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Pulse Report reveals key executive priorities and concerns

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Interview with Gustaf Nordback, CEO, FT-IE Corporate Learning Alliance, at the launch of the annual Pulse Report into senior management attitudes towards leadership development and executive education.

Interview with Gustaf Nordback: insights into senior management attitudes towards leadership development and executive education
Gustaf Norback, CEO, FT-IE Corporate Learning Alliance, launching the Pulse Report 2018 at the Financial Times in London
Gustaf Norback, CEO, FT-IE Corporate Learning Alliance, launching the Pulse Report 2018 at the Financial Times in London 

Learning News and Learning Now TV were at the launch of the Pulse Report 2018 - to interview Gustaf Nordback, CEO of the FT-IE Corporate Learning Alliance, about the report's insights into senior management attitudes to leadership development and executive education.

The launch took place at the Financial Times with the City of London providing the backdrop and Learning Now TV anchor, Nigel Paine, asking the questions. 

During the interview Gustaf Nordback identifies the top leadership development priorities from this year's report, including the significant growth in prioritising cybersecurity and the use of  big data: 45% of executives now see cybersecurity as a top 5 priority, compared with 26% in 2017. The second and third corporate priorities are digital transformation and growth – with 35% of respondents rating these two topics as crucial for their organisation. 

The Pulse report is an international study of more than 1000 executives carried out for Financial Times | IE Business School Corporate Learning Alliance (, one of the world's leading providers of customised executive education programmes for large enterprises, assesses current business priorities and the role of leadership development and executive education in addressing these concerns.

Among this Pulse Report’s findings are:

  1. Executive education now ranks fourth in executives’ top organisational priorities.
  2. Rather than seeking to invest in skills development for its own sake, organisations now seem to want to prepare their leaders to meet the specific challenges facing modern business.
  3. Nearly half of senior professionals expect the executive education in which their organisations invest to have a positive impact on organisational change, help individuals gain skills to lead and manage teams, and to drive staff progression.
  4. Developments such as cybersecurity, digitalisation and data management dominate organisations’ focus - and seem likely to do so in the coming years. Some 45% of executives now see cybersecurity as a ‘top 5’ priority, compared with 26% in 2017.
  5. Organisations need help to make the right connections internally. Demonstrating the value of investments made in learning is vital – and doing so will require the bringing together of all relevant internal stakeholders to ensure alignment from the outset.
  6. Current political realities, including Brexit, have also become more of a priority for 14% of the survey respondents. This almost doubles this issue’s importance to senior executives compared with the 2017 report.
  7. Fewer than half (46%) of senior professionals believe that their organisations are well-equipped to adapt to changes in the marketplace.
  8. A lack of support from senior leadership and the misalignment of executive education programmes with company strategy are key reasons why senior leaders don’t feel that past investments in executive education and leadership development have added value.
  9. Less than half of L&D and HR professionals feel executive education programmes have evolved to meet their changing needs. Some, 41% of senior professionals say that executive education could be improved by better alignment with business goals.
  10. Senior professionals believe that executive education providers need to reinvent their offerings as business challenges change. Buyers of executive education want providers to offer new ways to help them face business challenges while better aligning with their organisations’ goals.

The Pulse study identifies and analyses the major trends and influences that affect organisational performance and operation, revealing how executive development can best support business growth. Covering a sample of 1032 respondents from medium-sized to large companies around the world, this third edition of the Pulse Report focuses on the new realities of global business and their impact on leadership.

“We are seeing a profound change in companies’ concerns,” says Gustaf Nordbäck, CEO of FT | IE Corporate Learning Alliance.

“Looking ahead, digital adoption / digitalisation and how to leverage big data will probably emerge as key priorities, and the risk with cybersecurity should also be top-of-mind for executives. The respondents’ collective consciousness also revealed significant concerns over the unforeseen effects of geopolitical factors around the world.

These are just three of the many elements that make up today’s volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) world. While it’s difficult to foresee rises in the importance for specific executive education topics, it’s still true to say that those who’re leading change in this VUCA world – and influencing others to achieve this change effectively – need high quality leadership skills.

“This is the key to organisational success today – and developing these involve the whole range of executive education programmes,” Nordbäck believes.

A video summary of the 2018 Corporate Learning Pulse report findings can be viewed, and the 2018 report can be downloaded, from:    

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The Pulse Report is available to download from FT-IE CLA: Pulse Report 2018

About the Pulse Report

This year’s Pulse Report is the third in a series of annual surveys of C-suite executives, senior managers, HR and L&D professionals in a range of 13 countries (United Kingdom, France, Spain, Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Japan). The 2016 survey encompassed some 600 business leaders across Europe. The 2017 survey, of some 939 executives, gathered opinions from Europe, the Middle East, Japan and China. The 2018 survey, encompassing 1032 executives from medium to large companies, was conducted in partnership with Research Now Inc between 1 April and 10 May 2018.

About Financial Times | IE Business School Corporate Learning Alliance

FT | IE Corporate Learning Alliance was formed in 2015 in response to growing calls for more flexible, practical, relevant and timely corporate learning. A joint venture of the Financial Times and IE Business School, it brings world-renowned business information and journalism, leading academic faculty and a global network of educators to co-create customised corporate learning and leadership development programmes in multiple languages, to almost any sector, anywhere in the world. Through expert learning frameworks, innovation and technology, it focuses on achieving measurable learning outcomes.