Sunday 05, November 2017 by Jessica Combes

Digitalisation and market growth are the main challenges facing GCC senior executives


Digitalisation and market growth are the major challenges facing senior business executives in the GCC according to the 2017 Corporate Learning Pulse global survey.

Conducted on behalf of Financial Times | IE Business School Corporate Learning Alliance, the survey considers the future direction of leadership development.

Research was conducted among nearly 1000 senior professionals across multiple business sectors in the GCC countries, China, France, Germany, Netherlands, Nordics, Japan, Spain and the UK. More than 10 per cent of respondents are from the GCC with the majority of companies employing over 500 people.

Over a third of business executives (39 per cent) surveyed in the GCC identify digitalisation as one of their top business challenges in the next three years, alongside business growth (41 per cent). This was followed by financial management (26 per cent). Despite high profile stories related to cyber security, only one in four (24 per cent) identify this as a challenge they need to address.

While executive education (31 per cent) falls behind other business priorities in 2017, it is clear from the survey that senior professionals from the GCC region understand and recognise the long-term benefits of learning and leadership development. One in three (31 per cent) senior professionals report that corporate learning is in their top three organisational priorities for 2017.

Senior GCC professionals are very positive about the impact of executive education leadership development, with:

  • 94 per cent stating executive education/leadership development has improved their business knowledge, competencies and confidence.
  • 80 per cent seeing education/leadership development as vital to achieve business goals.
  • 83 per cent viewing education/leadership development as more important than ever.
  • 85 per cent acknowledging that education/leadership development has enhanced their ability to do their job more effectively.

The majority of GCC executives view education/leadership development as vital to employee retention (53 per cent) and a key driver innovation and change (50 per cent) within their organisations.

The main learning priorities with regards to executive education are:

  • Adoption of new technologies (55 per cent)
  • Managing reputation and risk (55 per cent)
  • Customer engagement (54 per cent)
  • Successful innovation (54 per cent)

Notably, among senior professionals in the GCC the most prominent internal outcomes expected from executive education are seen as improved employee engagement (78 per cent) and a positive impact on organisational change (74 per cent). Surprisingly, staff progression in the organisation (26 per cent) is seen as the lowest priority outcome expected.

While there is a lot to be positive about, what is also apparent from the survey results is that some learning and leadership development programmes have not quite lived up to expectations. Only 43 per cent of senior professionals in the GCC countries believe that past investments have added value to their organisation.

Of those who saw past investments not adding value, the main reasons cited for why the programmes have not benefitted their organisation are an inability to:

  • Adapt to the organisation’s needs (65 per cent)
  • Measure the success or outcomes of such programmes (59 per cent)
  • Lack of support from senior leaders (56 per cent)

Nonetheless, there is still optimism about the future success of executive education, with 50 per cent of senior professionals stating that senior leaders believe future investments in these types of programmes will add value to their organisation.

Commenting on the survey, VanDyck Silveira, FT | IE Corporate Learning Alliance CEO, says: “Senior executives face a multitude of business challenges, including an increasingly competitive environment, changes to technology and cyber security. Our survey reveals that executive education plays a vital role in helping businesses meet these challenges and developing the next generation of business leaders.”