BY JERRY ROCHE
Global Council Of Corporate Universities
Thankfully, we in the U.S. were the first to avail our employees of “corporate university” (CU) training, the first such organization having been established more than 60 years ago by General Electric (GE). So the CU concept is far from new — but it’s beginning to become commonplace even in the most remote nations of the globe.
Organizing and implementing a successful CU is no easy task, for many factors have to be considered beforehand — especially when benchmarking against other existing corporate universities — like:
>> contribution to the effectiveness of the business;
>> corporate influence;
>> structural considerations;
>> learning process; and
>> management of information.
The main goals of a corporate university are organizing training, promoting continuous learning, supporting organizational change, retaining employees, and bringing a common culture, loyalty and belonging to companies — especially multi-nationals.
Elearning! magazine recently had the opportunity to question leading proponents about their global corporate universities:
TELL US ABOUT THE GLOBAL COUNCIL OF CORPORATE UNIVERSITIES (GLOBALCCU): SIZE, FOCUS, MISSION.
The GloblalCCU platform is a unique global online private social network entirely dedicated to optimizing the performance of corporate university professionals and showing their stakeholders that their corporate university or their internal learning structure creates real value.
Multi-national corporate members come from more than five continents. Member states are Angola, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China,Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, South Africa, Russia, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, U.K., U.S.A., Venezuela and Vietnam.
WHAT UNIQUE CAPABILITIES/ CHALLENGES DOES A GLOBAL CU HAVE VERSUS A ONE-NATION CU?
Today, even if companies operate solely on a national scale — which is less and less frequent — they cannot stay away from the transformations of the world from which they are interdependent.
A fortiori, corporate universities belonging to multi-national companies face very big challenges. They have to juggle many paradoxes related to their organizational architecture, to the engineering of their central and/or local learning offerings, to the modes of execution and delivery — especially in countries where Internet infrastructures are not sufficiently deployed. They have to cope with different cultures, international time differences, inter-generational, inter-religious relationships, social belonging differences, local managerial customs, relationship differences with power and authority. They must be concerned with languages of learning, since English is far from being spoken everywhere. In other words, it’s not easy to run the CU of a multi-national company.
WHAT BEST PRACTICE CAN YOU SHARE TO OTHER GLOBAL CORPORATE UNIVERSITY LEADERS?
It is difficult to put forward one good practice when there are thousands, all as exciting as another. I would just like to cite the project of the integration of 20,000 HSBC employees following its purchase in 2016, by Banco Bradesco, our best overall Gold Award winner 2017. The process was skillfully worked and deployed. I was struck by the intellectual approach of the designers of this program, who, for example, worked closely together, both the integral and integrated teams — on the Prince of Machiavel. In the auditoriums where the meetings were held, the scenography exposed the words: “Pensar e Agir” (think and act) in very large, three-dimensional letters. What great art.
—Annick Renaud-Coulon is founder and CEO of the Global Council of Corporate Universities, based in Paris, France.
YOU WERE RECOGNIZED AS A WORLD CLASS CORPORATE UNIVERSITY BY THE GLOBALCCU. WHAT DISTINGUISHES YOUR ORGANIZATION FROM THE OTHERS?
One of the key differentiators for sure is our size. We are much smaller than most of the other training organizations competing for the award. Software AG is a midsize company but with a truly global setup — which makes us somehow unique: we are small enough to care and big enough to deliver. This describes pretty well our customer relation in comparison to the real big fish in our market, like IBM or Oracle. As the corporate university of Software AG, we directly face the “stretch” of having learning and development requirements of a global player while at the same time not having resources like largescale organizations. But such a stretch has a positive impact: it makes us more creative. So for our CU, we believe we are small enough to care and smart enough to deliver.
The other thing that differentiates us is that we have to focus. We do not follow every trend or hype but have a crystal-clear vision where we have to go. The foundation of our strategy is “Design Thinking.” We apply this problemsolving philosophy in a slightly adjusted way to everything we do as CU, but also to Software AG as such. It is a central element of every high-potential or leadership training program:
1. We embedded it into our new-hire education package;
2. Once a year, we run a MOOC for all interested employees; and
3. Developed over time “Design Thinking Champions” in all regions of the world to drive this mindset change through the whole company.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE KEY BUSINESS CHALLENGE(S) YOUR ORGANIZATION FACED, AND HOW DID YOU OVERCOME IT?
Digitalization is one of the key disrupting megatrends of today’s world: it affects literally every company on the globe. Software AG is a leading-edge I.T. technology supplier that helps companies to survive this turmoil but also to win against their competitors.Thus customer centricity, agility and speed of innovation are key for us to win our competition against both very large companies and startups or small, specialized niche vendors. This is a real challenge. We neither have the massive resources like the big players nor can we act as flexible and fast as startups, as we have strong customer relations for more than 45 years and a workforce that is between 4,000 and 5,000 employees globally. We have to be smart in how we manage this challenge. We respond to this with a number of strategic programs and initiatives, among which Design Thinking is the cornerstone. Since we started these initiatives, we have seen significant change of behavior in all departments, across all hierarchies.
WHAT BEST PRACTICE CAN YOU SHARE WITH OTHER GLOBAL CORPORATE UNIVERSITY LEADERS?
Basically two ideas: the first one being to apply Design Thinking to all our services and offerings.Too often we build our “products” inside-out. Like engineers, we think we know what’s required and develop solutions based on “functions and features.” We forget the usability of our “products.” Of course we (occasionally) do learning needs analyses, but they are not user-centric. Instead, we ask what is required for a certain department or a theoretical job role (a manager, a consultant, a sales rep). We tend to forget the individuals behind these structures and role definitions. But in the end it’s the individual who “consumes” our offerings and either does learn something or doesn’t.
