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CEOs’ Expectations of Corporate Training

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CEOs are increasingly turning to training programs to help their employees develop key skills. They know that such skills are important for individual and organizational success.

Training programs can give workers the opportunity to work through situations that arise regularly on the job, but in a non-pressure environment. They also know that such programs can help recruit and retain talent; that is, the programs reflect an organization’s commitment to its workforce.

The U.S. employee learning and development industry grew to $164.2 billion in 2012, according to the Association for Talent Development,(1) up 30.4% from the $125.9 billion spent in 2009.2

As companies emerged from the recession, CEOs restored corporate training budgets that had been cut when the economy was soft. The corporate chiefs found the need for training was especially acute, given an apparent gap between where employees were performing and the level CEOs expected. 3

Now CEOs, along with other senior executives, are calling for better business training so that workers can help their organizations obtain their objectives.4 Employees see these programs as a way to become more valuable to their organizations and attain promotions, raises and greater responsibility.

Executives today need a range of skills. Below are three professional abilities, and how they can be nurtured through training.

Ability to Embrace Change

In today’s increasingly dynamic and global economy, it’s crucial for workers to adapt to changing conditions. This may be particularly important for executives who find themselves initiating changes to meet evolving business conditions and inspire others to follow them on new initiatives.

Observing flexible behavior by executive leaders at their organizations can help employees learn how to embrace change, as can incentive5 and change management exercises such as the crossing arms exercise.

In the crossing arms exercise,6 a trainer asks participants to cross their arms, waits a few minutes and then asks them to cross their arms a different way. The movements are straightforward, but often individuals are resistant to changing because they have a favorite way of crossing their arms. The trainer then asks a series of questions to determine how the students can overcome their reluctance to switch positions. By developing a finer understanding of their attitudes toward change, the exercise helps them become more receptive to it.

Team Building Skills

It’s important for managers to know how to foster a working environment in which people not only know how to work together but want to. Yet some organizations have difficulty creating an environment that encourages teamwork. In one exercise, employees pair up and pretend to be stranded on an island. They must work together to come up with a list of 12 items that they will need to survive.7 The idea is to stress the importance of getting along and working toward a common goal.

Communication Skills

Strong communication skills are essential for motivating employees and executing strategies. They can save companies time by avoiding misunderstandings, clearly defining milestones and deadlines and moving the workforce in the right direction.

Exercises can focus on broader methods of communications or smaller exchanges such as emails. One exercise a company can use is to ask employees to describe a painting in three sentences with the aim of getting the worker to convey his or her thoughts clearly and concisely.

That may seem difficult at first to some individuals. Paintings often have a lot of detail, but the exercise teaches the importance of hitting the highlights. Another exercise that trainers use is to have employees write sample e-mails to teach etiquette.8 How someone phrases an email, and its tone, can mean the difference between effective and ineffective communication.


  1. Association for Talent Development, $164.2 Billion Spent on Training and Development by U.S. Companies
  2. Fortune, Company training programs: What are they really worth?
  3. Forbes, Spending on Corporate Training Soars: Employee Capabilities Now A Priority
  4. Forbes, Spending on Corporate Training Soars: Employee Capabilities Now A Priority
  5. Fortune, Company training programs: What are they really worth?

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