Working Professionals Are Eager to Continue Learning

Post pandemic, working professionals are looking at the world of work a bit differently, with some priorities remaining the same, according to a 2020 survey.

While 41 percent of those surveyed agreed that they “can’t wait to get back to working the way I was before COVID-19,” almost a third are seeking more flexibility in work, including the opportunity to work at home more often than they were before the pandemic.

And they are also eager to learn.

More than half say they need to learn new skills to advance their careers, with 44 percent driven by a desire to start a business or work for themselves sometime in the future.

The respondents shared their perspectives on the changing nature of work and learning as part of a larger 2020 study. The Executive MBA Council (EMBAC) sponsored the project in cooperation with the Working Professional Task Force, a group of associations, boards, and groups that focus on the education of working professionals.

EMBAC and the task force wanted to learn more about upcoming shifts in the world of work and training for working professionals. As part of the research, the educational marketing and research firm of CarringtonCrisp interviewed 300 working professionals from North America, Europe, India, Hong Kong, China, and Latin America.

Those surveyed were looking for educational options that both supported their career goals and allowed them to immediately apply what they learned to their workplace.

Investment that pays off

“Individuals want to know that if they make an investment in their learning, they can recoup that spend through increased earnings or securing their employability,” says Andrew Crisp, co-founder of CarringtonCrisp. “The just-in-time approach to supply chains is increasingly a feature of learning and development.”

EMBA Programs historically offer students both those features – turning lessons from the classroom into solutions at work that impact business success and also increasing their value, which often translates into greater compensation, says Michael Desiderio, EMBAC executive director.

The most recent EMBAC Student Exit Survey revealed that last year EMBA graduates received a 14.1 percent increase in compensation – combined, both salary and bonuses – after program completion. In addition, 39 percent of students who completed the survey received a promotion during the program and 53 percent reported increased responsibilities during the program.

Leadership takes center stage

What are those surveyed most interested in studying? Leadership rated highly for respondents who were 45 and younger, and those from North America and Asia. Those 45 and older tended to focus more on business development and digital transformation.

“It appears that younger learners are preparing for future roles, while older learners are more engaged with topics that require their attention today,” says Crisp.

When it comes to the impact that they would like to see from their education, leadership again topped the list with 41 percent choosing it as the primary impact. Another effective leadership trait, better decision-making followed with 40 percent. Other desired outcomes included more effective problem-solving, better project management, ability to meet personal career objectives, skill mastery, and increased confidence at work.

Within EMBA Programs, leadership development takes center stage, says Desiderio. Programs use a variety of methods to enhance their students’ leadership abilities, such as assessments, executive coaching, leadership courses, and leadership exercises and activities.

“Fostering leadership skills and abilities is a key focus of EMBA Programs,” he says.

The digital landscape opens new avenues

Technology is rapidly changing expectations, with those surveyed eyeing flexible, blended, and tailored learning opportunities.

“And it is no surprise that learners increasingly believe that a blended model combining face-to-face with online learning is an ideal skills development path,” says Crisp. “The digital wrapper as part of learning will become a core feature.”

EMBA Programs continue to leverage technology in many ways, says Desiderio. 

A 2020 survey of members revealed growth in distance learning options – with 73.9 percent of member schools reporting offering some form of distance learning compared to 55.3 percent in 2019. “While the percentage of schools offering some form of distance learning has been increasing slightly each year since 2016, the big jump from 2019 to 2020 is evidence that EMBA Programs responded quickly to the impact of the pandemic,” says Desiderio.

“The survey gives insights into what working professionals view as important to their learning and advancement,” he says. “With their emphasis on flexibility and leadership development, leveraging of technology, and return on investment, EMBA Programs indeed offer what students want.”

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