Summary: You’ve assessed, determined resources, and now you have the buy-in of your executive team. The next step in building your Corporate University is to create the infrastructure for operations. Let’s take a look at what items to consider.
Your first consideration for the University infrastructure is staff. You’ve estimated your staff needs and now have an idea of how that will unfold based on the funding. There must be an organizational staff structure in place that creates smooth, efficient, and quick operation. To create this structure, look at the University’s design, delivery, management, and administrative areas.
If you have an instructional design area, determine if all of the designers will report to one person or if the unit can be divided into online and content designers. Will designers serve all functional areas, or will they be specialized? Look at the specific skills and abilities of each person and determine if across the board design services will work for the University. In the delivery or instructional areas, determine if the breakdown will be by “college” or by discipline. For example, you may want to have sales instruction delivered by one area, no matter what part of the organization is being served. Or, you may want to have a “college” concept that mirrors the organization itself. Let’s say you have an entire retail division, so the University will have a retail delivery division, specific to that discipline. If the organization is large, it may be a good idea to look at the “college” concept to begin with. With this system, you’ll be able to efficiently utilize your instructors over various disciplines. Don’t forget management – how will the instructional areas be managed? Will they have a “working” instructor who manages the team, or will you be able to devote a manager to each area?
Another staff consideration is standards and professional development. Determine what standards each department will be held accountable for – try starting with professional organizations like the American Society for Training and Development or the Society for Performance Improvement to find minimum standards for instructors and instructional developers. Also, the University’s career mobility should mirror that of the organization as a whole, so decide what career paths exist within departments and between departments – and determine how you’ll publicize that to University associates.
The University’s Learning Management System (LMS) is a consideration unto itself. First, you must decide how the LMS will be administered. In the best cases, a person who has both technical LMS experience and training experience will be a good one to manage the entire system. But beyond the actual staff are determinations as to whether the access to the LMS will be controlled, that is, limited to the LMS manager or administrator, or whether instructors and their managers can access the data. In relation to data, the LMS manager should decide what standards will be used, i.e. how will course times be entered, how will names be reflected, and how will descriptions be standardized. In addition, the LMS should have a front-end “look and feel” that is distinctively branded to the University.
Policies are a tedious matter but your University must have a written set. Your policies should outline a minimum performance standard, i.e. what is considered to be a passing grade across the board. The policy should outline class sizes, stating minimums and maximums in order to be effective and within the limits of the physical locations. Along with class size comes a cancellation policy for classroom instruction: how many students does a course need to have before it is a “go” or a “no go”? Instructional managers should be given standards for annual audits of their courses, as well, to ensure that nothing is stale or outdated. Another consideration is whether the University should charge for training and cancellations. If you have trouble making a business case, the suggestion to charge individual business units for big-ticket training such as new hire courses is always sure to get a nod.
Finally, think about the workflow the University should have. Who will make changes to courses and when? How would a request for new training be handled – and in what time frame should it be required? Who would sign off on new training courses or major revisions?
Once you’ve established your infrastructure, you’re ready to actually build your staff.