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Corporate Education:

A Practical Guide to
Corporate Learning

Lindsay Ryan
First Published in 2010 by
Griffin Press
168 Cross Keys Road
Salisbury 5106

Copyright © 2010 Lindsay Ryan

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be

reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any
form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying,
recording or otherwise without the prior written permission of
the publisher.

National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication entry

Ryan, Lindsay
Corporate Education: A Practical Guide to Effective Corporate

ISBN 9780646528120

Includes index.

Employees - - Training of - - Australia.

Employer-supported education - - Australia.
Vocational education - - Australia.
Technical education - - Australia.


Cover design: Milestone Design


Preface v

Acknowledgements xi

Chapter 1 Introduction 1

Chapter 2 The Changing Corporate Workplace 16

Chapter 3 The Strategic Importance of Corporate 33

Case Study: South Australia Police 58

Chapter 4 Adopting a Strategic Approach to Corporate 65

Case Study: Textron Corporation 86

Chapter 5 Developing a Corporate Education Learning 93

Case Study: Parente Beard Pennsylvania 110

Chapter 6 The Strategic Management of Corporate 115

Education Programs
Case Study: ETSA Utilities 134

Chapter 7 Delivering Corporate Education Programs 143

Case Study: A Learning System for 165
Corporate Education

Chapter 8 Corporate Universities 172

Case Study: Woolworths Limited 189

Chapter 9 Measuring the Impact of Corporate 197

Case Study: A Participant’s Perspective 218
Chapter 10 Corporate Partnerships with Universities 224
and Education Providers

Chapter 11 Reviewing Your Organisation‟s Corporate 242




The Global Financial Crisis has had a swift and significant

impact on many organisations and their standard mode of
operating. As a result, many of the traditional approaches to
business operations are changing, including learning and

Much of the learning and development in organisations has

been ad hoc and centred on the development of employees as
individuals. However, many chief executives and senior
managers are starting to look at corporate education and
training from a different perspective. In particular, many are
now investigating their organisation‟s expenditure and seeking
ways to improve the return on investment from corporate
training. Many are also starting to recognise the strategic role
corporate education and training can have in their organisation
and the impact the learning and development has on their
organisation and not just on individual employees.

The purpose of this book is to provide chief executives,

senior managers, line managers, human resource managers,
chief learning officers and training managers with practical
information and relevant cases studies to assist them to better
understand the role and potential of corporate education and
training. The book draws on my 20+ years in the design,
delivery, coordination and management of corporate education
and training and reflects my passion, experience, observations
and research of effective corporate education and training
programs and strategies.

I use the term „corporate education‟ as an overarching term

to reflect the growing strategic importance of corporate
education and training. When approached from a strategic
perspective, corporate education has the potential to transform
an organisation and facilitate the development of a distinct
competitive edge for an organisation in an increasingly
competitive global business environment. Not only is corporate

education a means for an organisation to develop the
knowledge, skills and capability of employees but also the
depth, culture, capability and capacity of an organisation.

Chapter One, the Introduction, discusses the growing

importance for organisations to adopt a strategic approach to
their corporate education and training. The chapter presents a
definition of the difference between corporate education and
corporate training in order to encourage a more holistic and
strategic approach to corporate learning and development, with
an emphasis on developing organisation capability. This
compares to the traditional approach by organisations where
training is a predominately competence-based activity.
Although corporate training continues to evolve in its role and
methods used, there is still a tendency for training to be treated
as a series of events and a tick-the-box exercise. The term
„corporate education‟ is used to elevate the importance of
corporate learning as a strategic and continuous activity that
should encompass every employee in an organisation.

Chapter Two explores the growing importance of

corporate education and employee learning and development
from the perspective of the changing corporate workplace. The
discussion briefly considers the different generations now in
the workforce and some of the characteristics of the different
generations that can influence their approach to corporate
learning. The chapter also discusses the ageing workforce and
the implications this will have on workforce planning and the
growing imperative for corporate learning.

Chapter Three discusses the strategic importance of

corporate education as an investment rather than being treated
as a business expense. Instead of organisations approaching
corporate training as a function undertaken by necessity,
corporate education adds a new dimension of thinking to
employee learning and development with benefit to both the
organisation and the individual participants. This chapter also
explores some of the outcomes reported by organisations that
have adopted a strategic approach to their corporate education,
including: greater employee retention and attraction, more
effective succession planning, enhanced knowledge
management and facilitating innovation in an organisation.

