Ulster Business School Masterclass
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Back to School, But Development Never Stops
Competition is prevalent in all walks of life, whether it is one of our golfers competing for a major title, news graduate attempting to stand out from their peers when seeking that first job, or our firms competing with others for business, and even Northern Ireland itself competing for inward investment.
So how do we ensure that we are best equipped to take on our competitors? Rory McIlroy may choose to spend time with his coach to hone his golf swing, but how business managers and leaders ensure they are capable of meeting head on the ever greater business challenge? The answer may be through skills development.
The case for such development is laid out in the NI Economic Strategy (2011) where a need to develop a highly skilled, innovative and flexible workforce through collaboration between business and Universities is highlighted if we are to deliver economic growth.
There is a great deal of investment in skills in Northern Ireland - local business spend hundreds of millions of pounds on training and development each year and government has spent millions on driving up standards of personal development to ensure that Northern Ireland’s competitiveness.
But is the money given over to management and leadership development spent wisely? Recent Chartered Management Institute (CMI) research would suggest not. A key finding of this research was that “the types of training being offered by organisations are not necessarily those activities that managers rate as most effective. There appears to be a mismatch between management and leadership development provision and the type of development perceived as most effective, as reported by managers”
Interestingly, this mismatch was most pronounced for postgraduate qualifications, such as the MBA, with over 80% of managers who undertook this type of course, rating their developmental experiences as most effective. However only 20% of respondents had the opportunity to complete such courses in the first place. So perhaps businesses are not taking advantage of the programmes of study that are available.
As a Business School we are challenged with supporting local business and ensuring that our provision meets business needs. We regularly hold stakeholder forums to discuss current and future skill requirements and we have recently been involved in a nationwide research exercise to assess the specific skills requirements of MSBs (medium sized businesses).
Key findings from our stakeholder forums indicate that leadership and ‘soft’ skills are regarded as being most crucial for NI businesses. Given this feedback the we have incorporated such skills in our executive education courses, such as our MBA and MSc Executive Leadership which are designed for managers and business leaders who are charged with driving our organisations and economy forward.
So what difference could more effective leaders make to the economy? A major CBI review of the education system ‘Ambition for All’, stated that raising educational attainment to the levels of the best in Europe could add 1% point to growth annually.
At the Ulster Business School we have seen first had the impact of executive education can on our local organisations as our courses are designed so managers and leaders can take their learning from the classroom and make a difference in the workplace. An example of such success is in the local Pharmaceutical Packaging Company Chesapeake, whose General Manager Chris Dears points to generating cash savings of almost £1 million by thinking about business processes in a different way after completing the MSc Business Improvement course
To conclude, executive skills development is essential to driving our businesses and economy forward, managers identify that the most effective form of development comes in the form of postgraduate executive education. If we are to ensure a demand led system the Business School must (and does) converse with employers in order to meet their needs. Where this happens and companies invest in their workforce the rewards are there to be seen. The result will be a more sustainable economy of proactive ‘revenue generators’ rather than ‘cash absorbers’.
Ulster Business School
The content of this article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute professional or other advice.
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