The urgency to reinvent ‘Corporate Universities’ for Indian mid-sized companies…

Economy, Industry News, People, Work Place Competencies

Let’s look at some interesting statistics for the emerging Indian workforce :

  1. By 2020, the average working age in India would be 29 years, with 116 million workforce between 20-25 years of age : These are the ‘Millennials’ who will come like a roaring wave, demanding to beskilled and employed.
  2. ‘Millennials’ like to consume information and learn through videos. They socialize on the internet. They have attention spans which are half of the ‘Baby boomers’ (who would be retiring by 2020). And of course, they do not relate to traditional forms of learning like class rooms.
  3. The present ’employability’ of new workforce is 15% (i.e only 15 out of 100 people entering the workforce are having the requisite skills to be employed), which will surely go down if there is a status quo in our skilling systems, which include vocational training platforms and corporate training of new employees.
  4. India will have an excess of 17 million workers, while most of the other regions ( US, Europe, China, Japan) will have a deficit. A huge opportunity for our young workforce to shift out of India, but only if they are skilled enough.

Importantly, the process of learning/skilling (academic and corporate) would need to change as per the ‘learning style’ of the emerging workforce.

As Corporate India gears up to take advantage of these trends, quite a few of them are upgrading or setting up Corporate Universities which can provide effective and faster learning. Most of them are ‘flirting’ with the idea, but overwhelmed by the scope of the concept to take action.

Corporate Universities have been around for a long time (GE started in the fifties, followed by McDonalds etc) and numbers have been growing, with more than 5000 of them across the globe today.

But a large number of them are in US or Europe based organizations. Secondly, there is significant investment in setting them up in the current format. Also, many of them focus on top or middle hierarchy managers or ‘fast track’ employees.

These raise some key questions:

  1. Are Corporate Universities only for large companies? The existing format being used for such universities seems only for large companies with high investment in infrastructure, curriculum, faculty and running costs.
  2. How are they different from traditional L&D function? Ideally, Corporate Universities help tailor learning for the employees, in a dynamic, evolving format to manage changing needs, focusing on business objectives and helping drive cultural change.
  3. Is that  required by mid-sized organizations?  Yes ! In today’s VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world, even mid- sized organizations are required to upgrade skills, develop and execute strategy, and drive culture change swiftly. So they could surely use the benefits of this concept.
  4. How do we bring the benefits of Corporate Universities to mid- sized organizations? This will require us to re-look at the traditional concept.
    1. Does it have to be a ‘University’? : I believe the word ‘University’ is a misnomer. It conjures up visions of large brick mortar institutions, with varied courses, labs, professors, extensive research, etc. Honestly, few organizations require heavy upfront investment to start the process of dynamic learning which is business/result oriented. If we can prioritize the learning needs, outsource Content and Instructional design, choose the appropriate technology –  then the process can be started. Small and simple initiatives, with timely evaluation, can deliver equally tangible business results. A more appropriate term would be ‘Centers of Excellence’ (CoE).
    2. Aren’t we just restructuring what we already have? : ‘Centers of Excellence’ or ‘CoE’ are different from the conventional L&D functions as they create a learning culture by focusing on social learning, mentoring, coaching processes, using technology to offer JIT (Just in time) learning, saving time by easy accessibility through Micro or E-learning etc. Most of this is already happening in a loose / unstructured manner in an organization through coaching, peer learning, ‘On the job’ training, shadowing etc. The CoE helps bring rigor, process, evaluation and accountability to the same. Does not need heavy investment !
    3. Do we need ‘brick and mortar’ assets ? Not really! Technology has obviated most of the ‘brick and mortar’ investment in these institutions. Every organization has specific needs, and technology can be combined with existing infrastructure to maximize learning. Further, evolved CoE  are less about conventional classroom training (pulling people away from their workplace for a semi vacation!) and more about learning ‘on the go’. They need less of expensive infrastructure for classes, trainers and other paraphernalia.
    4. Will the investment impact the short/medium term profitability of my relatively smaller organization?  The ingenuity of an effective ‘Center of Excellence’ lies in maximizing learning in lesser time than conventional training methods. The eventual goal is to deliver improved business results in the medium/long term.

Indian organizations, who are skeptical of investing ( or ‘spending’) heavily  in an L&D  infrastructure ( having an intangible ROI), could help themselves by thinking ‘out of the box’ . By blending the right technology and appropriate processes of ‘Centers of Excellence’, they could bring a learning culture in their organizations without burning a hole in their pocket. But, time is running out and they would have to act fast!

Any comments are welcome!

Post a comment