Executive Development in the Personalization Era
We are living in an era of unprecedented personal control. Never before have we been able to control all that we watch, listen to and read. This, undoubtedly, brings with it many opportunities, but also challenges for executive development and continuing education in the near future.

Digital entertainment such as Netflix and Hulu allow us to watch our preferred series and movies on various devices, when and where we like. Amazon and Google find products or websites for us to purchase or review, and then provide us with personal recommendations based on them. Spotify and Pandora learn our musical tastes, and make them available to us at the swipe of a finger; and Facebook and LinkedIn update us on our likes and interests in social and professional circles.     

It is a similar situation with education – at least education that we can freely chose from. We can now access a wide and growing range of contents and resources of differing quality, including options such as Massive Open On-line Courses (MOOCs) available on platforms like Coursera, EdX, Udemy and LinkedIn Learning. Furthermore, thanks to Youtube we can now learn simple things like basic DIY or watch video tutorials for a range of other manual activities.     

Continuing education and executive development are now finding themselves face-to-face with this new norm, presenting them with new challenges and opportunities.  It is often said that “the organization’s employees and executives can choose what they want to learn”, however, this is not entirely true. The Chief Learning Officer – Business Intelligence Board presented research suggesting that only 25% of organizations genuinely involved their employees in the details of the knowledge and skills that they develop. Similarly, in an international study that covered over 1,500 training areas of various organizations and industries, the Human Capital Media Research Advisory Group showed that in the majority of cases, the leaders and directors had the final word on this decision.   

There are reports of “learning ecosystems” being created which personalize user experience. Investment is being made in platforms that can supply users with knowledge, under their required conditions at the time and place they want. Nevertheless, the reality is that the personalization of continuous learning and executive development is only just beginning. Faced with the imminent disruption of the training world, there is an urgent need for the   implementation of Artificial Intelligence or Machine Learning, which will be the true foundations of personalization. To achieve this, there is a fundamental need for investment in technology and development, as well as matching new knowledge and skills to the function, profile, interests and wishes of each employee.

What are innovative companies doing?     

Innovative organizations are already taking simple, high impact decisions in the face of these new technologies and initiatives being more financially and socially accessible. For example, Relativity, a technical provider that supports litigations and legal research, grants its employees up to 3,000 dollars a year to be spent on training, with the employees making their choice based on the “with freedom comes responsibility” scheme. Other organizations now allow their employees to spend 10% of their time at work on programs of their own choice, while developing new skills and knowledge that both parties benefit from.     

In keeping with this new trend, international companies such as IBM have also developed policies to attract and develop talent. They are focusing more on the skills the individuals have personally developed - or are capable of developing for certain roles - as oppose to their “credentials” (academic qualifications). Likewise, companies in the same sector, such as HackerRank, have opted to shift their training and development model to an individual capacity based scheme for each of their employees. 

Other companies in emerging economies such as India or Latin America are also considering comparable approaches based on the large challenges and opportunities that these regions are faced with, and the reason why is clear: if there are more individuals and organizations looking for personalized training based on their specific interests and needs, the development and sourcing of these specific talents will proportionally grow as a consequence. This will trigger the training areas of businesses to enter into an immediate period of deep transition. There are now new theories, models and ideas emerging to improve the developmental quality, knowledge and training for companies and their employees. This also means that as individuals we need to be more emphatic and sensitive to the fact that learning is a two-way street: every piece of information learnt from our company, needs to benefit both parties.

The world today is a place where training is becoming more and more personalized – with a focus on the mutual benefit of the individual and their employer, with or without technology. It will be those initiatives that manage to bring together these two objectives, which shall outshine the challenges faced by both in the immediate future.