Teaching high-fliers to reach for the skies

first_img Comments are closed. Teaching high-fliers to reach for the skiesOn 11 Mar 2003 in Personnel Today Related posts:No related photos. Previous Article Next Article The Higgs report highlighted the need for director training, and the  Institute of Directors has risen to thechallenge by constructing a framework for developing high-fliers. DeeDee DokereportsThe phrase ‘corporate governance’ seems to be on the lips of everyone inbusiness. From the boardroom down through the ranks, global business has been tryingto come to grips with the fallout from the Enron and WorldCom scandals, whichresulted from shoddy oversight at those companies’ highest levels. Morerecently, even in the UK, where corporate governance has enjoyed the reputationof being the world’s best, recommendations set out in the controversial DerekHiggs report on company direction have had business leaders scratching theirheads as they consider the way forward. One of Higgs’s recommendations in the January report called for bettertraining for non-executive directors. However, well before the report’s releaseor even its commission last year, two unrelated businesses – Serco Group, aglobal infrastructure management services company with headquarters in the UKand £1.3bn turnover in 2002, and Mourant, a Jersey-based legal and financialservices firm – had seen the writing on the wall: corporate governance was anissue whose time had come for exploration by company high fliers on their wayup. “The role of a leader in our business is changing,” explainsChristian Morgan-Jones, director of Serco’s best practice centre. “Ourbusiness is changing, and leadership in the 21st century is changing. We’re ona journey which is taking us into that new domain.” For Mourant, the goal was slightly different. Many of its high-levelworkforce already had layers of professional qualifications, accreditations andinitials after their names. But a restructuring was under way within thebusiness that demanded a revitalised approach to developing company strategy.Also, Jersey’s highly competitive recruitment market for top-levelprofessionals requires employers to stay attuned to training and development ofinterest to its workforce – as well as offering qualifications and experiencethat will appeal to an elite client base. “We started looking [in 2001] for director development: what could weoffer to give them even more skills?” says Mourant training director CarolGraham. “We looked at lots of programmes.” Both companies found their answer in the Institute of Directors’ companydirection diploma programme – entirely independent and unaware of each other.The programme’s seven modules included finance for non-finance directors, HR,law, change leading and direction, and strategy, and under the standardprogramme, would culminate in an exam for a diploma in company direction. But Serco and Mourant also sought new twists to the equation: first, thetraining had to be tailored to their individual companies; and second, eachwanted fewer modules than in the usual programme. The third requirement wasthat this bespoke programme led to an exam and an accreditation – in this case,a certificate – in company direction. “Both companies had the clear idea that they wanted a benchmarkedactivity which had an external value from a neutral provider,” emphasisesKaren Bayless, IoD’s commercial manager. “We hadn’t done that before,” points out John Weston, IoD’sdirector for director development. “We had done development programmes inone-off inter-ventions, but none with an exam.” A proposal was put together to be studied, authorised and approved byvarious internal committees. What had to be determined was how much of thetraining would stick strictly to the IoD syllabus, and how much wouldincorporate company-specific information. “This took a bit of to-ing andfro-ing, but eventually we got the go-ahead from the committees,” Westonsays. From the IoD’s standpoint, the conditions were virtually perfect to create apilot programme. “You couldn’t get two more different types ofcompanies,” Bayless says. “If we could pilot this new programme withbenchmarking in two such diverse organisations, and it is proved to be valid,strong and good for both, then we know that it’s valid, strong and good in itsown right – that it is appropriate for any kind of business organisation.”Once IoD authorities had agreed to a pilot programme, work began on decidinghow the IoD syllabus materials could be contextualised for the bespokeofferings. Ultimately, the key lessons remained true to the IoD syllabus, butthe case studies were the companies’ own and were selected to illustrate theircurrent issues. “You’ve got a live case study in front of you, and all ofthe people in the room are familiar with the case study because they’re workingin it. So it’s absolutely live learning,” says Weston. Both companies kicked off their programmes in January 2002, with just over adozen participants each undergoing individual certificate programmes. In April,they took the exam, which tested them only on the modules they had taken. Moststudents in each company passed, receiving their certificates, and as a group,they scored above the national average. “The fact they are scoring higherthan the national average indicates to us that the learning is easier to learn,apply, understand and use,” Bayless says. Within the companies, the programmes were so well received that Mourant andSerco reconsidered their initial decisions to stop their individual programmesat the certificate level. Both now are proceeding with the full diplomaoffering – “which I find very interesting because both were very clear atthe outset they didn’t want the four remaining modules”, says Bayless.”But they’re now so energised and excited about how it has gone that theyare going on to do the remainder.” The IoD plans to offer this variation of its company director training tonew clients – not a minute too soon, as demand for IoD corporate governancecourses has increased significantly since the Higgs report was released. Westoncredits the Higgs report with raising awareness of the need for such training:”What Higgs has done is put the imperative behind it.” Additional resources: – The Effective Non-Executive Director conference takes place on 20 March,IoD, London. Call 020 7766 2601 or check www.iod.com for information – Directors’ Liabilities: Protecting Yourself, Your Business and YourReputation, takes place on 26 March, IoD. Contact details as above Weblinks www.mourant.comwww.serco.comerlast_img read more