Chapter Four introduces the Corporate Education „Iceberg‟

model as a means of contextualising formal corporate
education and training (above the water-line) blending with
informal and workplace learning (below the water-line). The
discussion in this chapter centres on the need for organisations
to develop a strategic approach to their corporate education and
a number of strategies and suggestions are provided to assist
organisations engage and involve employees at all levels to
participate in corporate learning and development. In
particular, this chapter highlights the importance for all
corporate education and training to align with the corporate
goals of an organisation and for these goals to cascade through
the different levels of an organisation to the respective learning
and development goals by departments and individuals.

Chapter Five discusses the importance of developing a

corporate education learning culture as organisations continue
to play an increasing role in the lifelong learning of their
employees. This chapter also explores a number of factors that
are essential in developing and sustaining an effective
corporate education program, especially the role of managers,
from the chief executive to senior managers and an employee‟s
line manager.

Chapter Six looks at the strategic management of corporate

education and the elements that contribute to the successful
development, implementation, coordination and management
of corporate education and training programs. The chapter
suggests mapping learning strategies in an organisation and
using a matrix to identify the types of learning programs
required for different discipline areas and different operating
levels in an organisation. The discussion also considers the
importance of identifying and consulting with key stakeholders
during the planning and development stage for a corporate
education program.

Chapter Seven discusses many of the practical issues

involved in delivering corporate education programs from the
perspective of: who, what, when, where, how and, importantly,
why. Program delivery options are also considered, including
face-to-face, online and blended learning approaches as well as
the importance of blending formal learning with informal and
workplace learning. In addition, the chapter presents some
learning tools, techniques and resources that organisations can
use in the delivery of their corporate education programs.

Chapter Eight draws on global research of corporate

universities to assist organisations make an informed decision
on the role and feasibility for investing in establishing a
corporate university as a means of developing, delivering,
coordinating and managing its in-house corporate education,
training and development programs. The chapter provides
background information on the history and growth of corporate
universities, a definition of corporate universities and an
overview of the role of corporate universities. The discussion
outlines some of the benefits as well as some of the
shortcomings of corporate universities.

Chapter Nine looks at issues associated with measuring the

impact of corporate education and includes discussion on
Kirkpatrick‟s Four Level Model and Phillip‟s ROI method. As
well, the chapter presents some guidelines for organisations to
consider when measuring their corporate education programs
and encourages organisations to use a combination of
quantitative and qualitative measures. In addition, employees
should be encouraged to assess their own performance
regarding their approach to learning and the impact of the
learning on their performance.

Chapter Ten recognises that organisations rarely have the

resources to develop and deliver all their corporate education
and training programs in-house. This chapter explores
corporate education partnerships with universities and
education providers and provides guidelines for planning and
selecting a corporate education provider. In particular, the
chapter explores a number of factors identified from global
research that are vital for transforming the arrangement from a
customer-supplier situation to a corporate education
partnership. Factors discussed include: senior management
commitment, developing trust and openness in the
arrangement, having a shared vision and clear goals for the
corporate education program and the role of regular
communication between the organisation and its education

Chapter Eleven draws on many of the topics and key

points covered in the book to provide a framework for
undertaking a comprehensive and systematic review of an
organisation‟s corporate education. The chapter includes a
template for analysing the demographic profile of the
workforce, with an emphasis on the education and training
qualifications of employees. The corporate education review
includes both quantitative and qualitative questions for
assessing an organisation‟s strategic approach and performance
in corporate education.

