The Boston Consulting Group / London Business School report*, published early

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1 Assessing the Value of Online and elearning for Leadership Development An IEDP Survey By Roderick Millar Recent research undertaken by IEDP with assistance from Deloitte, Cranfield University, SkillSoft and Wharton Executive Education into the online delivery of leadership learning, follows on from previous research into the executive education ecosystem and into leadership learning per se. The Boston Consulting Group / London Business School report*, published early 2011, stated that e-learning solutions, that offer physically flexible alternatives to classroom learning, was one of four major threats to the traditional business school model for executive development. And at a time when leadership development professionals are increasingly asked to deliver more with less, often on a global basis, advances in technology and the spread of social media suggest that the online delivery of executive learning should be on the march. However IEDP/Deloitte s Leadership Learning survey conducted last September revealed progress to be surprisingly slow. Despite respondents seeing cost and scheduling as the biggest barriers to learning in their organization (42.3% and 42.1% of respondents citing these as significant barriers), only 4.3% of respondents thought e-learning was a powerful learning experience. Online executive development appears to suffer from a poor image. It seemed that the perception of e-learning and e-learning applications, whether as pure on-line activities or part of a blended program were heavily focused on the lower rungs of the employee ladder and that they were not of great relevance to high-potential and senior executives. However, the evidence from the providers of e-learning was that senior executives when presented with the benefits, and not just the idea, of e-learning were much more willing to engage with it. IEDP with assistance from Deloitte, Cranfield University, SkillSoft and Wharton Executive Education has now completed a piece of research into the online delivery of leadership learning, to better understand why senior managers have this weak engagement with e-learning formats for their own development, when logically they appear to offer specific advantages that ought to be attractive to them. The aim of this research was to dig deeper into the experiences and perceptions of senior managers towards using online learning formats for leadership development. We also hoped to test out some feedback regarding specific functions and benefits of some current leading platforms. The research, conducted between May 21 st and June 26 th 2012, involved a survey of 187 senior executives and heads of leadership development at leading global companies. We present some initial analysis of the results below: Developing Leaders Issue 8:

2 Respondents: the respondents came from a wide variety of sectors, the education sector provided 19% of answers, followed by banking/finance/professional services which accounted for 15%, consulting 10%, manufacturing 6%, government/public sector 5%, life sciences/healthcare 3% and then a range of other sectors from IT, telecoms, retailing and others. In terms of management level, 11% were board or C-level of large organizations; and 43% were VP or directors and the balance senior managers or owners/self-employed. 75% of respondents were aged between 36 and 60, with a further 12% over 60 years old. A quarter of respondents had only been with their current organization for under two years, while 34% had been with their organization for over 11 years. As such we believe the population sampled were of significant executive experience and influence. When it came to identifying barriers... it was not the technology or indeed the interaction with it that was seen as the greatest issue We started the survey by identifying respondents views on what they believed were the most and least effective forms of executive development: 8 Please rank the following activities in order of how effective you think they are in developing leadership qualities in individuals where 1=most effective and 10=least effective. (Note: Due to the ranking format, the smallest the bar, the more effective the activity) Classroom based lectures On-the-job experiences Coaching Reading books / research Facilitated experiential activities Facilitated discussion groups Inspirational speakers Simulations Roleplaying University of Life On-the-job experience was clearly seen as the most effective, with coaching coming a close second; after that facilitated/experiential activities and discussion groups and then simulations. With reading books, classroom based lectures, improvisational speakers and role-playing being the least effective. This fitted with our expectations that classroom based-learning was not seen as engaging or effective in embedding learning but that experiential activities are. 52 Developing Leaders Issue 8: 2012

