5 Reasons to Leverage Leadership Development During a Crisis

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 (LD) budgets took a substantial hit.

Today’s crisis is different. While many companies are inevitably facing spending cuts, the most adaptive organizations see that upskilling and building key soft skills are more valuable than ever in setting up leaders and rising leaders for success through the pandemic and beyond. 

In our April program run, ExecOnline saw the highest number of participants ever enrolled in our programs. We also launched our new 3-week program, Managing Uncertainty Virtually, led by award-winning leadership coach Dorie Clark, which was not only our fastest concept-to-launch course, but we had the most participants ever enrolled in an inaugural program run.

In a time when great leadership is as important as ever, organizations are prioritizing leadership development. Below you will find 5 reasons we have found businesses worldwide are leveraging leadership development in crisis and enrolling their leaders in ExecOnline® programs today.

1. Building key soft skills

Before today’s pandemic even began, businesses had already started recognizing the importance of soft skills like communication, leadership, and team collaboration. The sudden shift to a virtual workplace accelerated this need for soft skills, and today it is abundantly clear that hard times call for soft skills. 

In a survey from April 17- May 3, we asked 2000+ participants enrolled in ExecOnline programs what their biggest challenges as leaders were today. 62% reported ‘supporting their team members’ overall well-being’ while just 41% reported ‘delivering on our core job responsibilities.’ These results show how COVID-19 is stressing the soft skills of leaders more so than core responsibilities.

Source: ExecOnline proprietary data collected April 17 – May 3, 2020

2. Staying connected while apart

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 from around the world. In 2019 alone, ExecOnline hosted nearly 700 live events

During the live online sessions, program participants have many opportunities to network with and learn from other leaders experiencing similar challenges, both inside and outside their organization. In our April cohort, participants span across 50 countries!

3. Learning from renowned faculty and experts

The 30+ renowned professionals and faculty leading ExecOnline programs are experts in the global business community. They are knowledge creators who research, practice, and teach at the leading edge of their fields.  

Amidst the crisis, several of our professors are meaningfully contributing to the well-being of people in their communities and all over the world and providing guidance to help people persevere in both their personal and professional lives. 

These individuals are also dedicated to creating innovative solutions that respond to the business environment and the evolving needs of business leaders. An example of this is the creation of our newest program, Managing Uncertainty Virtually, which was our fastest concept-to-launch course. We worked diligently alongside award-winning leadership coach Dorie Clark to launch this new 3-week program that equips leaders with the skills they need to navigate today’s unprecedented leadership challenges, and come out better prepared the next time a crisis occurs.

4. Dedicating free time to development  

As we stay home for the greater good, many are looking for ways to be productive and use newfound free time to upskill. At the same time, HR leaders are seeking ways to not only engage with employees but to help them grow at their time of greatest need.

In our programs, we have seen our week-to-week progress rates go up as well as on-time graduation rates for our 3-week programs that recently ended. This could be because people have more time to dedicate to learning, but also that people want to upskill and use this time to better themselves.

In a recent episode of Stories from the HR Frontline, a video series where we spotlight HR leaders on the front line during this crisis, we had the opportunity to speak with Sue Quackenbush, CHRO at Vonage. Sue explains the critical role leadership development has played at her organization and how she believes her employees feel while enrolled in a program. She explains,

“I think learning is something good for you. It’s a plan. You’re moving forward. You’re growing. This is all positive. I think learning comes into the spotlight a lot more than maybe it has in the past…Learning provides you that sense of comfort, and it also feels good that you are doing it for yourself. When everything else is chaotic around you and still a lot more uncertain than it used to be, this is a nice thing where you can say ‘Yup I’m building momentum. This is good for me.’”

– Sue Quackenbush, CHRO at Vonage

5. Applying learning in the context of work

Learning virtually effectively is different from in-person leadership training. The volume and quality of online offerings available today differ markedly from the last recession. Organizations that have enrolled their leaders in ExecOnline programs see how we incorporate the entire 70/20/10 learning model into our virtual learning. Program participants tackle real projects within their organization, resulting in immediate application of what they are learning and sustained behavior change. 

76% of ExecOnline® participants say that their commitment to the organization increased as a result of participating in an ExecOnline program. We believe this is partly a testament to the sense of accomplishment they feel completing and presenting value-adding projects that are aligned with organizational strategy. 

Interested in learning how you can build the business case to grow your learning budget today? Sign up below to receive the on-demand recording of our free panel event.

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