In addition to the eleven chapters there are seven case

studies that provide further insight into the application of
corporate education and training in a number of organisations.
The intention of the case studies is to highlight and
demonstrate the relevance and application of corporate
education and training in different contexts. The case studies
include a police/community safety organisation, a commercial
conglomerate, a professional services firm, a utility and a
national retail chain. There are also two case studies that
provide an insight from a participant‟s perspective of their
experience in a corporate education program and the
observations of an associate on the elements of an effective
learning framework based on their observations and experience
in working intimately with a number of major organisations in
diverse geographical regions.
1. Introduction
The purpose of this book is to assist organisations develop their
understanding of the concept of corporate education and the
often untapped potential that corporate education can have on
the culture and performance of an organisation. Managed from
a strategic perspective, corporate education can be deployed as
a means of identifying and guiding the future development of
an organisation and ensuring an organisation has the people
and depth of capability it needs to achieve sustainable business
success. Corporate education can also be used as a source of
fresh ideas and innovation to assist an organisation to
continually evolve and maintain relevance to its market, as well
as identify new customers and market opportunities by
harnessing the knowledge, skills and capabilities of employees.
Corporate education is emerging as one of the most
influential, dynamic and effective means for an organisation to:
Retain existing employees;
Attract new employees;
Develop the capability of the organisation;
Develop the skills and capabilities of employees;
Actively engage employees with the organisation;
Build cooperation and collaboration among employees;
Build and/or reinforce the culture of the organisation;
Facilitate innovation: new products, new services, new
markets and/or new channels to market.

It is intended for this book to be a practical guide for chief

executives, senior managers, organisation development
managers and human resource managers by providing insight,
thoughts, ideas, examples and understanding of the potential
for corporate education in their organisation. The idea and
content for this book emerged from global research undertaken
during the development of my PhD thesis on the strategic
management of university-corporate education partnerships.
This research is combined with over 20 years experience and
observations of effective corporate education programs in

Corporate Education: A Practical Guide to Effective Corporate Learning

leading and successful organisations. My experience also

includes over seven years as the head of the corporate
education unit of a major Australian university.
In this chapter we will define the difference between
corporate education and corporate training, distinguish between
competence and capability and discuss a number of workplace
issues that make corporate education a growing imperative for
virtually all organisations.

Defining The Difference Between Corporate Education and

Corporate Training
It is important to clarify what is meant by the term „corporate
education‟ as most organisations tend to think of corporate
education as corporate training. Corporate training programs
are often competency based and usually related to the essential
training employees need in order to operate certain equipment
or perform selected tasks in a competent, safe and effective
manner. The focus of corporate training is on developing the
competence of employees to be able to do things effectively
and, ideally, efficiently. The outcome of a corporate training
program is a participant who is either able to operate a piece of
equipment or perform a specific task, or not, according to pre-
determined training criteria. If the trainer assesses the
participant as being competent, the participant usually receives
a certificate confirming their compliance with predetermined
The primary role of corporate training is to ensure an
employee has the knowledge and skills to undertake a specific
function for an organisation to continue operating.
Fundamentally, corporate training is centred on knowledge
transfer, with an instructor teaching or demonstrating how to
undertake a particular function and the student learning and
demonstrating they can apply what is known to assist an
organisation to maintain a functional operation.
Corporate education, however, adds another dimension
and depth to training by involving learners as participants in

the generation of new knowledge that assists an organisation to

develop and evolve, rather than maintain the status quo.
Corporate education focuses on developing the capability of an
organisation to be able to do things and, in particular, the right
things in order to be a sustainable and successful organisation.
In the future, organisations need to assume the majority of their
leaders and development will come from within the
organisation, rather than from external sources. This will occur
due to the shrinking pool of skilled people and growing
competition for suitably qualified, experienced and skilled
employees. When organisations do appoint leaders from
external sources their role will most likely be that of change

Corporate education involves a facilitator, rather than an

instructor or trainer, to engage participants and encourage them
to think about the what, how and why of what they are doing
and to challenge their current paradigms. In particular,
corporate education is centred on introducing learning
techniques for employees to think about where their
organisation is heading, potential new opportunities for the
organisation and new and better ways of doing things. While
the role of corporate training is to develop the operational
competency of individuals, the intent of corporate education is
to promote the development of capability of both an individual
and their organisation.

The following diagram, Figure 1.1, demonstrates the

distinction between corporate training and corporate education.
The circle represents the total corporate knowledge within an
organisation. The horizontal arrow represents the role of
corporate training in reinforcing and maintaining the skills and
competence of employees. The organisation continues to move
forward, often with more employees undertaking the prescribed
corporate training programs or employees undertaking training
at the next level of competence. Complementing the horizontal
arrow is the rising arrow that represents the role of corporate
education in raising the level of thinking in an organisation,
Corporate Education: A Practical Guide to Effective Corporate Learning

challenging traditional approaches, exploring new ideas and

developing new knowledge.

