5 Reasons to Invest in Individual Learning for Senior Leaders

According to LinkedIn’s 2019 Workplace Learning Report, Learning and Development functions are at a tipping point to play a more strategic role in their organizations thanks to increased budgets and executive buy-in. 



That means the number one focus for talent developers is now to identify, assess, and close skills gaps in order to address macro trends like digital transformation and the decreasing shelf-life of professional skills. While most of the report (and the industry) focuses on hard skills training for the broader employee base, the time is also ripe for more investment in individualized learning programs for executives. Based on our research and body of work, below are five reasons companies should be funding learning at the top of the organization.


  1. Executives’ goals are most closely tied to operational metrics. When senior leaders have the opportunity to learn in the context of their operational role, that learning has a significant, immediate impact on the organization. In our work, we’ve also seen how deliberate learning enables executives to actively support and direct employee learning down the reporting structure. This quickly aligns teams on topics of interest, closes knowledge gaps, and enables coordinated execution of strategic initiatives on a shared foundation.
  2. Senior leaders are your scouts. Quick, strategic thinkers trusted to choose the best path then guide the rest of the company down it. Learning broadens their range. Many of our senior leader clients use our engagements to expand their view of the way emerging technologies could impact their business, not just generally, but where and why it is most likely to be implemented first.
  3. Senior leaders have already been identified as high potential. Egon Zehnder defined potential in employees as “curiosity, insight, engagement, and determination.” They further noted that “People with these qualities are hungry to acquire and practice new skills, so they eventually outperform.” Enable your HIPOs to outperform by providing the engaged learning they crave. This relates directly to our next point:
  4. Engage talent to keep it. Offering unique learning opportunities are a new way to gain an edge in the talent wars. Tenure in top executive positions is shortening, and we often clients take new positions because they are looking for new challenges. Investing in a personal learning agenda incentivizes the individual to stay where they know they are supported in exploring new or deepening existing areas of experience.
  5. Positivity in business. What is positive business? It’s an idea we learned from the University of Michigan Ross School of Business: that businesses can and should create not just economic value, but also offer great places to work where employees are treated and paid well, are good neighbors and stewards of the environment, practice sound governance, and help solve societal challenges around the world. Our engagements are not just one sided: we support executive learning because we’ve seen it can be just as enriching for the operator sharing knowledge as it is for the client to engage with them. We think connecting business people to learn creates an exponential impact outside of typical quid pro quo relationships. Plus, learning can even fight stress in the workplace!


Every month we collect the latest insights from our research and client work to share.