Corporate degree programs

One of the most important trends I see is the need to provide advanced business training to mid-level executives to motivate them, make them feel that their time with a company is well spent and that they are gaining something valuable by staying with the company.

Macquarie is a good example of a company addressing this concern. At INSEAD, we initiated a three-year Master of Finance program with Macquarie Investment Bank in 2007.

Macquarie is a global institution which had the idea of creating a degree program for their investment banking cohort. The first three intakes have numbered between 80 and 100 people each, and there are about 250 people currently participating in the program. The participants continue in their current role in the bank and spend time undertaking residential modules, usually for three weeks twice a year. The modules are currently presented in Sydney, Singapore, Fontainebleau and New York. The cohort travels to each location at least once during the program.

Today, training is all about flexibility. Employees have many commitments, both personal and professional, and have to multitask, so though they wish for training, it has to fit into their lifestyle.

I think this program is brilliant from Macquarie’s point of view because they are creating a game-changing academic experience for their people and building a tremendous amount of loyalty to the organization. I expect that this kind of model will be considered by many companies in the coming years and it is incumbent on academic institutions to create delivery models that will work in these programs.

Ian Woodward, Program Director for Macquarie’s Master in Finance, feels that what we have set up is unique: “There are plenty of courses (run by other banks) but they don’t confer a degree. It’s the only investment banking- focused degree from a top ten business school. Our people study in multiple residential sessions while they work for us - gaining experience and learning together.”5

Courses like this are the future, as top talent needs to gain technical skills but also to develop their leadership capabilities. With Macquarie, we have been able to build a program that is tailored specifically to meet their needs.

Other international corporations such as Apple, Pixar, Axa, Lufthansa and McDonald’s have set up their own internal corporate universities to train and motivate their top talent in-house.


Another trend that is addressing the demands of millennials is coaching. The value that MBAs and executives place on coaching can be seen in the fastgrowing demand for coaching within organizations and business schools.

The reason for this may be that coaching itself has evolved to meet the needs of a greater number of people. Once considered “remedial” - a last attempt to salvage an underperforming executive - coaching is now a fully integrated part of many leadership development courses. Coaching not only contributes to improving individual performance, but can also have a trickle- down effect on the organization once the participant returns home and experiments with what has been learned.

It is clear that, in the next few years, the coaching profession will demand a higher level of training, qualification and supervision for people who want to work in this field, and INSEAD is already at the forefront in this respect.

I was amazed when I joined INSEAD to learn that there are around fifty professional coaches on the staff or on per diem.

Like many business schools, we have even created a research centre dedicated to coaching. Called the INSEAD Global Leadership Centre, the Centre is dedicated to executive coaching and leadership development research. It works with coaches who have clinical training or graduate degrees in coaching, and years of experience in the business world.

Our approach to coaching, which draws on psychodynamic theory and business knowledge, helps leaders to reflect, experiment, change and find solutions within themselves and their own context. Participants find this approach particularly challenging and rewarding, since it remains firmly focused on their own issues and concerns, rather than on a generic case study. The Centre has also trained hundreds of coaches to use this method through the Consulting and Coaching for Change course.

At INSEAD, we developed an innovative group coaching approach, in which participants work in small peer groups of five to six people, with a coach-facilitator to share and analyze their own 360-degree feedback reports, discuss their career history and future goals, and create action plans to carry out with ongoing support from the group. In these turbulent times, we are finding that people are more open to discussing their background, assessing their behavior and style, and receiving critical feedback. INSEAD participants often tell us that they come to leadership courses not only to brush up their functional skills, but also to take time out from the demands of everyday professional life to reflect on their own desires and goals, and they value this “reflective space” very highly. We have had thousands of participants in group coaching sessions. The method is very effective in all cultures, and is also suited to specific groups such as boards, or specific contexts such as mergers or leadership succession.

Participants often state that leadership development and coaching courses have been one of the best experiences of their professional life. They give reasons that go beyond the obvious ones of gaining additional knowledge regarding organizational operations. Participants say that they appreciate the support (or push) that helps them to make changes in their own behavior, and better understand group dynamics. This new learning is particularly relevant for participants who are themselves in a career transition, or who are leading change at the organizational level. Group coaching is still quite rare but, as one of the largest providers of group coaching in the world, we are already aware of the benefits. The small-group coaching experience - a safe environment in which participants push one another to a level that is challenging but not uncomfortable, and where peers work together to realign career choices and analyze personal leadership style - is an extremely valuable experience, both for individuals and for their organizations.

Indeed, I believe this is where the future of coaching lies. As our Global Leadership Centre says in its mission statement: “Our objective is to create profitable, sustainable organizations that are great places to work.” This addresses directly what we hear from our client companies: popular demand for the coaching element of our leadership development programs is driven increasingly by employer needs. I see organizational coaching as a huge value- added component for academic institutions, and expect to see this trend grow and develop further over time. From one-on-one coaching, and leadership development programs on campus, to company-specific programs taking place in-house, coaching is vital to help key people develop the competences and self-awareness to become more effective, and reflective, leaders - something today’s employee is seeking, and today’s organization cannot afford to ignore.

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