Insights from Emory Executive Education’s 2023 Leadership Development Survey

Anyone working in an organization today is acutely aware of the challenges for business in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the global economic uncertainties, technological advances, environmental concerns, remote and hybrid work transitions, and talent shortages. At Emory Executive Education we’re interested in understanding what this means for professional and executive development.

The State of Leadership and Development Training

To uncover key insights into the state of training and development in organizations today, the Emory Executive Education Leadership Development survey polled more than 200 executives from North America, Latin America, and Europe.

Developed in partnership with Jamie Turner, adjunct lecturer in marketing and Dr. Jesse Conyers, a current student in Goizueta’s Evening MBA program, the research compared findings to its 2022 study focused on the same topic.  

Key Insights Include:

While it is easier to attract new employees in 2023 vs. 2022, (although 69 percent of respondents still indicate it is harder to attract new employees than five years ago) the need for training and development remains important with83 percent of survey respondents saying the need for training and development is greater today than it was 5 years ago a slight increase over 2022.

However, Executive teams are less involved in talent development than they were a year ago: 56 percent of survey respondents said their organization’s executive team is very involved in talent development, which has decreased from 74 percent in 2022.

And organizations are less focused on developing the next generation of leaders than in 2022: 45 percent of those surveyed said their organization has a clear focus on developing the next generation of leaders, down from 63 percent in 2022.

“While it is good news that hiring has become easier, the expectations for business growth in a volatile and uncertain environment, coupled with the significantly changed expectations of employees means that developing your people, upskilling and reskilling your workforce from the C-Suite down the organization has become a critical strategic lever. It’s still important to develop your next generation of leaders but we’re seeing companies use learning and development as both a transformational lever for the business and an attraction and retention tool,” said Nicola Barrett, chief corporate learning officer of Emory Executive Education.

Given the Challenges Ahead, What Can Your Organization Do?

Six Action Steps for Your Organization 

The survey findings led us to several insights and action steps to consider for your organization.

1. The need for continuous leadership development is real. Leadership is no longer confined to traditional hierarchical structures; it’s about fostering innovation, driving collaboration, and inspiring teams towards shared goals. Action Step: Prioritize investing in ongoing training and development initiatives to enhance employee skills and capabilities in line with your organization’s strategic imperatives. Refine existing leadership development programs to meet evolving needs.

2. Economic uncertainty has affected budgets for training and development programs. While some organizations are exercising caution with budgets, the recognition of leadership development’s long-term value and its potential impact on organizational success underscores the need to find innovative ways to empower leaders without compromising finances. Action Step: Connect and focus learning to the achievement of strategic organizational goals while exploring ways to optimize learning and development budgets and resources.  

3. Employee recruitment and retention is changing. With the rise of remote work and increased focus on work-life balance, businesses are adapting their recruitment strategies. Simultaneously, retention strategies are taking center stage, emphasizing personalized career paths, skill development, and work environment. Top businesses are recognizing employee loyalty is built on meaningful engagement, continuous development, and commitment to employee well-being. Action Step: Capitalize on the improved ease of attracting new employees by showcasing unique value propositions and growth opportunities within the organization. Implement retention strategies such as tailored career paths and recognition programs to ensure a sustainable talent pool.

4. Cultivating the next generation of leaders is critical. Focusing on developing the next generation of leaders is an investment in an organization’s long-term success, stability, innovation, and reputation. Action: Revise strategies to prioritize development of the next generation of leaders within the organization. Strategically allocate resources, time, and staff to develop the next generation of leaders. Emory Executive Education can help you create leadership development programs that attract new talent, align employee career aspirations with business needs, and move your organization’s strategic initiatives forward.

5. In the end, what differentiates your business are the people. Despite rapidly developing technology, people skills remain the top areas of focus for high performing organizations. Action: Design learning and development initiatives that foster interpersonal skills, team management, and collaboration to enhance leadership and business effectiveness.

6. Succession planning is critical. By cultivating a pool of capable successors, organizations minimize disruptions and maintain a smooth transition, safeguarding institutional knowledge and sustaining momentum. Succession planning not only demonstrates commitment to employee growth and advancement but also fosters a culture of accountability and preparedness, positioning the organization for long-term success. Action: Establish comprehensive succession plans to ensure a smooth transition as key positions become vacant due to retirements or promotions. Implement knowledge transfer strategies to capture critical institutional knowledge as experienced leaders transition out of the organization.

Interested in learning more? Access the full 2023 Annual Leadership Development Research Report.

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