In this diagram, while both arrows start from a common

base, over time corporate education evolves new knowledge,
thinking and learning within an organisation that expands the
amount of knowledge contained within an organisation. In the
growing „knowledge economy‟ this new knowledge can be a
significant asset and a vital source of new business
opportunities and intellectual capital for organisations.

Corporate Education:
Corporate Develop and evolve
Knowledge knowledge and
corporate capability.

Corporate Training:
Reinforce and
maintain skills and

Figure 1.1 Corporate Education Vs Training

Obviously an organisation needs a combination of both

corporate training and corporate education. Corporate training
ensures an organisation can maintain its existing operational
performance and effectiveness. Corporate education is the
means of harnessing the knowledge, skills and capabilities of
employees to assist an organisation to grow and evolve and,
occasionally, to take considered, quantum steps in its

Competence Vs Capability
Another way of thinking about corporate training versus
corporate education is in the context of competency and
capability. The vast majority of corporate training programs are
centred on developing the competency of employees.

Competency is the ability to perform an activity well, and

consistently, that is at the core of an organisation‟s
competitiveness and viability.
By comparison, corporate education is centred on
developing the capability of employees. Capability reflects the
combination of resources, skills, learning and experience that
enables an organisation to operate proficiently and with an
advantage over competitors. Organisation capabilities are the
fundamental building blocks for developing competencies.
A simple example of competence versus capability is the
activity of driving a car. Most people are familiar with the
process of obtaining a driver‟s license, which usually requires
completing a written examination of their knowledge of the
road rules and then demonstrating their competence of being
able to drive by undertaking a practical driving test under the
watchful eye of a driving examiner. To demonstrate
competence, an individual would need to ensure they can drive
and steer the vehicle, comply with road speed limits, use
appropriate indicators when turning or changing lanes and are
alert to other vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians as they
undertake their journey.

The capability dimension with this example includes the

above skills as well as the knowledge, experience and skills to
recognise the challenges of driving in different situations.
There is a difference between driving in daylight compared to
night driving and driving on a fine sunny day compared to
overcast wet conditions. Different driving skills are required
when driving in a metropolitan area compared to an open road
or country area, as well as on a dirt road compared to a bitumen
road. In addition, the preparation for driving to a country area
is likely to be different to that for a metropolitan trip, perhaps
including checking oil and water levels and tyre pressures
before starting the journey.
In this example, capability means a person having learnt
either through trial and error, perhaps a mishap with their car or
Corporate Education: A Practical Guide to Effective Corporate Learning

a breakdown in an awkward location, or through an advanced

driving program providing practical information and guidance
on different types of driving situations and driving hazards.
The person‟s knowledge, skills and experience informs them to
think about the type of driving journey they are about to
undertake and to make the appropriate preparation and, when
necessary, relevant defensive action to prevent an accident or
other misadventure with their driving.
The real difference between competence and capability
becomes apparent when operating in an environment of
certainty and uncertainty. An organisation draws on its
competence in known or certain business environments by
using proven and familiar processes.
However, an organisation harnesses its capabilities in
order to respond in an effective manner to unknown or
uncertain business situations and environments by drawing on
the resources, learning and knowledge of the organisation.
Given the expansion of globalisation, new technologies that
leapfrog predecessors, increasing levels of competition in
virtually every industry, as well as the growing global
competition for skilled workers, this creates a challenging and
uncertain scenario for managers and leaders and highlights the
need for organisations to approach their corporate education,
training and development strategically.

I have been involved in the development and customised

delivery of countless corporate education programs in a diverse
range of corporate settings and found each organisation has its
own distinct requirements and learning outcomes for their
corporate education and training programs. Each organisation
is unique and the role of their corporate education program
depends on the strategic priorities of each individual
organisation. For example, over the years I have observed
corporate education playing an integral role in the strategic
development of organisations in such aspects as:
Building management and leadership capability;

Succession planning;
Identifying future leaders and testing their capabilities
in different projects and settings;
Establishing a minimum and consistent level of
capability at a senior management level;
Facilitating innovation: generating new ideas in
products, services, markets, distribution and channels to
markets, as well as time-to-market for new products
and services;
Building corporate culture;
Bringing senior managers from multiple global
operations together to facilitate greater collaboration
across the organisation.

