MOOCs).

However, Nitin Nohria, Dean of Harvard Business School, suggests to the Financial Times that the market is big enough to accommodate fresh players, in addition to business schools. “The provision of management education will occur in many more forms by many more providers,” he predicts as some management consulting companies introduce executive leadership training programmes, such as the McKinsey Academy.

Quality assurance

The business education market is already well saturated and thus highly competitive. Business schools invest in quality assurance because it affects their competitive advantages, reputation and ranking positions.

Business schools are formally evaluated by professional bodies – international business education accreditation agencies – the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), based in Tampa, FL, USA; the Association of MBAs (AMBA), based in London and the European Quality Improvement System of The Management Development Network (EQUIS – EFMD) in Brussels. Although accreditation is not mandatory, 75 business schools in 30 countries are accredited by all three agencies and boast “triple accreditation” as of July 2016.

In addition, the quality of education provided by business schools is evaluated by the market itself based on the success of their graduates and the satisfaction of their employers. The latest trends are monitored by international organisations such as the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) and reflected by the most reputable business education media rankings.

Serving such a demanding target audience stimulates business schools to foresee the skills and theoretical frameworks that can ensure business success in a highly turbulent economic, social and technology-driven environment.

Leaders in executive education and corporate learning

The diversity of high quality executive education programmes has never been greater. They serve equally well companies as well as individuals. Companies benefit from customised programmes to stimulate and navigate organisational transformation. Professionals benefit from executive education to grow as visionary business leaders.

This growing diversity calls for resources that facilitate companies in choosing the best options for their needs. The leading executive education providers in the past decade can be tracked with the Financial Times ranking of Customised and Open-enrolment Programmes after checking out the methodology to ensure complete understanding of the listing.

A unique new learning and networking opportunity is the Marketing in Education & Recognition of International Talent Summit (MERIT) that connects HR experts and managers from multinational companies with top international business schools, executive education providers and outstanding business school alumni. Taking place in Barcelona in January 2017, the MERIT Summit is an innovative forum for all stakeholders in transformational corporate leaning through executive education.


Keeping up-to-date with the diversity of customised executive education programmes provides a bird’s-eye view into the latest training and development trends that nurture business and organisational innovation.