Since the late 1980s, a number of corporate universities have formed around the world, many with considerable resources, professional teams and ultramodern campuses rivalling the best of the traditional universities.
Not to be confused with a training center, a corporate university is an educational structure based in private and public, commercial and noncommercial organizations to help challenge and implement, through learning and development management, the organization’s strategies in human, economic, financial, technological, digital, communication, social and environmental terms.
Today, these universities are heavily impacted by technological innovations, whether in the production of learning and development activities, in marketing and branding, communication with their stakeholders, maintaining client system loyalty, optimizing their business models or in their resources in general.
While digital transformation provides these universities with an opportunity to enhance their performance, the race to digital modernity creates its own problems. The dematerialization and disintermediation of access to knowledge for the benefit of artificial and invisible intelligence, could signal the disintermediation or even the disintegration of corporate universities.
The giants of the web — Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Baidu, Alibaba and TenCent in China — as well as other digital technologies or social network providers such as LinkedIn, are investing in the knowledge economy. They inject mass standardized learning content of their choice, at low cost, into their educational technology pipelines. They promote this content directly to the targets of their choice, which they track down through internet browsing history.
However, these powerful competitors cannot touch corporate universities if the universities undertake their own digital transformation into applied learning and applied strategy. They must remain firmly fixed on the fundamentals of their mission to challenge and implement business strategies, and to embody the culture and the corporate brand of the organization shaping its stakeholders.
To succeed in the battle against online knowledge integrators, corporate universities should:
- Draw their legitimacy from the CEO and senior management from the organization to which they report, playing a strategic role inside and outside the organization and dealing confidently with the effects of progress.
- Develop a high added-value offer that does not exist anywhere else in the service of learning and development, bringing together collective intelligence to solve real organizational problems.
- Physically bring together people and teams, particularly around learning events, and virtually through digital devices and online delivery formats.
- Develop a holistic approach to business education where the human and the digital can support each other.
Annick Renaud-Coulon is chairman of Global CCU Ltd. Comment below or email editor@CLOmedia.com.