How ExecOnline Responded to Changing Customer Needs in Crisis

Over the past few months, executives everywhere have been assessing the impact of the pandemic on their business models, both immediately and for the long term. Some responded quickly, introducing new, innovative ways to continue doing business – i.e. restaurants transformed their spaces into grocery stores, and some even began hosting drive-in movies in their parking lots. 

To generate these innovative ideas, businesses are asking one of the most important questions I believe any organization can ask while facing disruption: How can we best serve our customers/clients right now?’ This question may seem obvious, but as the Vice President of Product Launch at ExecOnline, I believe this question has never been more meaningful than it is today. 

At ExecOnline, we responded to HR leaders’ evolving needs by shifting our product roadmap and developing an entirely new online leadership development program, Managing Uncertainty Virtually. This is a unique time when organizations and departments must learn from one another, and I hope that by sharing our story below, you will be inspired to be proactive and meet your customers where they are at today.

What challenges do L&D leaders face right now?

We asked this question more and more as the implications of the crisis became more apparent in mid-February. Organizations worldwide had started implementing organizational travel restrictions, and for L&D leaders, this meant that their in-person development programs needed to be paused. 

As time went on, organizations rolled out remote work policies, and L&D teams shifted their in-person L&D programs online. Moving programs online is very difficult, and two even bigger challenges evolved:

1. Leaders’ expectations for virtual learning have permanently increased. 

While some employees may have initially faced obstacles in the transition to virtual work, many feel more adjusted to remote work and have found new ways to use technology to stay connected while apart. This is true in our professional and personal lives. I’ve heard many stories of grandparents using Zoom to play games with their friends!

What does this mean for leadership development? Leaders’ expectations for virtual learning have permanently increased. Leaders now know what it’s like to learn and work remotely, and online development must match these experiences. Gone are the days of static videos and pdfs, as leaders expect that online leadership development programs will be engaging, and the technology will facilitate robust connections from a distance. 

2. Changing business expectations means leadership development must deliver immediate value. 

In previous times of economic decline, HR and talent development budgets were targets for cost cutting. This is especially true when we look back at the aftermath of the most recent and comparable economic disruption, the 2007 financial crisis, where leadership development budgets took a substantial hit. 

While many companies are inevitably facing spending cuts today the most adaptive organizations see that upskilling and building key soft skills are more valuable than ever. However, in order to build the business case to fortify or even grow learning budgets during a crisis, L&D programs must show impact. 

How does ExecOnline solve these challenges?

1. Best in class technology and online learning experience – 

As Michael Wade, Director of the Global Center for Digital Business Transformation at IMD Business School and Professor of ExecOnline’s Driving Digital Transformation program, shared in a recent webinar event“ExecOnline is an organization that has really been doing this since the beginning, and we see other organizations trying to catch up.”

When I first started working for ExecOnline over 7 years ago, people were very skeptical of online development for executives. At the time, not everyone even had webcams, and very few believed that we could take an in-person program and reimagine it in an online environment.

ExecOnline has come a very long way since then, and today we partner with 8 of the world’s top business schools to deliver online leadership development programs to leaders all over the world. Our best in class technology and program platform connects leaders and equips them with the skills needed to excel in their roles, no matter their industry or location. 

While some online LD programs consist solely of video lectures and application exercises, ExecOnline also offers live online events that connect participants with world-renowned faculty and leaders worldwide. In 2019 alone, ExecOnline hosted nearly 700 live virtual events. 

2. Relevant content that shows an ROI of Learning – 

To best serve our clients right now, we launched a new 3-week program, Managing Uncertainty Virtually, led by award-winning leadership coach Dorie Clark. This was not only our fastest concept-to-launch course, but we are proud to share that our first cohort had the most participants ever enrolled in an inaugural program run. 

To create this program, we moved up the studio shoot with Dorie Clark twice, and launched this program in less than 2 months! While it typically takes us around 9 months to launch a program, we knew L&D leaders needed to equip their leaders with the skills to navigate today’s unprecedented leadership challenges and come out better prepared the next time a crisis occurs. Despite the rapid turnaround, and the disruptions and challenges participants face in their professional and personal lives, we are seeing great feedback from our first cohort that kicked off the last week of April.

All ExecOnline programs are also designed to show an immediate ROI by aligning to the 70/20/10 learning model. With our proprietary “Learning Runway” design and our “learning by doing with impact” methodology, program participants tackle real projects within their organization, resulting in immediate application of what they are learning and sustained behavior change. 

An organization’s ability to respond to ‘changing customer needs’ is more important than ever. 

Now more than ever, we must monitor our clients’ needs to better understand how they are changing and adjust our products and services to offer solutions. In a recent survey, we asked 2000+ leaders how the emerging business environment was impacting their organization, and 69% reported ‘changing customer needs’ as impacting the business. These results show just how challenging COVID-19 is making it for organizations to balance changing customer needs as work switches to digital.

Want to learn about ExecOnline’s newest program, and enroll your leaders in our July cohort? Contact a member of our team today. 


Mallory Jones

Vice President, Product Launch

Mallory Jones is a Vice President on the Product team, working cross-functionally to oversee global product launch at ExecOnline, Inc. A member of the ExecOnline team since the early days of the company, she has held senior positions across many aspects of the organization, including Business Development, Account Management, Client Success, and Product Management.

Mallory combines an entrepreneurial spirit with a strong corporate background. She was a co-founder of a digital marketing firm supporting small business owners and worked in Sales & Marketing at two NYC-based startups. The majority of her career before ExecOnline was spent at the Corporate Executive Board, where she engaged with C-Level Sales and Marketing executives in a business development role that incorporated the sharing of best practice solutions and identification of common organizational and functional challenges. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in History and Economics from Duke University.

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