Making the Move to a Corporate University

When thinking about the concept of a corporate university, we often first think of large corporations with famous universities, such as GE’s Crontonville University, McDonald’s Hamburger University or Disney University, to name a few. But, and here is the kicker, you don’t have to be a Fortune 500 company to establish a corporate university that is designed to advance your organization’s strategic initiatives and culture!


Don’t believe me? On a recent HCI webinar, Ed Cohen, learning industry expert and managing partner at Actionable Guru, LLC, shared his insight into how a carefully laid out plan is all you need to graduate your training strategy to a sophisticated corporate university program. Here are some of the top takeaways from the session.


Reasons you SHOULD consider a corporate university

You want to engage and retain employees, and support your corporate culture. Your commitment to learning can keep your people engaged and loyal. Demonstrating that you care about your employees’ career growth can lead to increased retention. Also, a corporate university is a centralized way to provide learning and one of the best ways to promote a common corporate culture.


You want to offer training to your external audiences. Extending your corporate university outside of your corporate walls is a great way to bring new revenue into your company. Many of your internal learning programs can be repurposed for external use in product and service training or certification programs. Offering learning to your customers and partners can increase customer satisfaction and build brand advocates.


Roadblocks to building a corporate university

Even with the most careful planning and execution, there are several factors that can hold your university back from becoming a success.


  • You don’t have executive support – The need for executive support when launching a corporate university cannot be understated. A successful university program requires a long-term strategy with cooperation across business units. One way to ensure executive buy-in, make sure that the goals of the university tie into the larger business goals and objectives
  • You cannot agree on the goal of the university – This ties into the cooperation across business units. There is a huge difference between and internal and external facing university (or a combination of both). Every part of the business must agree on the purpose of the program and be invested 100% in its success.
  • Your business doesn’t have a demand for a university – Just because you build something does not mean that people will use it. Be sure that the need for a university it clear, that your material is compelling enough for a large audience and that the user experience is consistent and intuitive.


How to create a successful corporate university

There are multiple key elements when it comes to creating a successful corporate university program (for more check out the Graduating to a Corporate University whitepaper).


  • Having a well-defined vision – Document what you are trying to achieve and how it aligns with corporate strategy and goals. Corporate universities take time to develop and grow, so have a short term and long term strategy.
  • Selecting the right Learning Management System – Not all learning technology is created equal, especially when it comes to the capabilities needed for a corporate university. Do you have a system in place that can be used for your corporate university? Does it have the functionality you need to meet your learning requirements?
  • Knowing what success looks like – It is important to determine what you will measure and why. Reporting on a corporate university should go beyond enrollments, completions and scores, you need to measure against strategic, organizational goals.


View the webinar replay for all of Ed’s insight into corporate universities and how to get started with going beyond traditional training programs in your organization.


Graduating to a Corporate University

Establishing a corporate university takes more than slapping a shiny new logo and brand on your existing organizational development program. It takes a thought out strategy, executive sponsorship and a company culture that embraces corporate learning.


You don’t have to be a big Fourtune 100 company to establish a corporate university. Organizations of all sizes can benefit from the structure and offerings of corporate universities.


We sat down with Kris Dunn, CHRO of Kinetix and Ginger Knighton, Training Specialist at Kinetix, for a candid conversation around:


  • What is a corporate university?
  • Why would a company want to do a corporate university?
  • What are some of the training areas corporate universities could be segmented by?
  • What are some other aspects of OD that are enhanced by a corporate university structure?
  • What do you need to know from a budgetary perspective to make a run at a corporate university? And, how do you get started with corporate university budgets without a lot of concepts?


Watch the replay of the L&D Hangout with Fistful of Talent to find out why corporate universities aren’t just a fleeting trend and how your organization can get started today.


If you have questions or comments, leave them below and we’ll get right back to you!