Friday, April 17, 2009

The New Style of Business Training

Before the recession, companies often sent their star managers to executive training programs held at business schools around the country. With budgets in the hundreds of millions, top professors, and a generous schedule, these programs usually focused on general leadership development, rather than company-specific problems.

Now, however, companies are searching for cheaper alternatives with a more immediate impact. "Companies are asking for external experts to come in and do something very specific," says Josh Brand, a former senior director of executive education at Babson College and co-founder of Freemont Learning, Inc., an executive development firm. In a time of economic uncertainty, the focus has shifted to moving the company - not just the individual - forward.

As a result, executive-education consultancies are scrambling to create customized programs that provide managers with the skills to weather the downturn and come out on top. "When you have trained leaders in bad economic times, it makes a world of difference," says Tim Bray, vice president and chief learning officer for Quintiles Transnational Corporation. And it's the consulting firms, rather than business schools, that are able to offer the flexibility and support companies are looking for. In addition, web-based courses, traditionally offered to middle management, are now being used for top-level executives as well. The Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, NC, has even started offering ready-to-use courses that, while less specific than an on-site visit, cost a fraction of the price.

This trend is a good one; you can build a better business by offering your management team focused training and education to achieve specific outcomes.