Engaging Employees
Corporate education can act as a stimulus for engaging
employees with their organisation. Research by Gallup (2006)
investigating the effect employee engagement has on team-
level innovation and customer service delivery had some
disturbing revelations. The research explored employee
responses to a range of factors related to innovation to see
which of the factors differed more noticeably between
employees who were engaged and those who were not
engaged. The findings indicated that only 29 percent of
employees were engaged with their employment. Another 56
percent of employees were not engaged, while 15 percent were
actively disengaged, unhappy and actively spreading their
discontent to fellow employees.
The Gallup research identified three types of employees:
Type 1 – Engaged employees who work with passion
and feel a profound connection to their organisation.
These employees drive innovation and contribute to
moving the organisation forward.
Type 2 – Not-Engaged employees who essentially
“checked-out” and are sleepwalking through their
workday, putting-in time, but not energy or passion,
into their work.
Corporate Education: A Practical Guide to Effective Corporate Learning

Type 3 – Actively Disengaged employees who are not

just unhappy at work, but actually busy acting out their
unhappiness. These employees undermine what their
engaged co-workers accomplish.
Based on the research findings, if a typical organisation
has only just over a quarter of employees actually engaged in
their work, the first priority should be to ensure it does not lose
the engagement of those employees. The next step is to try to
increase the number of employees engaged with the
organisation, that is, try and engage some of the 56 percent of
employees who are not engaged.
Corporate education can play an integral role in reaching
out to employees and making a positive contribution to
engaging them with the organisation, their work and
colleagues. Gone are the days when managers are the only ones
who have ideas and all the other workers clock-on and leave
their thinking and intelligence at the front gate. Corporate
education is a means of involving employees in their
organisation, directly seeking their input, helping them to
understand the challenges the organisation is facing, as well as
potential opportunities, and encouraging them to contribute
ideas through discussions in corporate education programs and
virtual learning formats. Ideally, corporate education should
provide a non-threatening environment in which employees are
free to suggest ideas, discuss various ideas, contribute their
thoughts and think out loud without fear of repercussion or
their ideas being subject to judgment and dismissal on the spot.
The implication here is for organisations to seek ways of
involving employees in various activities that contribute to
engaging employees with their organisation. This can include
providing employees with a sense of control over their
workplace by giving them the flexibility and autonomy to
make day-to-day operating decisions that impact on them.
Consulting with employees before major decisions are made is
another way of demonstrating respect for employees and
valuing their input. The more employees feel their work and

ideas are valued, the more they feel engaged with the
organisation. An additional benefit for their organisation is the
development of an environment that nurtures open innovation,
where employees contribute ideas to the organisation and make
suggestions for developing new products, services, processes
and possibly new markets for the organisation to consider.

Promote From Within

Another means of engaging employees is to demonstrate
opportunities for career development and progression from
within their organisation, rather than regularly advertising
positions and appointing people from outside the organisation.
In fact, organisations that do not promote suitably qualified and
experienced employees from within send a message that it
prefers to explore the market place to see if there are any
external candidates who might be better than any internal
candidates. There is also a strong possibility the organisation
lacks depth in its ranks or underestimates the potential of their
employees. This can have a negative impact on morale,
employee engagement and the perception employees have of
their organisation and influence their view that the only road to
career progression is outside the organisation. Needless to say,
upwardly mobile employees start to see their current employer
as just another paragraph in their CV.

A 2006 study by Booz Allen Hamilton found that 57

percent of departing chief executives were replaced by internal
candidates (BRW, 2007). While this is a commendable figure,
what is more interesting is that internally promoted chief
executives in Australia created, on average, a 21 percent
shareholder return compared with 17 percent created by chief
executives appointed from outside the organisation. It would be
reasonable to suggest this performance would be similar for
many other employees promoted to more senior roles within
organisations. For a start, people promoted within an
organisation already know the culture and aspirations of their
organisation and are likely to already have an understanding of
the requirements and expectations of a particular role before
Corporate Education: A Practical Guide to Effective Corporate Learning

they even apply for it. This means, appointees successfully

promoted to a new position do not have to spend time getting
to know the organisation, the values, culture and political
environment, the position and everything that entails, as well as
products, markets and key customers. Therefore, employees
promoted from within their organisation can usually hit-the-
ground-running considerably faster than an externally
appointed person.

