British businesses and public sector organisations are wasting up to £75m a year on management and executive education programmes that are poorly conceived and delivered, according to a new report from Oxford University.
The study by Said Business School found that 61 per cent of organisations developed their senior staff through commissioning individually tailored courses, a market estimated to be worth around £120m a year.
But only 35 per cent of HR directors and 21 per cent of other executives believed that their current training and development programmes were meeting corporate strategic objectives.
"Over 40 years of experience have taught us that there are three factors that are crucial to developing an effective executive education programme,' said David Feeny, director of executive education at Saïd.
"The programme should address the right issue in the first place; it should be tailored precisely to the needs of the commissioning organisation; and its success (or otherwise) should be properly evaluated. Our report suggests that most organisations are failing in at least one, if not all three of these respects."
The report was based on the results of two in-depth telephone surveys to discover the views of both the HR departments commissioning the development programmes and the executives who participate in them.
It also found that 69 per cent of senior executives viewed executive education as very important or critical to strategic success.
But in only 11 per cent of cases did the chief executive or other board member take a central role in commissioning a programme.
Managers who had undertaken executive education found it was more successful in improving their personal effectiveness than their contribution to the organisation.
Very few organisations were specifically measuring the value of their executive development.
The most common method of assessment (in 35 per cent of cases) was through the regular appraisal system.
"A good executive development programme can have a transformational effect on both individuals and the organisation, as long as it is carefully briefed and managed," said Feeny.
"Business education, like any other form of education, is about more than simply acquiring skills. In the most successful examples, learning is integrated into the culture and vision of the organisation to accelerate the execution of strategy – and even to create strategy," he added.