30 Nov 2020

The evolution of executive education

The evolution of executive education

In the past eight months, we have witnessed how we have transitioned all work that can to online or managed to work out a hybrid model. With the pandemic normalising remote work, development projects we thought would take careful planning and months to carry out, suddenly took barely any time at all to implement. We have seen how the brute force of the pandemic also forced executive (and all other) education to take great development leaps forward. What we used to call hybrid learning, blended learning paths and integrated learning journeys suddenly all became online virtual experiences in no time.


This new reality hit us at Hanken & SSE Executive Education very early just before the lockdown in Finland and most of Europe, when large global top leader development projects with customers had to suddenly do a rapid shift to impactful and engaging online programmes.

And what a journey it has been!

Re-designing projects that have been behind months of planning is no easy task. Instead of thinking onsite, face-to-face discussions and networking, we were now thinking broadcasting, interactive online presentations, breakout sessions and virtual platforms. Not to mention guiding our faculty and speakers to do a shift to completely virtual, arranging training and workshops for completely digital deliveries and setting up participants and project managers for success.

We are very proud that most customers dared to go down the route of completely online deliveries instead of postponing and halting all development. The feedback we have received has been encouraging and heartwarming driving us to become even better in supporting our customers.

The world of work is likely changing forever

The world will probably never be the same again and neither will executive education. What you do online is very different from what you do in a physical space – and it is not at all necessarily for the worse. The savings in time and travel are huge and the networking gains are much higher than anyone could have even imagined. In online meetings and workshops, people can engage with all other people taking part, depending on the number of people that would be nearly impossible in a physical space where it takes time to move people around and people do tend to be drawn to people they already know and so on. Topics that would be covered in a session or two, can instead became ongoing learning journeys that go on for months. In such a design the impact on peoples’ everyday work and their teams is clearly higher than in a one-off session or two.

The methods that can be used in a virtual setting also focus on engagement and impact and can actually end up being of huge variety. We know that the general retention rate for e-learning alone is 25-60% so as new tools get introduced and we learn what people respond to, we are really learning one hundred and one ways to make use of the virtual room and the impact of it. What is equally important is the many ways to maintain engagement and interaction not only while in session but between sessions as well to keep all the good work going.

How we benefit

To conclude, I would like to point out some benefits of delivering programmes online:

  • Unlimited amounts of people can be involved
  • Keynotes and sessions can easily be recorded and watched again/spread to a larger audience
  • The online environment is safe and a place where everyone can be heard on equal grounds
  • The joy of creating together, e.g. using digital learning or social platforms for documenting and sharing, building on each other’s ideas works wonderfully to create community and build culture
  • More efficient – saving travel time, regrouping time and so on
  • Potentially more value and deeper learning

Executive Education is truly evolving and it is developing fast under our very eyes. What we foresee is really a change in how executive education is going to be delivered in the future, containing combinations of online elements (everyone online), hybrid elements (some participants in class others online) and face-to-face elements – all with their own benefits for efficiency, engagement and individual and company impact.


We co-create dynamic custom solutions according to the needs of you, your team and your organisation, that directly address your business challenges, contact us to explore how we can support you.


About the author

Pernilla Gripenberg Ph.D. has twenty years of experience of business education from basic to MBA and executive levels in a variety of areas in management and leadership. She has extensive experience in co-designing some of the most ground-breaking and innovative leadership development programmes together with Hanken & SSE’s clients. As programme director and workshop facilitator with a positive and engaging approach she has been highly appreciated by clients and participants. Her recent focus has been on self and people leadership grounded in positive psychology and neuroscience: self-leadership and personal efficiency, leading for top performance, change leadership, and communication and presentation skills. Another area she is passionate about is organisational culture and cross-cultural communication.

Image for Pernilla Gripenberg
Pernilla Gripenberg
Director, Design and Delivery - Ph.D.

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Image for Pernilla Gripenberg
Pernilla Gripenberg
Director, Design and Delivery - Ph.D.
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