What the Changing Corporate University Model Means for Your Company

CoachHub · 15 November 2021 · 6 min read

Establishing a corporate university could be an immense boon for your company, especially now that new technology has made it so easy. We’ll tell you how the CU model has changed and why it matters in the post below.

Corporate universities aren’t just for multinational conglomerates anymore.

According to a study commissioned on behalf of Middlesex University’s Institute for Work Based Learning, 74% of UK workers are eager to receive more training at work. Similar sentiments have been echoed by workers all across the EU.

Starting your own corporate university (or CU) may be the best way for your company to handle this thirst for knowledge. These training programs allow you to disseminate useful knowledge to your workers, build your brand’s prestige, and shape the future leadership of your company all at the same time.

This may sound like a massive undertaking, but CUs have undergone some drastic changes in the time since their inception in the 1960s. They are now much easier to establish and much less expensive to run, allowing companies of all sizes to create one and reap the associated rewards. Today, we’ll cover what CUs are, how they have changed over the years, why you should consider starting one for your company, and how you can get that process started.

The Corporate University Model

Corporate universities are internal training programs that a company can build to address its specific workforce-related needs. Unlike traditional universities where all course content is broadly applicable to the field as a whole, many corporate universities teach some content that is only relevant to the company that created them. Some CUs do offer courses with associated certifications that employees can add to their resume even after they leave the company.

Some corporate universities may be open to all employees at a company at all times or be part of the onboarding process for new employees. Others are only open to specifically-vetted high potential employees who are expected to be able to make the best use of the program. This is usually part of the company’s management training and leadership development initiatives and may serve as a first step toward a future promotion.

Some Famous Corporate University Names

Many of the world’s largest companies have their own corporate universities, and you may already know their names. Some of the most famous include:

  • Hamburger University (operated by McDonalds).
  • Apple University.
  • Disney University.
  • Crotonville (operated by General Electric).
  • Motorola University.
  • Mars University.

These big-name businesses prove just how valuable a corporate university can be to your employer brand.

Disney University is a particularly good example of how a company can incorporate their training program into a potent employer branding strategy. Many of Disney’s new recruits are almost as eager to attend the legendary Disney U as they are to work for the company itself. That hype and prestige draws in the kind of high potential applicants that Disney depends on to continue their culture of excellence. Companies hoping to focus on attracting and developing talent should consider following this example by developing a corporate university program of their own.

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Old Fashioned Corporate University Examples

In the past, corporate universities were very rare. Learning had to take place in a dedicated space, so only organizations with the resources to set up a physical campus could set up a university of their own. Although Hamburger University (the very first corporate university) began in the basement of an Illinois McDonald’s restaurant in 1961, it soon grew to span 80 acres and employ nearly 20 full-time staff.

This was a very effective set-up, but it was also very expensive to maintain and not nearly large enough to serve McDonalds’ entire workforce. The company was forced to limit admission to only the best and brightest of their crop of employees. This meant that not every worker got the chance to try to develop into a better manager and leader despite McDonalds’ best efforts to provide these opportunities. However, it was the best that could be done at the time, and Hamburger University ultimately played a large part in making McDonalds the powerhouse restaurant franchise it is today.

Corporate Universities: 2022 and Beyond

Even today, corporate universities are largely the domain of big, well-established companies with strong brands. However, this is quickly changing.

Thanks to new developments in innovative training technologies such as digital learning and mobile learning, modern corporate training is much more flexible and accessible than ever before. Between savings on real estate, classroom supplies, support workers, and other expenses associated with on-site instruction, companies can create and distribute coursework for a fraction of what it would have cost to do so in a physical setting. They can also easily scale their training initiatives alongside their workforce to ensure that no one is ever left out.

Many corporate training advocates are beginning to reject the term ‘university’ altogether in this context, stating that it projects an overly rigid and stuffy image. Modern CUs allow employees to learn at their own pace, wherever and whenever they choose. If an on-site component is required, companies can use blended learning and experiential learning to provide an upgraded learning experience that is better suited to each employee’s professional development goals, learning style, and schedule.

Why Invest in a Corporate University?

Now that digital CUs are possible, there is very little reason not to institute a program like this at your own company.

In addition to the talent acquisition benefits described above, CUs represent a highly visible investment in your employees’ career mobility. They not only bring tangible improvements to your workforce’s skills, but also demonstrate to your employees that you care about their professional development and want them to succeed within your company.

This show of faith increases employee retention, building a strong foundation of trust among your team. It also decreases your turnover-related expenses and ensures that your company can continue to operate consistently as senior employees retire, since new management candidates with strong leadership abilities will always be available to take their place.

List of Corporate University Courses for Your Employees

Interested in the possibility of setting up a corporate university for your company? You’ll need to decide on a curriculum.

Choose the courses you will offer based on the outcomes you want to achieve. Start by thinking of what you would want your ideal employee to know, then consider how you might teach that knowledge to your workforce.

Some of the courses and educational content you might choose to offer include:

  • An overview of your company’s history and culture.
  • Basic courses in sales, marketing, product development, and other key areas for cross-training purposes.
  • Personality assessment training, including DiSC assessments (check out our take on the DiSC vs. MBTI debate).
  • Soft skills training, including conflict management and motivational theory.
  • Hard skills training for additional competency development.
  • Theoretical training to further understanding of key concepts like statistics and data management.
  • Business coaching to help employees set and reach appropriate goals.

Every company needs a different mix of these elements in order to accomplish their goals. You can also expand your course offerings as your company grows and your training needs evolve.

Start Your Corporate University Today with CoachHub

Building your corporate university curriculum is easy with the right partner. CoachHub has a full complement of courses you can offer as part of your CU initiative, including comprehensive interpersonal training and personalized business coaching to help each employee reach their full potential.

Contact us today to learn more about what our courses have to offer and how they can help you take your company training to the next level.

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