The Corporate University

The day of the corporate university is here.  It is not just an expansion of the training department, but a set of new approaches to get knowledge solutions applied to the organization's work through the organization's people.  Peter Senge's book, The Learning Organization, has pointed out knowledge management is crucial to success, particularly in an applied science business like a hospital. Typically hospitals are connecting their ideation management approach to the education function in a Center for Learning and Innovation.

A corporate university can be defined as a "centralized strategic umbrella for the education and development of employees ... [which] is the chief vehicle for disseminating an organization's culture and fostering the development of not only job skills, but also such core workplace skills as learning-to-learn, leadership, creative thinking, and problem solving." Jeanne Meister, president of Corporate University Xchange (CUX), claims that corporate universities are developed by those corporations who have shifted their focus from employee training to employee education as a result of "the emergence of the knowledge economy." The phrase "knowledge economy" expresses that these corporations have recognized their responsibility to provide employees education that can evolve with changing business needs in order to foster the business' sustained success. Many corporations believe that through continued employee education, they can "achieve strategic goals and performance improvement."

Hospitals can form corporate universities in order to systemize the training function, maximize the investment in education, drive change in the organization, spread common culture and values, develop the employability of the workforce and remain competitive in the marketplace.

The conversion to internet-based learning and repositories of best and updated work processes for each professional group is at hand.  Briefly, the organization’s response has to be the addition of education, organization development, and process improvement staff.  The ROI offset is the substantial gains in productivity that these disciplines bring by spreading knowledge to the entire organization.  Managerial muscle stems not only from having better prepared and more suited leaders; it stems also by increasing the attention given to increasing worker capabilities in an applied science business.

Stages of Development

Briefly, there are logical stages in putting this together. Vary this recipe as needed:

  1. Form a governing body for the corporate university, much like that of a traditional university, which will establish and profess the organization's commitment to the program.
  2. Craft a vision or strategic plan of the corporate university that determines the organization's goals for the program.
  3. Decide on a funding strategy. Most commonly, corporate universities are either funded through corporate allocations or through charges placed on individual business unit budgets.
  4. Next, determine its audience or stakeholders who will use the corporate university service and how the needs of the audience will be met while continually pursuing the strategic goal of the corporate university.
  5. Decide how products and services will be designed to achieve university goals. If not already done, pull all existing programs and resources into one department for synergy and cost efficiency.
  6. Upgrade management of the function by treating it as a business unit. If necessary, upgrade the talent level of the people running it. Think of it as not only a cost center but as a revenue center.
  7. Select suppliers, consultants, traditional universities and for-profit firms who will act as learning partners, if appropriate. Blend in not only skillsets needed by occupational groups, but tie into BS and MS degree programs
  8. The use of technology and resources to be used by the corporate university must then be determined. Additionally, a measurement system should be developed that will allow the organization to continually monitor its progress against goals.
  9. Lastly, the governing body must communicate the vision of the corporate university constantly and consistently. All stakeholders should be made aware of the mission, products and programs that make up their organization's corporate university.