Universal challenge

first_img Comments are closed. Corporate universities can move training and development to centre-stagewithin organisations, and their use as a strategic tool to gain worldwidecompetitive advantage is increasing. Simon Kent reportsAs Paul Henry, vice-president of SmartForce, points out, the label”corporate university” can be used to cover a wide variety ofinitiatives. “The concept has evolved from the corporate training-centre function,which tended to mean a traditional classroom-based, institutional learningmodel,” he says. “Today, with the emergence of e-learning, it tendsto imply some kind of technology platform through which learning can beaccessed.” Certainly technology plays a major role in facilitating organisation-wideeducation, but corporate universities do not start and finish on the Internet.It is more useful to define them as the targeted provision of common educationresources to employees. Such initiatives provide a focal point for training resources and align educationto corporate goals and individual training to each employee’s personal growth. Increasingly, corporate universities are being acknowledged as an efficientmethod of delivering training and can even operate as part of an employeeincentive plan. Crown Relocations established its university in 1997 to deliver an inductionprogramme to graduate recruits. Held in Sydney, Australia, the course ran for12 weeks, giving students a mix of classroom and on-site education before theirfirst assignment. This year, the course will bring 25 students to Los Angeles for aneight-week programme including a one-month placement. “We set up the university because we realised we needed to bring moretrained people into the organisation to manage the needs of the expandingcompany,” explains Norah Franchetti, Crown’s director of corporateservices for the European region and one of the programme’s principalinstructors. According to Franchetti, the university swiftly entrenches students in theCrown culture, from how to answer the telephone to how airport and dockoperations are carried out. While Crown University graduates have had marked success in attainingmanagement positions, Franchetti notes that there has been some frictionbetween graduates and serving employees, since the latter can view trainees as”upstarts” or even be suspicious that the weekly reports compiled aspart of the learning process are a method of checking up on operations. As aresult, six of this year’s university intake will be drawn from the ranks ofcurrent Crown employees. Interestingly, while Crown University begins with a common geographiclocation, Lotus Notes technology allows students to continue to share theirlearning, as individual assignments take them all over the world. At Edelman PR Worldwide, a similar combination of geographical events andcommunications technology offers all employees access to learning resources.Indeed, the scale of this initiative means learning delivered through EdelmanUniversity blends with the concept of knowledge management within the agency. Intellectual capital Edelman’s chief executive officer in the UK, Tari Hibbitt, notes how Edel Ucontributes to the management of intellectual capital. “The biggestchallenge for companies such as ourselves is to make sure we keep up to datewith new thoughts and trends,” she says. “A big focus of our training and development is to make sure we knowwhere the trends are and that we are ahead of those trends. Training anddevelopment and how to share intellectual capital are an important competitiveedge for us.” Edel U offers employees access to a core curriculum, course outlines andmaterials via the company intranet. An international annual summer school takes delegates from Edelman’s 41offices worldwide and addresses how these locations can enhance their worktogether. While employees drive their own learning and can select training activitiesfor themselves, Hibbitt is adamant that training should always be carried outin the context of individual career development. “The Internet has given us e-learning, but there has to be a balancebetween on-line and face-to-face training,” notes Hibbitt. “In ourbusiness, people work with other people in other offices and you can’tcommunicate purely on-line or by phone. You need face-to-face training to getthose kind of skills.” And just as the organisation promotes a variety of training techniques, ituses a variety of training resources, taking tutors from within and outside theorganisation. In this way, the company gains access to external skills andknowledge as well as supporting the working culture. General Motors University was created in 1997 and was, according to DarrellCope, a direct initiative to bring learning to the centre of the organisation.Cope works as project leader for General Physics, which delivered thetechnology infrastructure to support the learning provision. “GM has been training employees since it started, but this was anopportunity to formalise that training,” he says. “The universitymodel was a way of reintroducing training as a modern concept in a way whichwould gain attention within the organisation.” The university is structured into discrete colleges such as engineering,brand management, legal and manufacturing. A college dean within each area ofthe company ensures content is continually updated. Cope notes that since the launch of the university, training has becomealigned with organisational needs. At the same time, the creation of the university has eliminated duplicationof courses between departments and delivered a consistent standard across theorganisation. The benefits of standardising learning in this way are highlighted by SteveGold, senior director of Oracle Education for UK and Ireland. “Trainingdelivered online can be consistent from a multinational perspective,” hesays. “In areas such as software training, that can be extremelypowerful.” Oracle’s I-learning initiative is an Internet platform which can be used toadministrate the delivery of education in any format across an organisation. Itis used within Oracle itself to support the Oracle Learning Network, providingproduct training as well as soft skills and management education. Freedom “OLN has provided more freedom for individual employees to find thelearning they want,” says Gold. “If they want to take aninstructor-led course, they still need to get sign-off for that from theirmanager, but for other subjects they are able to dip into the e-learning onoffer and find out what they need there.” In years gone by, the provision of such wide-ranging training would haveattracted worried looks from many executives, concerned at the spend involvedand the possibility that having received this education, employees would moveon. Today, corporate universities are becoming a necessity. “When you’re hiring, candidates increasingly ask the trainingquestion,” says Hibbitt, “It’s part of the deal now. Often whenemployees want to leave an organisation it’s because they don’t know where theywant to go career-wise and that can be because the training and developmentprogramme isn’t tight enough.” Henry says, “Learning is becoming a more strategic item. Directorsidentify business priorities such as the need to launch products faster, andthe more enlightened ones are beginning to see that education fits inthere.” To some extent, the establishment of a corporate university at last givestraining its proper profile within an organisation. No longer regarded assimply an “add-on” function to pay lip service to, it can be thecentral resource for developing and sharing the knowledge and skills which giveorganisations competitive advantage. Case study: Learning online 24 hours a dayXerox Virtual Learning Environment is an intranet-based portal providingaccess to all training activities within Xerox. While training in the company has increased in line with the rapid pace ofchange in technology, XVLE creates a single point of contact between employeesand educational resources. Technology based, it is open 24 hours a day, sevendays a week.Featuring a custom-built learning management system which keeps up-to-daterecords of individual training activities and manages career paths, the systemprovides cross-departmental access to education activities. This meanstechnical engineers can view courses open to software analysts and evencomplete online training in these areas. Ian Sellars, manager of Xerox education support services, says this openaccess is crucial to the success of the resource. “As soon as you startrestricting access to the learning environment, there’s the feeling that it’sbeing policed,” he says.While offering access to online training, XVLE provides information on thecompany’s other education resources, including the TV channel XTV, threededicated learning centres called Connexions, an entire library stock of booksand CDs and instructor-led training courses. In this way, while the initialpoint of contact with education may occur through technology, the company stillprovides a blended approach to training, offering individuals the chance totrain according to their preference. This approach also brings opportunities for efficiencies within individualcourses – by delivering elements through distance learning techniques, theorganisation can reduce the time and cost of classroom-based education.While XVLE is already proving popular within the organisation, Sellarsbelieves it is still early days for the initiative. “Any company needs tobe patient with a corporate university,” he says. “It’s not going tohappen overnight and it takes time to become part of company culture.” Universal challengeOn 1 Sep 2001 in Personnel Today Related posts:No related photos. Previous Article Next Articlelast_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*
*