Anecdotal feedback also indicates that internally promoted

employees tend to be more loyal as they appreciate the
opportunity their employer has provided in giving them a
chance to demonstrate their capabilities at a higher level. As
such, they are usually determined to demonstrate to their
employer that the right appointment has been made and they
are the right person for the job. Another benefit is that many
internally promoted employees do not see the opportunity as
just another career progression on their CV which they can use
as leverage when they apply for their next position in 2-3 years
time. This means greater stability in the leadership of the
organisation and consistency in decision-making, which often
produces stronger financial performance for an organisation
over the short, medium and longer-term in contrast with a
short-to-medium term focus by those treating the position as a
stepping-stone to their next career advancement.

Global Integration
The shrinking labour pool and growing competition for skilled,
qualified employees is not restricted to just one country or
region, but is a growing global issue. This is a reflection of
how the world is changing and the increasing inter-
connectedness of countries and businesses.

I first became aware of the growing inter-connectedness of

the world in 2006 while attending a conference in the United
States. While discussing recent issues, challenges and
developments of the time with fellow delegates at the
conference, I started to relate that what I had been experiencing

in Australia was somewhere around 10-14 days behind what

my colleagues had been experiencing in the United States and

This new age of inter-connectedness is largely facilitated

through the continuing developments in information and
telecommunications technologies. However, it highlights the
need for organisations, regardless of where they are located, to
have employees with knowledge, skills and capabilities
consistent with their global standards and expectations. Every
business, even a small corner shop or a taxi cab, is affected by
developments and competition emerging on a global basis.
While they operate on a localised basis, they are affected by the
growing number of franchise outlets and systems that are often
part of global networks. I have ridden in a taxi that resembles a
technology-connected office-on-wheels. While driving me to
an airport, the driver was also organising a pick-up two hours
ahead as well as his first pick-up the following morning
through two mobile phones and a computer booking facility.

This global inter-connectedness highlights an even greater

need for organisations to manage and plan their workforce.
This has particular importance in regard to workforce
demographics so as to be able to have employees across the
age spectrum and not distorted towards an aged workforce, as
well as having a workforce that is skilled, capable, flexible and
adaptable to changes and opportunities in the business
environment. Increasingly, corporate education is becoming an
investment, not a cost, to ensure an organisation has a
workforce with the knowledge and skills to survive and
compete while evolving the capability of the organisation to
meet and even anticipate future threats and opportunities for
the organisation.

Age and Learning

There is emerging research and experience that highlights age
is not, and should not be, a barrier to people learning and
Corporate Education: A Practical Guide to Effective Corporate Learning

having the opportunity to participate in corporate education,

training and development programs.

Some managers and executives have the view that

spending money on training older employees is a waste of time
and resources. Anecdotal research among some human
resources managers finds that for many older workers seeking
training their request has only around a fifty percent chance of
being approved once they reach 45 years of age. Once workers
turn 50 years of age the chance of having their request for
training approved tends to drop to around 20 percent likelihood
of being supported. However with skills shortages now
occurring in many industries, perhaps these managers will
reconsider the untapped potential of mature employees.
Alternately, as these managers and executives start to get older
they might have a different view and consider corporate
education and training programs to help them evolve their
knowledge and skills and remain relevant to their organisation.

Mature workers accumulate considerable knowledge and

skills in their lifetime in the workforce. However, the growing
use of new technologies, new processes and new ways of
operating can often leapfrog ahead of employees if they do not
receive regular training and development to keep them current.
Age is irrelevant as long as employees of every age are
provided with the opportunity to learn and apply their new
knowledge and skills. Every employee should have a tailored
development program aligned with their performance
management that identifies their learning and development
needs and provides structure to ensure they receive the
appropriate learning program. Corporate education programs,
regular training, information update sessions, workplace
challenges and special projects can stretch, develop and evolve
the knowledge and skills of employees, regardless of age.
Employees also respond well to having a new skill or concept
demonstrated to them and then giving them the opportunity to
practice and apply what they learn. Studies also find that once
mature employees grasp and understand what they are learning,

they tend to retain information better than many of their

younger work colleagues.
Another benefit of retaining and maintaining mature
workers is their above average commitment to their employer
and their work ethic. Research finds older workers often have
the lowest levels of absenteeism among the demographic
profile of an organisation‟s workforce.

