The Institute of Directors’ New Director Training Academy

The Institute of Directors (IoD) is the UK’s largest membership organisation for business leaders, which provides informative events, professional development courses for self-improvement, networking and expert advice. Its new director training academy is due to open its doors in Pall Mall, London in September. To learn about its physical and digital campuses, the courses it will offer and the opportunities that it will provide leaders with, CEO Today talked to Louise Gulliver, Managing Director of Professional Development at the IoD.


The Institute of Directors is about to launch a new director training academy in Central London in September – tell us more about it and its main objectives. How did the idea about the IoD Academy come about?

The IoD has been around for over 100 years, but the launch of the Academy signals a new stage in the organisation’s evolution. It will consist of two campus elements – a physical campus at the IoD headquarters in London and a digital campus that will extend our reach globally.

The Academy concept was born out of the realisation that directors are in charge of the management of the company’s business; they make the strategic and operational decisions of the company and are responsible for ensuring that it meets its statutory obligations – however, their continued training and development is often overlooked. Life-long learning is a necessity for directors and here at the IoD we have the responsibility to provide them with accessible and relevant high-quality learning.

The foundation of the Academy was linked to the Director Competency Framework, which is an articulation of the knowledge, skills and mind-set that we think make great directors.  We launched the Framework last year, when, sadly, governance scandals were frequently in the news, and quite often these were not necessarily compliance issues, but down to poor leadership. Our main objective for the Academy is to help all directors, whether from the private, public, or charitable sectors, be better at discharging their duties.


What will be the IoD Academy’s top three priorities towards its attendees?

A key priority for us is to create an innovative space and an inspiring environment where directors can learn from our expert course leaders, who are both qualified experts in their respective fields and functioning company leaders. Our goal for the Academy is to also be a place where directors can learn from their peers.

In relation to the digital campus aspect, we did extensive research before finalising the concept and what we found out is that not everyone learns in the conventional way and not everyone has the time to go to the classroom, despite the benefits of that. Therefore, our digital campus will be based on the Director Competency Framework, but will offer learning content in a number of different formats, such as blog posts, videos and podcasts that directors can read, watch or listen to anytime, anywhere.

Our plan is to launch here in London, and then take our ideas to regions and nations across the UK and beyond.


What are the courses that the Academy will offer?

In terms of the physical offering, it will include short courses aimed at improving either the knowledge, skills or mind-set of directors. We will also offer a range of courses looking the role of the director in strategy, finance, and – crucially – corporate governance, which is a primary focus for the IoD.

Additionally, there will be a range of complementary, more specific, programmes targeted at defined job roles, such as the role of the Chief Executive Officer, the Managing Director, the Chair, and so on, as well as a number of soft-skill programmes like Inspirational Leadership, Presentation Skills, etc.

The offering will be very similar on our online platform, but as mentioned – the format will be different.


What doors does the IoD’s Chartered Director qualification open?

Quite simply, I think every board should have a qualified or aspiring Chartered Director sitting on it. Chartered Director is the only qualification of its kind for directors, because not only does it lead to a Masters Level qualification and professional status, but it also provides a high degree of commercial training alongside a broader mix of behaviours and skills.

Crucially, Chartered Director addresses the so-called soft-skills which are often the hardest to master. We blend the content, so you’ve got knowledge of science and business strategy sitting at the same level as the director’s ability to be able to communicate and make difficult decisions at uncertain times.

In terms of the doors that it opens, it helps individual directors, but it also helps the board operate more dynamically and effectively in a whole range of hard technical skills, blended with the soft skills.


Tell us about the IoD’s new Director Competency Diagnostic Tool.

The Director Competency Diagnostic Tool allows directors to test their own competencies across key areas of the job including skills, knowledge and mind-set, benchmarking them against a standard.  This is a unique and comprehensive – and importantly free – online tool which we hope will enable boards to better understand their strengths and address any areas of weakness.  We hope it will become a key part of recruitment and CPD for boards going forwards.

The C-Suite tend to be limited on time and the Diagnostic Tool will enable them to swiftly pin point their development needs and then start working on improving them.


What makes the IoD Academy unique? What differentiates it from other academies offering similar training?

As far as we know, there’s no other similar offering out there. I personally have worked in professional training and development for the last 15 years and in my experience, the IoD’s offering is one of a kind.

Our digital training is bespoke, allowing our delegates to decide how much time they have available and what kind of content and format they like. The IoD’s approach to learning and development lies in the fact that directors can refresh their knowledge or learn new information anytime and anywhere, and connect with peers to learn from other like-minded people who are facing similar challenges.


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