As corporations continue to maintain leaner workforces—choosing to carry larger cash balances over expanding employment—there’s a renewed focus on selecting, retaining and developing talent internally. More attention is being paid to competencies that drive innovation, revenue growth and strategic agility so that companies can sustain growth with smaller payrolls. Despite this attention, many organizations are faced with diminished training resources.
Many globally recognized, highly selective universities are now turning to executive and online education as viable revenue growth channels. The focus is now on creating revenue streams that won’t require costly bricks-and-mortar expansion on campus. Many schools and universities are re-examining their relationships with corporate training and learning departments.
There are several reasons why a corporation might turn to a brand-name university as an educational partner.
Many companies offer, maintain, and manage more training and education programs than some universities. Companies may offer thousands of courses to their employees—some developed in-house, others purchased from commercial training providers, and still more from nearby colleges.
A company may choose to raise the visibility of one or more programs, depending on specific company objectives . By co-branding with a nationally or globally recognized university, the program immediately draws more attention and gets more buy-in from participants and their sponsors.
Employee Retention and Engagement
While national unemployment rates remain high, there is increasing demand for results-driven leaders, innovators, creative professionals and technical experts. Now companies are re-doubling their efforts to engage and retain talent.
By investing in skill building and career development through a well known university program, the company sends a clear message to the employee: “You are a highly valued team member, and critical to our future success as a company”. In fact, many companies reserve these co-branded programs specifically for high-potential employees who hold the most promise for future performance.
By working with their university partner to offer a certificate or other valued credential, companies are finding new ways to recognize and reward people who invest in their career and contribute to company growth. Some companies are concerned about offering a portable credential that makes the employee more attractive to competitors, but most recognize that the benefits from an engaged and capable talent pool far outweigh any risk of attrition.
Specialized Skills and Research
Finally, employers can clarify the strategic direction of the company and the skills needed to get there through these types of educational partnerships. Working with globally recognized university faculty is important to employees and increases buy-in. When participants know that their training is based on research at top schools in their field or industry, they are more likely to be engaged with the program. Making that connection by aligning theory with everyday practice is when that transfer—that practical application of concepts—can really take place.
Creating Win-Win Partnerships
But such partnerships are not always win-win. Universities need to be flexible in how they deliver programs that meet the needs of these high-profile corporate training programs. There are several areas where universities need to meet emerging demand:
- Competency-based learning: Organizations align training programs to targeted competency needs of employees, not necessarily traditional academic disciplines. This requires universities to tailor the curriculum, content, assessment tools, and even the program credential so that they align with a company’s specific need.
- Flexible schedule: Forget semester-length schedules, or even summer-timed course when the faculty members are available. A company-sponsored program will most likely have requirements around start and end dates and different pacing requirements for the curriculum.
- Customer-centric services: From program management to student support, companies will be looking for their university partner to treat them better than commercial training providers do. The promise of the university’s brand is expected to shine through services as well as content.
- Volume-based pricing: Universities will be expected to demonstrate how a program can scale if/when demand grows.
The upshot for universities is that these requirements inform research and can create an applied learning loop where faculty members can package and deliver training that’s especially valuable to on-the-ground practitioners.
At the same time, universities who embrace these requirements can find new opportunities to strengthen their own brand while helping companies invest in their talent to position themselves as the most attractive employer in their industry.
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