In order to keep leading, we need to keep learning

Prof Bryan Lukas

By Prof Bryan Lukas, Academic Director of Executive Education at Alliance Manchester Business School (AMBS)

In a recent interview for her new book, the former chief executive and chair of IBM, Ginni Rometty, noted that business leaders must encourage their staff to develop the skills that ensure both they and their employer stay relevant in the market.

She believes employers should follow the maxim: “I can’t promise you employment, but I can promise you employability.”

This struck a chord with me. I believe what Ginni is referring to is for managers to never assume they and their staff always have the skills they need to give them a competitive edge by virtue of their employment. Skill requirements evolve, and one of the best things employers can do for their employees is to invest in them accordingly so that they do not get left behind.

Staying competitive
There is a growing body of evidence that a focus on management skills would help address the enduring productivity gap between Britain and other nations, making us more competitive internationally.

Output per worker in the UK is 20% to 30% below most industrialised economies and the World Management Survey, which measures the quality of management practices around the globe, concludes that between a quarter and one-third of that productivity gap could be attributed to management quality.

The research didn’t just identify a positive link between quality of management and productivity, but profitability, exporting and growth too. And it says poor access to training is holding managers – and therefore businesses – back.

Lifelong learning
Leading a business isn’t like riding a bike; a skill you learn once and then retain forever. Rather, it’s like going to the gym; you have to keep pushing yourself to reach the next level so that you can continue to evolve and grow.

It requires effort to keep up with the ever-changing business landscape, including new customer trends, economic headwinds, technological innovation and more.

AMBS Executive Education campus

We’ve noticed that people are increasingly appreciating the value of lifelong learning – a recent survey by AMBS found that most managers are now more than ever likely to undertake a personal development course to further their skills. That’s been part of the reason executive education courses are proving so popular.

A powerful opportunity
Finding the capacity to commit to ongoing education alongside working can be a challenge. Our survey found that more than one in five managers (21.2%) feel a lack of time to upskill outside work hours is one of the main barriers to progression.

One of the main benefits of executive education is that it is more efficient and flexible than a Master’s by offering bite-sized courses that deliver applicable skills focused on a particular business leadership topic that managers need to further their career and help their employers stay relevant.

At AMBS we’ve recently launched an expanded range four-day executive education courses to cover a breadth of topics to reflect the ever-changing landscape of leadership and management, including digital transformation, strategic planning, principles of finance, Artificial Intelligence, leadership psychology and digital marketing.

Completion of each course earns both a Professional Certificate and digital badge, and four courses of choice can be combined to earn a Professional Diploma in Leadership.

A vital piece in the productivity puzzle
Executive education is giving managers the tools and techniques to make tactical and strategic decisions, lead with confidence and build sustainable businesses that are fit for the future, whatever it may bring.

This might not be the silver bullet that will solve productivity problems on its own, but it can certainly be a vital piece of the puzzle.

For those businesses that are serious about building a sustainable competitive advantage, accelerating their productivity and maximizing shareholder value, investing in their employees’ lifelong learning is one of the most powerful mechanisms.

We’ll be speaking to some of the region’s most influential business leaders, including Jo Ahmed, Partner and Leader of the Global Employer Services practice at Deloitte, and Lisa Shaftesley, Head of People at, about how ongoing learning and development have helped them and their businesses adapt to the uncertainty we’ve faced over the past few years.

You can find out more about the event here.