Corporate Universities: Seize the Strategic Opportunity

We all know the value of training and what it has to offer to the organization. But what about the corporate university?

corporate universityBrandon Hall Group’s 2015 State of Learning research data shows that the corporate university is more common in organizations of more than 10,000 employees, with 45% having some experience with these tools. What I find interesting is that of those organizations with a corporate university in place, most of them (about 25% of all respondents) have had them for five plus years. We see another spike at the one-year mark, and that leads me to believe that the corporate university is making a comeback.

My colleague, David Wentworth, and I will discuss this topic in an upcoming webinar at 1pm Thursday, Dec. 17, sponsored by Meridian Knowledge Solutions. We’d love to have you join us for the live discussion to ask questions and participate in the conversation.

What is a corporate university?

One of the most common questions around this topic is a comparison with other existing offerings. What is the difference between training and a corporate university? Both are operated by the L&D function, they are designed to meet the needs of the learning population, and each plays a part in driving performance.

But the main differences between these two offerings are fairly important:

Training Corporate University
Tactical Strategic
Singular purpose Mission-driven
Honing individual skills Building bench strength

Training targets individual skill acquisition. Corporate universities focus on a higher-level approach to building the organization’s capabilities in a strategic way.

Why do they matter?

Here are three key ways that corporate universities can drive performance:

  • Organizational fit. One of the main reasons companies take the time to develop a curriculum specifically for an internal corporate university is because of the “fit” of the training. Imagine for a moment that you’re paying for your junior executives to get an MBA from a local college. After several complete the program, you realize that they did not pick up some of the critically necessary skills to be equipped for the next level of advancement within the organization. This is the reason many organizations create corporate universities—to have the right fit the first time. The fit of the training, both technically and to the organization’s culture, is something that can’t be purchased off the shelf.
  • Business alignment. In addition, the link between the organization’s objectives and the corporate university is critical. Our research shows that high-performing organizations have a high extent of linkage between learning objectives and organizational goals 41% of the time, yet only 30% of other organizations are doing this. Linking the corporate university’s curriculum to the business goals and objectives increases the likelihood of positive outcomes for the program.
  • Employee retention. Brandon Hall Group’s 2015 Employer Value Proposition Study looked at the impact of myriad variables on continued employment. The most important factor in an individual’s decision to stay with the organization was opportunities for growth and development. Offering a corporate university allows employees to grow in their roles, providing a sense of accomplishment while keeping them engaged.

How to establish and support a corporate university

In the webinar we will be discussing case studies from three different organizations that have developed, launched, and supported corporate universities with considerable success. Each touches on a different industry sector and offers a different perspective of corporate university use.

For instance, one organization is using its corporate university to connect with and educate channel partners in an extended enterprise setting. Another looks at a biotechnology firm that built the platform to integrate with its learning system as a way to reach beyond the traditional LMS “walls.”

We hope you will join us for the session to hear more about these organizations as well as some of the common challenges for implementing corporate universities in the workplace.

Ben Eubanks, Learning Analyst, Brandon Hall Group

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