Digitalisation and Market Growth are Main Challenges Facing Senior Executives in GCC

Digitalisation and market growth are the major challenges facing senior business executives in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, according to the 2017 Corporate Learning Pulse global survey. Conducted on behalf of Financial Times | IE Business School Corporate Learning Alliance, the survey considers the future direction of leadership development.
David Wells
Nov 09, 2017

Research was conducted among nearly 1000 senior professionals across multiple business sectors in the GCC countries, China, France, Germany, Netherlands, Nordics, Japan, Spain and the UK. More than 10% of respondents are from the GCC with the majority of companies employing over 500 people.

GCC findings

Over a third of business executives (39%) surveyed in the GCC identify digitalisation as one of their top business challenges in the next three years, alongside business growth (41%). This was followed by financial management (26%). Despite high profile stories related to cyber security, only one in four (24%) identify this as a challenge they need to address.

While executive education (31%) falls behind other business priorities in 2017, it is clear from the survey that senior professionals from the GCC region understand and recognise the long-term benefits of learning and leadership development. One in three (31%) senior professionals report that corporate learning is in their top three organisational priorities for 2017.

Senior GCC professionals are very positive about the impact of executive education / leadership development, with:

  • 94% stating executive education/leadership development has improved their business knowledge, competencies and confidence.
  • 80% seeing education/leadership development as vital to achieve business goals.
  • 83% viewing education/leadership development as more important than ever.
  • 85% acknowledging that education/leadership development has enhanced their ability to do their job more effectively.

The majority of GCC executives view education/leadership development as vital to employee retention (53%) and a key driver innovation and change (50%) within their organisations.

The main learning priorities for executive education are:

  • Adoption of new technologies (55%)
  • Managing reputation and risk (55%)
  • Customer engagement (54%)
  • Successful innovation (54%)

Notably, among senior professionals in the GCC the most prominent internal outcomes expected from executive education are seen as improved employee engagement (78%) and a positive impact on organisational change (74%). Surprisingly, staff progression in the organisation (26%) is seen as the lowest priority outcome expected.

Of those who saw past investments not adding value, the main reasons cited for why the programmes have not benefitted their organisation are an inability to:

  • Adapt to the organisation’s needs (65%)
  • Measure the success or outcomes of such programmes (59%)
  • Lack of support from senior leaders (56%)

Nonetheless, there is still optimism about the future success of executive education, with 50% of senior professionals stating that senior leaders believe future investments in these types of programmes will add value to their organisation.

Commenting on the survey, VanDyck Silveira, FT | IE Corporate Learning Alliance CEO, says: “Senior executives face a multitude of business challenges, including an increasingly competitive environment, changes to technology and cyber security. Our survey reveals that executive education plays a vital role in helping businesses meet these challenges and developing the next generation of business leaders.”

The 2017 Corporate Learning Pulse global survey report is available to download from

A video summary of the 2017 report findings can be viewed here

About the Corporate Learning Pulse Survey: This year’s Corporate Learning Pulse Survey is the second in a series of annual surveys of ‘C-suite’ executives, HR and L&D professionals in a range of countries around the world. The 2016 survey encompassed some 600 business leaders across Europe. The 2017 survey, of some 939 executives, gathers opinions from Europe, the Middle East, Japan and China.

David Wells

Writer and communications consultant