Executive Education: The New School

By Egodigwe, Laura | Black Enterprise, February 2005 | Go to article overview

Executive Education: The New School


Egodigwe, Laura, Black Enterprise


Executive education is big business. Companies spend millions of dollars a year to make sure their executives have the right skills to meet every business challenge. Most business schools--Harvard, Columbia and Howard universities among them--offer courses, workshops and seminars that attract thousands of executives each year. There are private executive education providers, as well. "There's a tremendous amount of change in the business world and chief executives are under a tremendous amount of pressure to adapt to change in the organization," says Ethan Hanabury, Associate Dean of Executive Education at Columbia University. Education can help executives deal with those changes. But in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks executive education budgets were tightened. Just over three years later, executive education is bouncing back as the economy recovers and companies start to post profits again. However, the post 9/11 business world has resulted in different business challenges and with them new trends for executive education.

Among them:

* Companies want custom-designed programs. With budgets stretched tight, companies want to get the most out of their executive education dollars. Hearing about other companies' problems or hypothetical situations in case studies just doesn't cut it. So, more and more, companies are partnering with executive education providers to tailor programs specifically to their own business needs. Custom programs, which can run as high as $400,000 per program, are currently more popular than open-enrollment programs, which group together executives from various companies, industries and countries. Still, open enrollment programs are staging a comeback from their lows after 9/11, particularly if they have adapted to changes on the business landscape. Columbia's month-long senior open enrollment executive education program costs $36,000 per executive. Similar programs cost the same.

* Custom programs are becoming more specific. At Duke Corporate Education, director of marketing Gordon Armstrong is noticing companies becoming more specific with what they want from executive education. "Increasingly, our education is more focused on a problem," he says. Before, companies might want to do a general leadership development program. Now, they want to focus on a functional area like marketing, finance or operations. In addition, companies are tailoring executive education to real issues they are grappling with. Banks, for example, had grown bigger over the years by making acquisitions. Now they must grow organically, Armstrong notes, and had to seek the specific steps toward their goal. "That's a more specific question than, say, 'we need good leadership,'" Armstrong says, "It's more what are the specific things we need to do to grow organically. Then you can tailor an education program that addresses those specific needs. You're still developing the talent of the people in the organization, but it's focused on the business problem."

* Corporate Governance is a hot topic. After scandals involving high-level executives and conflicts of interest among Wall Street research analysts, it's no wonder that corporate governance and ethics courses are popular. In addition, the new Sarbanes-Oxley Act requires tighter accounting and corporate standards, and executives have to learn how to navigate the new terrain. "The level of interest [in corporate governance programs] was not as great prior to the scandals that have occurred," Hanabury notes. Harvard and Columbia now offer corporate governance programs. Typical classes include Columbia's "Accounting Essentials for Corporate Directors: Enhancing Financial Integrity."

* Executive education and EMBA programs are blending face time with Web time. Many executives can't spare much time away from work. The average executive MBA student is 37 years old with 15 years of work experience, 10 of those years in management, says Maury Kalnitz, Executive Director of the Executive NBA Council, a trade group. …

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