Corporate University Success Factors

By Natanya Rutstein

In my last post I looked at some of the latest trends dominating the corporate university (CU) landscape. This week I’d like to touch on five important considerations and/or success factors to keep in mind when contemplating the idea of setting up a corporate university for your organisation.

1. Top Management Support and Buy-In
Due to the strategic nature of the “New Corporate University” it is advisable that your Chief Learning Officer should report directly to your CEO or another C-Suite executive other than the Chief Human Resources Officer. This will strengthen the connection to organisational strategic objectives and ensure continuous re-alignment in the face of changing organisational needs and priorities. It will also increase the visibility of your CU. The involvement of management should extend to the development of your programmes as well as participation in programme facilitation as subject-matter experts.

2. Clear Purpose
The success of your CU is largely dependent on the establishment of a clear purpose and vision. If you are clear about why you are establishing the CU, you will be able to set SMART objectives and align them with the appropriate structure and learning architecture. It is only through clarity of purpose that you will be able to successfully assess whether or not you are achieving these objectives and measure your ROI. If you don’t know what you are measuring, you can’t accurately measure it!

3. Programme Offerings and Learning Architecture
With a clear purpose in mind it is imperative to then undertake a comprehensive assessment of your learning needs before designing your learning architecture and curricula. Gather information and interview all stakeholders to determine where the gaps are that need to be addressed. You may need to include various functional academies in your structure to address specific technical and specialised needs. Don’t forget to also consider the needs of your external customers, suppliers and value chain partners who may be integral to achieving CU and organisational strategic objectives.

4. Staffing Your CU
One of the most common errors is to overstaff the CU when starting out. Carefully consider your current staff compliment and whether or not this is working for you. Balance this with your anticipated learning architecture, programme offerings and selected balance of virtual learning vs. face-to-face instruction. Remember a CU is a constantly evolving structure and its ultimate survival depends on its built-in flexibility to adapt to the changing needs of the organisation.

5. Stay Relevant to Your Customers
Do not lose touch with your customer base. Content should always be delivered locally, with products and services that are relevant to the participants’ and the organization’s needs. Programmes can be centrally developed but should then be adapted to align with local norms and demands.

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