Individual Learning Styles

It is important to recognise that each employee is different and
their approach to effective learning and development is also
different. Organisations tend to adopt a one-size-fits-all
approach to corporate training and development, especially
with the move to online learning during recent years.

Online learning, and other digital learning media, provide

considerable flexibility for supporting the learning and
development of employees, but need to be seen as tools to aid
learning and not the corporate education solution. Online
delivery of corporate education programs can provide greater
access to learning for employees and the breadth of content and
embedded resources and links can be enormous. However,
some employees take time to adjust to non-traditional learning
and a blended approach that combines online with face-to-face
learning, supported by other learning infrastructure such as a
mentor, can help employees to expand the options for effective
learning available to them.

Therefore, when working with employees to construct

their individual development plans, each employee‟s particular
learning style and preferences needs to be considered in the
context of the organisation‟s strategic development plan.

Learner-Driven Program Content

Traditionally corporate education and training has involved a
group of employees attending a class and receiving instruction
or participating in a facilitated session led by an instructor or
Corporate Education: A Practical Guide to Effective Corporate Learning

lecturer. This approach assumed that the session presenter was

a topic specialist who had greater knowledge and skills on a
particular subject than the program participants.
This traditional approach is rapidly changing. The amount
of knowledge and the pace at which business, markets,
technology and our understanding of business concepts
continues to evolve is gathering momentum. It is impossible to
be a master of everything, even in a well-defined area of
Technology is also allowing people to access information
at anytime from any source that has posted information on the
web. The information may not always be totally accurate but it
does expand the breadth of information readily available on a
particular topic. This highlights the importance of assisting
employees to develop their skills to search for information, to
be discerning and question the validity, credibility, reliability
and source of the information they access rather than accept the
information as given.
Having gathered new information and knowledge based on
their workplace and life experience, as well as from other
sources such as industry publications and a network of industry
and social contacts, employees increasingly are being
encouraged to contribute and share that knowledge with their
fellow employees. This is leading to greater learner-driven
content in corporate education, training and development

Encouraging learner-generated content in corporate

education programs has the benefit of ensuring the content is
up-to-date as well as engaging employees in the learning
process as employees learn, in a structured manner, from their
colleagues. This can give the corporate education program
content more relevance to the employees‟ workplace in
contrast to standard off-the-shelf programs with generic
content. Employees participating in developing and
contributing to the content of corporate education programs

increases the level of „ownership‟ of the learning experience,

both for the person contributing as well as those receiving the
program content. Having employees contributing to the content
of programs can help in developing employees with a depth of
knowledge and expertise in certain areas as well as assist with
knowledge sharing and retention within organisations.

There are already some organisations that have discovered the
potential of adopting a strategic approach to corporate
education. Looking beyond the surface at the performance of
successful organisations, large, medium and small, there is a
strong likelihood you will find a higher than average
commitment to corporate education, training and development
of their employees.

As each organisation is unique, so too is the purpose of

their corporate education program. The role of corporate
education ranges from providing a means of identifying future
leaders and facilitating leadership development, to assisting
with succession planning and developing, evolving or
reinforcing the culture of an organisation. However, a
consistent outcome corporate education delivers in virtually all
organisations is the development of organisational capability.

A key issue for organisations that do not embrace

corporate education and the learning and development of their
employees will be the increasing difficulty to attract and retain
good employees. Instead employees will be attracted to
organisations where they have the opportunity to learn and
continue to develop their skills and knowledge.

In the next chapter we will look at some of the global

issues impacting on industry and adding to the imperative for
organisations to adopt a strategic approach to corporate
education, training and development.
Corporate Education: A Practical Guide to Effective Corporate Learning

This material is an excerpt from the book

Corporate Education: A Practical Guide to Effective

Corporate Learning

by Lindsay Ryan

Published by Griffin Press

Copyright © 2010 Lindsay Ryan

ISBN 9780646528120

Available from:

Corporate Education Advisers:

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