As I thought of writing this post – I had two options – to write it in a conventional way or build a case study cum story. I chose the later. This story (case study) dates back to 2007 when two of the largest global telecom giants merged. Both the companies had L&D models which were poles apart. While French major dealt with learning as a pure cost centre, highly inward centric, focused entirely on employee development and being one of the several HR functions – the American major viewed learning as a professional service with a dominant part integrated with sales – highly business focused.

From 2007, journey of integration began – the executive council decided to bring in a senior leader from sales to lead the formation of a corporate university with an ambition to create a global professional learning services entity, which would rank amongst the top corporate universities in the world. The integration & transformation led to focus shifting from just employees to the entire value chain of the corporation which meant that channel partner and customer education was also brought on the learning radar screen and integrated with employee learning as part of an overall professional services framework. The transformation continued and another senior Sales leader took over as head of the university to step up the transformation. By 2011 (in almost 4 years from the day transformation began), the learning and development function had taken complete form & shape in terms of a full fledged corporate university which had :

  1. Its own brand
  2. A global services vertical rather than multiple country centric, legacy training centres
  3. A single digital platform which brought all learners at one virtual place
  4. P&L centered services business unit
  5. Focus on entire value chain (employees, customers & channel partners)

The transformation led to this corporate university (nested between global HR and services vertical) becoming one of the top ranking corporate universities globally.

Lessons learnt:

  1. In any business enterprise, the learning should cover entire enterprise eco system (do not leave out partner and customer education)
  2. Focus on transformation rather than transactions
  3. Focus on business outcomes not the courses deployed or training hours delivered (these figures have no relevance)
  4. Monetize knowledge (as part of professional accreditation framework)
  5. Partner Talent acquisition teams to help attract talent – learning becomes a key differentiator in talent market place
  6. Extensive use of digital technologies – its impossible to integrate learning eco system without company wide digitization of learning function
  7. Corporate university needs to be branded (part of an overall corporate brand)

Last and very interesting point – corporate universities enhance market valuation of the business and also act as a stand alone asset. The corporate university I spoke about attracted a bid for acquisition in 2012 – the executive council rejected the idea of selling this priced asset – it was a jewel in the corporate crown.