Upgrade to executive class

Fri, Mar 30, 2012, 01:00

UNIVERSITY COLLEGE DUBLIN:IT IS generally accepted that the secret of sustainable growth for organisations lies in an ability to learn and evolve, and that is inextricably bound up with the ability of their management to do the same. Executive education at UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School helps organisations and their leaders develop this ability, as well as honing their management skills through world class leadership development programmes.

These programmes rank with the best in Europe. As part of an elite group of business schools worldwide with the so-called “triple crown” accreditation from EQUIS, AACSB and AMBA, the Smurfit School is the leading business school in Ireland and among the best in Europe.

Two types of executive education programme are offered – open enrolment and customised programmes. The evolving portfolio of open enrolment programmes is designed to develop participants’ management skills and business knowledge across a range of subject areas. These programmes are delivered by faculty experts and industry leaders, utilising latest industry research to provide contemporary course content. They include areas such as strategic sales management, business and executive coaching, performance driven marketing, and high-impact leadership.

Increasingly, organisations are looking for programmes that are tailored to meet their specific needs and designed to deliver a tangible return on investment. The Smurfit School designs and delivers customised executive education programmes that provide access to a world-class faculty from its own teaching team and international network.

“Executive education at UCD is about the experience participants get on the programme”, according to Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, dean of UCD Business Schools. “It’s not about training or skills. It’s about the transformation of organisations and of people in leadership positions. We have the Quinn School of Business for undergraduate education, the Smurfit School for postgraduates and our executive education programmes address the needs of people . . . who require further education in specific areas.”

Director of executive education Helen Brophy says transformation is the key aspect of the programmes. “There is a big difference between training and education”, she points out. “If you want to acquire certain skills, you can get training for that and that’s very good. Education on the other hand is for executives who want to transform themselves and get to the next level. It helps them transform how they look at their businesses and how they lead their teams. It can also help transform organisations.”

She points to a recent Financial Times which revealed that chief executives whose companies had invested in executive education programmes for their organisations recorded an average 11 per cent increase in revenue. “It’s very interesting that managers can point to a return on investment in human capital in this way. We feel that UCD executive education comes in at that level in terms of return on investment.”

While there is consistent demand for the open enrolment programmes, there is strong growth in demand for the customised programmes. “The strongest demand is in areas like succession planning, talent management, strategies for competitiveness and other challenging areas,” Brophy says.

Designing a customised programme begins with a meeting with the HR director or head of learning and development within the organisation concerned. “We meet . . . the company, establish the issues and find out what they want to get out of the programme,” says Brophy. “The first step is to get clarity and from there we design a programme to meet the organisation’s needs.”

One of the major differences between the customised and open enrolment programmes is the on-the-job learning feature of the former. The programme content is not abstract – the actions taken in its different elements are real actions for the business and the strategy developed is one to be implemented for the organisation involved.

“Participants work on projects and apply them in practical real life situations,” Brophy says. “Over a period of six to nine months they work through the challenges the organisation faces. It’s quite exciting to be part of these programmes. We set strict performance metrics at the outset . . . these are monitored continually and they have to be met.”

The open enrolment programmes are constantly being adapted to meet the changing needs of business. “My role is to see where the needs are and deliver the programmes that meet them,” says Brophy. “For example, we have a new programme on performance-driven marketing which provides participants with the tools and insights required to utilise the principles and practices of marketing to drive both their companies’ pricing power and ability to bring innovations to market. This is proving very popular, as is our high-impact leadership programme which . . . helps participants find their own unique, authentic leadership style which will allow them to get the best from themselves and the people they lead.”

She believes the success of UCD’s executive education programmes is due to the quality of the programmes and the long track record of success. “Our skilled educators are leaders within their respective fields and draw on a wide range of insights to create a stimulating . . . action-learning environment,” she notes.

“What makes us stand out from the crowd is our strong track record in . . . advancing people’s individual careers and supporting the transformation of companies.”