Financial Times | IE Business School Corporate Learning Alliance, one of the world’s leading providers of customised executive education programmes for large enterprises, has unveiled the 2018 findings of its Pulse Report. An international study of more than 1000 executives, it assesses current business priorities and the role of leadership development and executive education in addressing these concerns.


The study identifies and analyses the major trends and influences that affect organisational performance and operation, revealing how executive development can best support business growth. Covering a sample of 1032 respondents from medium-sized to large companies around the world, this third edition of the Pulse Report focuses on the new realities of global business and their impact on leadership.


’We are seeing a profound change in companies’ concerns,’ says Gustaf Nordbäck, CEO of FT | IE Corporate Learning Alliance. ’Rather than seeking to invest in skills development for its own sake, they are exhibiting a change in mindset – wanting to prepare their leaders to meet the specific challenges facing modern business.’


Nordbäck adds: ‘In 2018, executive education has come into clearer view as a top five organisational priority. However, ever-pressing developments such as cybersecurity, digitalisation and data management dominate organisations’ focus, and are likely to continue to do so in the coming years.


‘To ensure long-term success, the corporate learning and development sector must reinvent itself with current and future needs and challenges in mind.


‘The survey shows that there remains a need to help organisations make the right connections internally. Demonstrating the value of investments made in learning is vital – and doing so will require the bringing together of all relevant internal stakeholders to ensure alignment from the outset,’ he says.


Big data: big issues

The third annual Pulse Report reveals significant growth in the incidence of senior leaders prioritising cybersecurity and the use of big data in smart and unique ways. Some 45% of executives now see cybersecurity as a top 5 priority, compared with 26% in 2017.



Next in terms of corporate priorities is digital transformation and growth – with 35% of respondents rating these two topics as crucial for their organisation. According to Gustaf Nordbäck: ‘This interest in data is reflective of the global environment and the recent introduction of GDPR in the European Union.


‘Current political realities, including Brexit, have also become more of a priority for 14% of the survey respondents,’ he continues. ‘This almost doubles this issue’s importance to senior executives compared with the 2017 report.’


Internationally, executive development ranks fourth in terms of priorities, with 32% of companies (compared with 26% in 2017) naming it as vital to achieving business goals. Moreover, fewer than half (46%) of senior professionals believe that their organisations are well-equipped to adapt to changes in the marketplace.


‘Year-on-year, respondents are more likely to point to a lack of support from senior leadership and the misalignment of executive education programmes with company strategy as key reasons why senior leaders don’t feel that past investments in executive education and leadership development have added value,’ says Nordbäck.


‘The survey shows that there is also a firm belief among senior professionals that executive education providers need to reinvent their offerings as business challenges change,’ he adds.


Less than half of L&D and HR professionals feel programmes have evolved to meet their changing needs. Indeed, 41% of senior professionals say that executive education could be improved

by better alignment with business goals.


By and large, attitudes toward executive education have remained constant compared with previous years. However, there’s an appetite for providers to offer new ways to help them face business challenges while better aligning with their organisations’ goals.


Focusing on the UK market

Among UK companies, the top three business concerns are in-market growth, cybersecurity and growing future leaders. These are top priorities to 45%, 43% and 38% of respondents respectively.


Satisfaction in corporate learning programmes rose from 40% in 2017 to 54% in 2018 – in line with views in other European markets.


The largest growth in the UK’s executive learning priorities in the last year is commercial acumen. As a learning priority, this topic rose from 47% to 62%, according to the survey’s respondents.


A video summary of the 2018 Corporate Learning Pulse report findings can be viewed, and the 2018 report can be downloaded, from: