Innovation | How The Henley Partnership is catalysing change in tomorrow's business leaders

How The Henley Partnership is catalysing change in tomorrow's business leaders

Over the past few years we have witnessed events that have had dramatic consequences for people and businesses, including Brexit, the pandemic and international conflicts. While the effects on learning design have been obvious in some respects, other paradigm shifts have been less evident, and The Henley Partnership is leading the way forward for innovative business leaders.

Brexit necessitated a landmark change in UK organisations’ relationship with our European business partners, and Covid prompted an almost immediate movement towards home and hybrid working, leading business leaders to re-evaluate the hard resources for their workforce, such as premises, facilities and IT provision.

But according to Claire Hewitt, Director of The Henley Partnership, other fundamental changes have occurred.

‘The Henley Partnership provides a platform for managers and directors to learn and interact, and they have shown a marked inclination away from teacher-centred, towards a more learner-centred model.

‘We have adapted our programmes to accommodate a clear requirement for more – but shorter, sharper, more impactful – sessions, which allow individuals to plan their learning into their busy schedules more effectively.’

Online learning hasn’t just changed how we learn

The evolving use of breakout room facilities on online platforms has gone a long way towards maintaining cohesion between teams and networking between organisations, but the online environment has had two other major benefits.

‘Firstly, learning online has been a real bonus for the more introverted leaders, who are much more comfortable in their own space,’ says Claire. ‘But secondly, we have been able to attract a much wider audience, with clients from Ghana, Estonia and Finland now being able to join The Partnership on a purely online package, benefiting from the interaction we facilitate and the research insights we are able to provide.’

Updates and insights from ‘The Equity Effect’

One of the most significant pieces of research undertaken by Henley recently is Dr Naeema Pasha’s evaluation of the benefits of a more diverse and inclusive working environment.

As Henley’s Director of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, Naeema has been looking at the positive changes within those organisations that have been actively balancing their racial and cognitive diversity.

The outcome of her report, ‘The Equity Effect’ is that a ‘significant correlation’ has been established, not only on the levels of staff engagement, but also on the overall financial performance of those businesses that actively promote diversity and inclusivity.

Naeema’s research stems from a survey of over 500 C-suite business leaders in the UK, and over 1,000 employees, and looks at best practice in companies such as WPP, AstraZeneca, Microsoft and Coca-Cola.

Only 18% of employees surveyed reported that their organisations have ‘openly acknowledged racial inequality’, but Naeema found that ‘firms with targeted activities have an average 58% higher revenue than those that don’t’.

Catalyst learning groups are having a huge impact

At Henley, another of the unintended benefits of the pandemic was the opportunity to develop online catalytic group sessions which bring together diverse groups of business leaders from different functions and organisations in both the public and private sectors to explore relevant contemporary issues, expertly facilitated by Henley faculty.

One of the most recent groups includes managers and directors from GSK, Direct Line, NatWest, ONS (The Office for National Statistics) and RBS and, according to Claire Hewitt, ‘The groups are having a huge impact on the confidence and therefore the competence of the participants, as well as providing a unique networking opportunity.’

Smarter businesses and a growth mindset attract better candidates

The need to provide more online content has changed more than just the delivery platform for Henley Partnership content.

Claire explains, ‘We’ve increased the number of sessions each year to 30, covering a broader spectrum of topics, although leadership qualities, personal development and resilience, change, innovation, strategic thinking and delivery remain universally popular. Learners can select the most relevant content to them, and they have time between sessions to apply the learning. This ability to experiment in their live context is proving to be a more effective and ‘stickier’ method of adult learning.

‘A third of our sessions are still in-person, and that remains a popular option, as it allows a more intimate in-depth engagement, but in order to really motivate our audiences, and give them the insights they want, we are using more varied learning and engagement tools, including video clips, games, TED Talks and simulations. This enables us to manage learners’ attention spans more creatively and allows us to deliver inspiring, high-impact learning bytes.

‘This level of impact means that managers and directors value the learning more, and that leads to higher levels of performance and retention. The overall effect is to enhance the employer brand, making the organisation more appealing to new talent.

‘It also plays to the growing trend towards distributed leadership, replacing the notion of the hero leader, which is fast becoming obsolete. By giving a wider choice of learning options to the entire team, we are supplementing their increased individual sense of responsibility and thereby improving the speed and quality of decision-making at both an individual and collective level. That is adding enormously to the growth mindset that so many organisations are striving towards.’

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