Executive education programs offered by universities are known as a great avenue for career development without the cost and time commitment of a traditional degree. They provide organizations with a unique opportunity to leverage university resources and tap into the expertise of world-class faculty.

For L&D or HR departments, executive education offers a solution for upskilling employees and improving the effectiveness of company leaders. Programs are highly flexible and can target the development needs of a few individuals, a large project team, or a pipeline of future leaders. With additional flexibility on duration, location, and competency areas, executive education can deliver a range of solutions customized to your organization’s specific needs.

4 questions to ask when considering a leadership development program

If you’re considering making executive education part of your learning and development strategy, there are some key questions to help you define and customize a program that best suits your needs.

1. Who will participate? Would you like small groups from your organization to attend over time, or would you prefer a larger group to learn together as a cohort? Will you send select individuals from a single team, or leaders from across departments or business units?

If you send a small group, they’ll be placed in open enrollment courses alongside professionals from other industries. This interaction allows for sharing of experiences and offers unique outsider perspectives with learning opportunities from peers as well as instructors. Enrolling a cohort comes with its own distinct benefits. Learning together in a group equates to shared experiences, increased team bonding, and cohesion. It also allows you to tailor content very specifically to your industry, changes taking place within your organization, or other unique goals.

2. How long will your program be? Duration of executive education programs can vary greatly, with courses as short as one day to as long as several weeks. When determining the length of your program, think about your goals and the depth of learning you’re seeking. Also consider bandwidth: How long can people be away from the office? Are participants able to step away from full-time work? The answer will depend in part if you’re looking for quick upskilling or more comprehensive and in-depth leadership training.

3. Do you want to attend a program on-site or off-site? Ask yourself if your team could benefit from some time away. Would a change of scenery enhance learning? Do you have the time and budget for travel outside the office? On-site programs are well-suited if you’re under a time crunch, as they save on travel cost and time—especially for larger groups. As they’re composed solely of people from your organization, they allow for more intimate connections. If you’re tackling a problem or challenge, this comfort may lead to more honesty.

Going off-site to the university has its own distinct benefits. In addition to outside perspectives, it allows employees to step away from daily work priorities and deadlines to focus exclusively on learning. This change of scenery can both enhance learning and open the mind creatively. Or, if your organization is already planning an off-site retreat, you could elect a location in between.

4. What competencies do you want to develop? The previous questions focus on the logistics of “who,” “where,” and “when” in support of your primary goal, which is to develop skills and competencies that make your teams more effective. What do you want your teams to learn? Do you have a specific list of competencies that everyone should develop, or do you want individuals to choose based on their own specific goals? Knowing what competencies you’re looking to develop will help to determine the most effective way to deliver them. There may be an existing class or set of classes that align well with your organization’s goals. If not, you may be able to tweak an existing program or literally build your own.

Selecting a program

Answering these questions for your organization will help guide you towards the executive education offering that maximizes benefit and best supports your goals. Although there are a variety of ways to customize, offerings boil down to three general categories:

Group enrollment: A good option if you want to send smaller groups to existing classes, and see benefits in interacting with outside participants. Also a good choice if you’re looking for a program that takes place at the university’s campus.

Private class: If you find an existing class that matches your development goals but you want a large cohort to learn together, private classes are a good option. They can be held at the university campus or on your campus. You may also have the opportunity to customize some of the case studies or learning simulations to align with your industry or organizational challenges.

Custom program: If you want flexibility to define the content of a course as well as its location, timing, and structure, a fully customized program is the way to go. Many custom programs are created as a mix of classroom and experiential learning and often include multiple locations and meeting sessions.

Propel your organization forward

Executive education is more than professional development; programs empower leaders and managers to help propel your organization towards success. More than that, they enable you to retain and attract talent, build skills, and adapt to an ever-changing marketplace and technological landscape. Executive education can also serve as a way to fill gaps, offer rewards, and contribute to the overall success of a team or organization. It can also be a great way to approach specific challenges and periods of transitions, and to build the skills necessary for change management. When worked into an overall L&D strategy, executive education provides value that extends far beyond the hours spent in class.

Texas Executive Education

Texas Executive Education at the University of Texas at Austin offers custom programs and open enrollment classes. Programs are designed to help corporations and individuals expand professional toolkits and strengthen leadership and management skills. With over 40 courses in nine concentrations, Texas Executive Education offerings are led by faculty that have been researching, studying, and applying best practices in the field for decades.