3 The survey next sought to identify how comfortable respondents were with using technology over 60% of them said they spent over 50% of their day using a computer or mobile device (other than a telephone) and the vast majority were not deterred by the idea of using technology in a development context: Is engaging and familiarizing with new technologies... Interesting and worthwhile Irritating but ultimately beneficial Not make a difference Annoying but inevitable in the modern technological era Undermines the benefits of the program When we dug a little deeper it was clear that respondents were most comfortable with voice and video conferencing and the social media network LinkedIn, but much less comfortable with other social networks such as Twitter and Facebook: Only 21% had not engaged in any e-learning in the last three years, but of those who had only 8.5% had found it a successful experience, while 43% thought it had been satisfactory. 30% of respondents organizations did not (as far as they knew) offer any e-learning development opportunities. When it came to identifying barriers to using e-learning, interestingly it was not the technology or indeed the interaction with it that was seen as the greatest issue, but the relevance of the content. Issues of trust, ease of use and technology were all evenly reported as fears but not at the same level as relevance of content. There was also a fairly even spread of what types of development benefits respondents believed were suited to e-learning, with no head-and-shoulders winners. Luckily Developing Leaders Issue 8:

4 5 How comfortable are you with using the following social media and virtual group technologies (1=not comfortable; 5=very comfortable) Audio conference calls Video conference calls Web conferencing (eg Webex/ Citrix etc) Online chat Online forums Mobile podcasts / videocasts Virtual world environments (Second LIfe/ AVAYA Live/ Forterra etc) Twitter Facebook LinkedIn Personal or organizational blog accessing online content was seen as the most appropriate use; discussing ideas with other participants received an average of 3.57 (out of a max of 5.0), collaborating on projects received an average of 3.54; discussing ideas with faculty got 3.47; with setting personal learning goals, recording learning journals, completing scheduled learning tasks and doing simulations all receiving between 3.31 and When asked what development benefits, as opposed to tasks, e-learning was good for, again there was an even spread of solutions. The options were scored on a range where they were not appropriate for e-learning (1) through can be achieved as well by e-learning as traditional programs (3) to more appropriate for e-learning than traditional methods (5). Only three benefits averaged above 3, and those only marginally: Sharing organizational knowledge 3.31 Learning new functional business skills 3.15 Broadening understanding of other areas within organization 3.11 All the other categories scored below 3, suggesting respondents believed that traditional methodologies were more appropriate than e-learning for delivering them. This included opportunities to improve best practice and experience new ideas and networking with 54 Developing Leaders Issue 8: 2012

5 Perhaps the providers biggest challenge though is to educate these executives as to what the latest versions of online learning technologies can actually achieve. colleagues as well as the least appropriate benefit increase self-awareness and leadership skills (2.57). Only 14% of respondents felt they had a good understanding of what e-learning products were currently on offer for executives, with 76% indicating they had moderate or limited knowledge, and 10% no current knowledge. In this initial analysis of the results perhaps the most interesting is the comparison between the question outlined previously on the benefits of e-learning and comparing that to the respondents views overall on the benefits of executive development programs. Overall the opportunity to improve best practice and share ideas (3.28) was viewed as the greatest benefit; followed by opportunity to identify new business opportunities (3.21), and sharing organizational knowledge (3.19). Again most responses were grouped around the mid-point average response of 3.0 but the variance between what they saw as valuable executive development benefits and which if those benefits could be effectively delivered as well by e-learning as by traditional methods was surprisingly small. From early analysis therefore of the results it looks as if the e-learning providers are correct, senior executives are happy to engage with new technologies (66% said they would see use of an ipad or tablet a positive benefit in development programs), most of them are already engaging successfully with business oriented social networks such as LinkedIn, and are comfortable with video and conference calling. However, they also acknowledge no great understanding of current e-learning platforms and have, on-the-whole had less than successful previous experiences with them. That said, they also see that sharing ideas, best practices and business knowledge are important aspects of executive development and that e-learning platforms are not much different, possibly better, ways of doing this than traditional methods. They have no significant concerns over building trust or using the technologies for e-learning but do view the relevance of e-learning content as an issue. This would appear to be good news for e-learning as a medium and a challenge to e-learning providers to ensure that their content is of the highest quality, and the interactions are facilitated in an effective way. Perhaps the providers biggest challenge though is to educate these executives as to what the latest versions of online learning technologies can actually achieve. IEDP will be publishing further content around the area of senior executive e-learning in the coming months, based on the results of this survey. *The Boston Consulting Group / London Business report Executive Education Ecosystem Assessment is reviewed in Developing Leaders Issue. magazine/2011issue4/index.html Developing Leaders Issue 8:

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