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FAQ About the Establishment of a "Corporate" University

Click each frequently asked question below for answers about the establishment of a Corporate University

How many Corporate Universities exist today and how many top companies have them?
What are the barriers to launching a Corporate University successfully?
What are the typical drivers within a corporation to create a Corporate University?
How important is the “bricks and mortar” that often exist for the Corporate University Model?
What are the critical factors in launching a Corporate University?
What is the typical operating budget for a Corporate University?
How is the Corporate University different from the old training department?
Why call an internal learning effort a "University" and not just an enhanced training department?
Who delivers the learning programs within the new Corporate University?
Who accredits or certifies the learning (in terms of formally recognized qualifications) offered by the new Corporate University?



What industries have demonstrated a high degree of interest and success in launching a Corporate University and Why?
The industries with the greatest interest in creating and sustaining a Corporate University tend to be high technology, manufacturing, financial services, pharmaceuticals, airlines, telecommunications, healthcare and utilities. The reasons range from a high degree of consolidation (typically evident in organizations in these areas) to the advent of new technologies and the shortened "shelf-life" of knowledge required to operate successfully in those industries. In some cases, these internal university initiatives have been operating successfully now for many years and are often the central driver of future growth and renewal for the organization’s efforts to compete profitably in the marketplace.

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How many Corporate Universities exist today and how many top companies have them?
According to recent research, there are believed to be around 3,000 organizations with something called a Corporate University, College, Academy or Institute of Learning. This is up from 400 just 15 years ago. Of the top companies (such as the fortune 500 companies in the US for example,) around 40% have a Corporate University of some kind.

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What are the barriers to launching a Corporate University successfully?

The key obstacles to launching a corporate university successfully include:

-Lack of sustained commitment to the Corporate University model. This is often the case where the initiative is the dream of the CEO or one top executive but he or she leaves before the whole infrastructure has been institutionalized. Senior line management therefore needs to be involved extensively in the initiative to build widespread momentum and deepen overall levels of ownership.

-Lack of consensus among middle managers on the need for a Corporate University. Middle managers often may be genuinely supportive of the University but not provide adequate time for employees to participate in programs. A lot of effort therefore needs to be invested into planning how employees can be freed up to participate while operating and customer service needs are also met.

-Inability to develop a link between the Corporate University and the Company's business goals. A Leadership and Management "faculty" for example, needs to be directly linked to current business needs for more local leaders and greater leadership and management skills, now and in the future, particularly in a growing organization.

-Lack of visibility of the organization’s emphasis on learning. In this case employees often do not understand what the Corporate University provides to them and how to utilise the resources that have been made available. Web site information is often the first step in overcoming this hurdle but needs to be supplemented with more communication and other initiatives to ensure that all employees are well informed.

-Inability to prove the value of the Corporate University. Often, this is the biggest on-going concern-how to measure the impact the Corporate University has on the overall performance of the corporation.

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What are the typical drivers within a corporation to create a Corporate University?

Over the years, research has suggested that four key drivers have emerged as being the key drivers to launch a Corporate University.

  • A desire to link learning and development to key business goals on an on-going basis.
  • An intent to create a systematic approach for all learning and development effort.
  • To spread a common culture and values across the organization.
  • To increase employee’s skills, qualifications and general employability both within and outside the business.

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How important is the “bricks and mortar” that often exist for the Corporate University Model?
Roughly half of the existing Corporate Universities have separate buildings or a “campus” for their in-house University. In other situations, organizations have may several different learning centers and also have many access points in what is essentially a “virtual” University where people can learn in both formal classroom scenarios, at their normal place of work, on journeys to work (at times) and at home.



What are the critical factors in launching a Corporate University?

There are several key facts including the following:

  • Involving top management extensively
  • Involving senior and mid level business unit managers (in terms of overall running or the university and in delivery many of the programs and modules that are offered).
  • Creating a funding model that moves increasingly towards a “pay-for-services” basis. This means that customers of the Corporate University are happy to pay for the learning because of the contribution it makes to making the business better and stronger.
  • Experimenting with technology to deliver learning and development for employees (including embedding more and more learning within the workplace, so that employees can learn as they are doing their actual day-to-day jobs).
  • Proactively developing partnerships with other higher learning institutions. This may include new curricula contributions, assessments, audits and tailoring completely new course or learning project offerings.
  • Building holistic measures to evaluate the impact the Corporate University has on the achievement of overall business strategies, as well as on customer and employee retention/satisfaction and innovation in the workplace.
  • Constantly communicating with employees, business unit managers and other key stakeholders on the value of the Corporate University (in terms of its tangible successes).

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What is the typical operating budget for a Corporate University?
For most Corporate Universities for medium to large size companies, the University costs are about 2.5% of total payroll. In some organizations it is as low as 1.5% but in others 6% of payroll.

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How is the Corporate University different from the old training department?
The Corporate University typically differs from the old training department in a number of ways. The training department has tended to be more reactive, decentralized and serves a wide audience with an array of open enrolment programs. The Corporate University on the other hand, usually aims to be a centralized umbrella offering strategically relevant learning solutions for the whole of the business or enterprise it serves and for each major job family within it.

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Why call an internal learning effort a "University" and not just an enhanced training department?
A growing number of Corporations are opting to call their education or learning function a university because the message is clear; Learning is important and by using the metaphor of a university the intent is grand. A Corporate University should offer real qualifications, just as an external university would do. At a general level, many corporations are using the university model to brand their educational programs, courseware and processes. Just as a successful consumer packaged goods firm brands its products, corporations are realizing that while they may be spending millions of dollars in training their workforce, they are not branding their initiative and hence effectively manage the investment.

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Who delivers the learning programs within the new Corporate University?
A wide array of learning partners will serve as the delivery arm for a Corporate University. These range from internal trainers, business unit managers, and often many senior managers of the company including the CEO and executive team in some cases. In addition, external people are also used such as specialist external trainers, coaches and management consultants/facilitators.

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Who accredits or certifies the learning (in terms of formally recognized qualifications) offered by the new Corporate University?
Well set up Corporate Universities typically have two kinds of certification programs. Firstly, individual modules that people can complete gain "endorsed" qualifications (which are individual building blocks towards a particular qualification). Secondly, whole Leadership and Management courses at different levels offer people qualifications as soon as they have completed all of the required modules on the curricula). These programs are recognized by formal certifying bodies. For the 20/20 MDS® for example, this is the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) n the UK and Hume-Locke University (HLU) in the US.

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