EVENT REVIEW: The corporate university’s role in the executive learning sector is much debated. There is a body of opinion that it is an expensive indulgence and often results in the creation of little more than a glorified training department with a nice building; and there is the alternative view that a CU, sponsored by the most senior group executives can break away from the deadening weight that HR-backed programs often acquire and can be a vehicle for real innovation, reflection and development for the whole organisation.
Last week saw the 4th Annual Corporate University Forum at ESADE in Madrid, and predictably the view being expressed was the positive, progressive one. This year’s Forum conclusions pointed towards the need to deal with the increasing complexities of developing the global culture of companies, as well as developing ways of measuring the results of training. The forum has become a reference for companies running corporate universities providing them with a birds-eye view of the sector as well as the opportunity to share experiences and best practice models.
Participants noted that although the reasons behind the launch of corporate universities often differ, one of the key effects is to emphasize the corporate culture.
- Carlos Pelegrín, Talent Management Manager at Orange (France Telecom), explained, “the important thing when we launched the corporate university was the creation of a common corporate culture at a global level, since the company operates in more and more countries around the world.”
- The director of Energias De Portugal’s recently-formed corporate university, Vasco Coucello, commented that it was created to provide “a knowledge-focussed meeting point amongst employees”.
- While Ana Belén Aller, Corporate Human Resources Manager at Celsa Group, noted that their new corporate university came into being to “support the company's international expansion”.
- Veteran of corporate universities Julián Sanz Director of Management and Processes in Grupo Santander’s corporate training department noted that for Santander “focusing on fostering our own culture” is a key strategic function of their 6-year old corporate university.
- Soledad Ortiz, Senior Training and Development Manager at PwC added that for PwC it was vital for “training to become a key element in the company, making the corporate university a centre for excellence was an important way of supporting our internal strategy.”
José Ángel Fernández Izard, Director of Gas Natural Fenosa’s pioneering corporate university, highlighted the need for a commitment to the use of new media in corporate universities and the important role it plays in internal knowledge management. Along these lines, Sanz of Grupo Santander also underlined the need to possess the tools to attract knowledge, pinpoint talent and focus on strategic collectives. Luis Vives, Professor of Business Policy at ESADE, noted that “whatever the specific aim of the corporate university “we should never lose sight of the fact that it should always be geared towards creating value for the company itself,” and that one of their key functions should be “to be flexible enough to pre-empt and adapt to internal and external circumstances in the best interests of the company.”
Another issue discussed during the forum was the need to measure results. One suggestion for improvement in this area was the creation of a standardised measurement system through sharing measurement indicators between companies. To date, each company has been developing and using its own systems to evaluate the true benefit of corporate university training, perhaps a more harmonized approach would lead to more reliable evaluations.
Secretary General of ESADE, Marcel Planellas along with Director of Executive Education at ESADE, Jaume Hugas and Camelia Ilie, Director of Executive Education at ESADE Madrid, also shared their insights throughout the day. Camelia notes, “ESADE was one of the first schools to partner with corporate universities, we have always seen it as an opportunity to contribute our knowledge towards a new way of doing things, working in partnership with leading corporate universities in the sector, helping them with the academic, practical and applied mix necessary to be successful.”
View ESADE profile on IEDP
See Annick Renaud-Coulon's article on Corporate Universities and Social Networks