The Corporate Learning Pulse: Gulf Cooperation Council Countries

Senior Professionals in GCC Countries understand and recognise the long-term benefits of learning and leadership development, and it’s among their top business priorities for 2017

Dubai, UAE, 27 September: Senior professionals working in GCC Countries report that executive education and leadership development are top priorities within their organisation in 2017, relative to other areas of focus. About one in three (31 percent) of respondents in this year’s Corporate Learning Pulse cite learning and development as a 2017 business priority, ranking second behind digital adoption/digitisation (33 percent)

In addition to learning programmes, senior professionals working in GCC Countries report their organisations are focused on financial management (30 percent), and in-market growth (29 percent). The biggest challenge they face in the next three years? GCC senior professionals say it’s in-market growth (41 percent, second highest among all markets in our research behind Japan).

Additionally, a majority of senior professionals from GCC Countries firmly believe that corporate learning programmes can deliver tangible and intangible value to their organisation. Over half (53 percent) believe that executive education and leadership development are the keys to holding onto their best employees. And, half (50 percent) say that investing in employees through executive education and development drives change and innovation in their organisation.

Furthermore, our 2017 results show that high numbers of GCC senior professionals believe that executive education and leadership development programmes improved their skills, are vital to achieving business goals, and are more important than ever. They strongly believe that programmes have improved their business knowledge, competencies, and confidence (94 percent) and that it’s given them the skills to work more effectively (85 percent). In fact, most (84 percent) agree that executive education has helped them gain a promotion.

2017 learning priorities among Senior Professionals in GCC Countries are for better innovation and adapting to new technology

The top corporate learning needs for senior professionals in GCC Countries in 2017 are focused on adopting and using new technology, managing reputation and risk, and driving successful innovation.

In light of global and local political change, organisations are faced with an array of talent management issues in the years to come. According to this year’s results, the issues that need to be most readily addressed in GCC Countries are training (27 percent), recruitment (20 percent), planning (20 percent), and executive education and leadership development (17 percent).

To date, our 2017 research has shown that learning and leadership development programmes haven’t been living up to GCC senior professional expectations, but they are optimistic that future programmes will be worth the investment.

It’s clear from our research that the perceived value of corporate learning exists among senior professionals in GCC countries. Despite that optimistic view, our research found that less than half (46 percent) of GCC senior professionals say they are highly satisfied with their current corporate learning programmes. Satisfaction in current programmes is strongest in China (72 percent), Spain (64 percent) and Germany (57 percent).

Much like their satisfaction with current programmes, less than half (43 percent) of senior professionals in GCC countries say that senior leaders in their organisation believe past investments have added value to the organisation. This helps to explain why just about half (49 percent) of those surveyed in GCC countries agree that their current approach to executive education and leadership development needs to improve.

Yet, while less than half of respondents took an optimistic view of senior leadership’s perception of executive education and leadership development, half (50 percent) state that senior leaders believe future investments will add value to their organisation.

Although GCC organisations have attempted to measure the impact of executive education and leadership development, they don’t always succeed, despite this being a priority when choosing the right programme.

Interestingly, regardless of their perceptions of how current and past learning and development programmes have performed in GCC Countries, senior professionals still expect them to deliver results in future.

From an internal perspective, senior professionals in GCC Countries expect programmes to improve employee engagement scores (78 percent), have a positive impact on organisation change (74 percent), and improve employee retention (72 percent). In terms of business outcomes they expect, a majority say programmes should have a positive impact on revenue, profit and margins (75 percent), improve reputation in the marketplace (74 percent), and improve customer engagement and satisfaction (70 percent).

As we found in our 2016 survey of European markets, organisations are still searching for a reliable approach to measuring the impact learning and development programmes have across their business. High numbers of senior professionals from GCC Countries report their organisation has tried to make a link between programmes and employee satisfaction (74 percent), customer satisfaction (73 percent), and employee engagement (72 percent).

In GCC Countries, the perceived impact of executive education and leadership development is below average (45 percent) relative to other markets and among all senior professionals in our study (51 percent). However, when we drill down more specifically into how programmes have affected the business we find relatively high numbers of GCC respondents reporting a tangible impact on customer satisfaction (50 percent), revenue, profit and margins (48 percent), and reputation in the marketplace (45 percent).

Additionally, senior professionals agree that there is room for improvement when it comes to how executive education and leadership development are delivered in their organisation, including better alignment with business goals (55 percent), more support from senior leaders (49 percent), and more engagement from employees (48 percent).

How do senior professionals in GCC countries believe their organisations select the right learning and development partners?

When selecting learning and development partners and providers, GCC senior professionals believe it is most important for the selected partner to deliver results for the clients that buy their programmes (65 percent), have a strong ranking and reputation in the marketplace (63 percent), and be one that comes recommended by peer organisations (63 percent).

Once the right partner is selected, the top programme considerations for GCC senior professionals are a customised approach tailored to business needs (40 percent), ability to align their learning approach to their strategy and vision (30 percent), and the ability to deliver measurable outcomes for their business (28 percent).

Research Approach

The data, findings and insights in this report are based on online survey of almost 1000 senior professionals from medium, large and very large organisations in the UK, France, Germany, GCC Countries, the Nordics (Denmark, Sweden & Norway), the Netherlands, China, Japan and the GCC (UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia).

The research was conducted in partnership with Research Now, Inc, a global leader in digital data collection to power analytics and insights, and responses were collected between 1 April and 10 May 2017. The study reached out to 939 senior professionals and included company owners, CEOs, CFOs, chairmen, presidents/managing directors, chief learning officers, directors, human resource managers, learning and development managers/professionals, and senior managers. Data was collected to track business sector and size of business. The margin of error for the total sample is ±5.0%.

Corporate Learning Pulse
A study into senior management attitudes on corporate learning
First published May 2016
Second edition published June 2017

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