The other idea I would like to share is more a question than a recommendation. I asked my team this question a while ago – with an astonishing result. It goes like is: “What would we do different, if we had to earn our salaries (or the budget of our organization) like any other external vendor of training offerings?” The answer was: “A lot!” This evoked vivid and fruitful discussion. The full potential of this thinking exercise unleashes when you think “time is money” and turn the question into: How can we “earn” as much time (instead of money) as possible from our learners? What should our offering look like, how would we need to market and sell it, etc. You can also turn it into a profitability statement: To become profitable, we need to earn more money with our offerings than we spend to create and maintain these offerings. Imagine what happens if you combine this exercises with the Design Thinking approach. The areas of improvement that become visible are incredible.
–Peter Dern began his career at SAP where he held various management responsibilities in the education area. He also worked as management consultant with focus on education and change management and developed a partner network to offer SAP education and professional certification as part of government-funded education programs for unemployed Germans. In a joint program with the Swiss Center of Innovation in Learning (SCIL) at University St. Gallen, he developed a service offering for personal development departments and corporate universities. Today, he runs the Corporate University at Software AG.
Defense Acquisition University
YOU WERE RECOGNIZED AS A WORLD- CLASS CORPORATE UNIVERSITY BY GLOBALCCU. WHAT DISTINGUISHES YOUR ORGANIZATION FROM THE OTHERS?
The DAU extends the concept of learning beyond the classroom. DAU is now delivering more “in-context consumption learning” on the job — anytime, anyplace — a growing number of learning products to an increasing number of Defense Acquisition Workforce members. All learning assets (e.g., courses, how-to videos, self-service portals, communication technologies, and on-the-job support tools) are integrated and shared by the workforce. The widespread use of social media, which provides users a sense of instant access to information and opinions, instills an expectation for fast and relevant two-way communication; government organizations that communicate through social media must meet their customers’ expectations to remain relevant or risk losing their audience. As a leader in training for the Department of Defense, DAU is no exception, and is actively building its social media presence. Working through multiple social media platforms enables the university to connect directly with its customers and stakeholders and incorporate communications technologies within our curricula.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE KEY BUSINESS CHALLENGE(S) YOUR ORGANIZATION FACED AND HOW DID YOU OVERCOME IT?
At DAU, we understand the tremendous potential technology now plays in learning and development but also the fundamental changes needed to effectively leverage it. This is even truer for a new, rapidly growing, and “always connected” (collaborative/social) generation now part of our workforce. This generation has fewer programs (career opportunities) on which to learn and gain experience, fewer mentors to help them learn, fewer resources, and fewer of themselves, yet we still need to find ways to help them succeed. To this end, DAU’s leadership team strategically envisioned, designed and implemented a totally new enterprise learning strategy to meet the dynamic career-wide learning needs of our generation, transforming 150,000 workforce members. Incorporating it into and reshaping our strategic plan has brought a huge paradigm shift on the job, providing students with real-time access to all our learning assets whether formal or informal. This has continued to drive remarkable results impacted by these communication technologies and tools:
>> graduated 181,970 students,46,024 classroom and 135,946 distance learning;
>> Provided 5.1 million hours of training;
>> provided 12.3 million hours of formal and informal learning;
>> increased continuous learning modules completions to more than 673,000 per year;
>> provided 525 total mission assistance efforts, totaling 291,000 hours — all working with customers in their workplaces; and
>> reached our 160,000th Acquisition Community Connection member with 45 million page views.
WHAT BEST PRACTICE CAN YOU SHARE WITH OTHER GLOBAL CORPORATE UNIVERSITY LEADERS?
These last two years, DAU has committed to developing qualified acquisition professionals by fully engaging our students, both in the classroom and on the job. DAU is fully integrated in our learners’ careers from the time they enroll in their first DAU course until they retire. We are also becoming more learning-asset-centric. This approach changes how we develop, deploy, deliver and maintain all our learning assets. It minimizes bias toward courses as the only solution, leverages technology that best suits the material and student needs, and allows for sharing and re-purposing of learning assets across the Acquisition Learning Model (ALM). Not only do we consistently update our curriculum and improve our learning assets to ensure the most up-to-date information is available right at our learners’ fingertips, but as technology advances, we also explore new content delivery methods to meet the changing needs of the workforce. By taking advantage of new technologies, we are able to create learning environments that provide students opportunities to gain the knowledge and understanding they need while reducing time away from the job. DAU has implemented a totally holistic approach to learning. This paradigm shift:
>> develops,deploys,delivers and maintains all formal,informal and social learning assets;
>> moves curricula and asset development upstream;
>> creates an early point for learning asset creation and allocation;
>> minimizes bias toward courses as the only solution;
>> leverages technology that best suits the material and the student needs and enables social links and promotes a common learning culture; and
>> establishes requirements that translate directly into Learning Objectives.
Additionally, by nurturing social links easily accessible in the classroom, on-line, at home and on the job, DAU has fostered a common corporate culture of learning.
–Christopher R. Hardy, Ph.D., is the director, Strategic Planning and Learning Analytics, Office of the President. He co-authored “Leading a Learning Revolution: The Story Behind DAU’s Reinvention of Training” in 2008. Under his direction, DAU has repeatedly been recognized as one of the best learning organizations throughout the public and private sectors with more than 60 awards in 14 years. In 2017, DAU was recognized for the seventh year in a row as one of the best Learning! 100 organizations. Dr. Hardy was personally awarded the Eagle Award in 2014 for lifetime achievement in e-learning by the U.S. Distance Learning Association.