Summary: Planning for the future takes much more than a University-centric view. You must go out into the world around you to see what’s going on – and create a proactive communication path that keeps you informed as things change.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make after successfully building the University is to become isolated. Even with the best assessments and surveys, you still have to keep your pulse on what’s going on within the organization and in the industry in general. If things are running smoothly, it’s easy to forget why the University exists – and all of the hard work you’ve put in to get it where it is.

The first step to consider when planning for the future is the formation of an advisory committee or board. Whatever you call it, the group should be made up of key stakeholders throughout the organization and should also have executive sponsorship. If you are the Chief Learning Officer, consider bringing in another c-level executive to sponsor the group and keep it completely objective. This advisory group should take it upon themselves to map out possible future direction, be in touch with changes in the organization and its structure, and to maintain the buy-in you’ve worked so hard to obtain.

Next, push for an executive sponsor or presence at high level planning sessions. Again, if you are the Chief Learning Officer, you’ll provide the presence. But if you aren’t at the executive level, find a sponsor and be sure to brief that person at least monthly on what’s going on – and vice versa. Your executive representation should always be able to put the University into a discussion about planning. For example, if expansion plans come up, the University should be a consideration due to training an influx of new employees and possibly adding locations. Or, if new products and services are in the making, your executive representation should at least be able to tell you about it – and let you plan for the deployment of resources to meet the new need.

When you’re looking at an organization-wide presence for the University, the key is communication. But here’s where many Universities go wrong: they wait for the organization to communicate with them instead of taking a proactive approach. Think about this: your stakeholders have departments to run and goals to meet just as you do. When you’re not in front of them, they are probably not thinking about you. Have your key managers set regular meetings with University stakeholders, if for nothing else than to “catch up” and remind the stakeholders that you are their strategic partner. As you do this, you’ll find that when changes come down, your stakeholders begin to get in touch with you to bring the University in. But remember that the communications for the University are not reactive and not “in waiting” for someone to come to you – be completely proactive in communications all the time.

Be sure to find out what’s going on in the industry, not just in the training and development “industry” but also in the organization’s industry in general. You can learn quite a bit from what’s happening in similar organizations throughout the country and the world. Subscribe to industry publications so that you can be aware of trends, new technologies, and economic changes. Watch the evening news with your well-built University in your mind – this can help you focus on what could be coming down the road.

Back within the organization, continue to assess and survey – the evaluation, re-evaluation, and reinvention should not stop at any time. As you move forward, you’ll see that the information you’re gaining from these activities will help you plan for the future. You’ll also be able to identify trends in course usage, brand perception, and instructor usage. These trends will help you identify what changes to make as you move forward. In that line, be sure to have an infrastructure plan in mind. In other words, you need to know how you’ll change your organization if an expansion comes around, or if a contraction begins. You’ll also know how to handle changes in strategy, new products and services, or new organizational initiatives. Try coming up with scenarios. For example, if the organization introduces a brand new product line, how will you move to develop training, deliver it, assess it, and make it part of ongoing training programs in the future?

Take all of these things into consideration when you’re planning for the future. If you do your part, get an executive sponsor, and keep communication proactive, the University will continue to be a strategic partner at all times.

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Bryant Nielson is heavily involved in the Corporate Training and Leadership and Talent space. He currently is the Managing Director for CapitalWave Inc and the training division, Financial Training Solutions. He brings a diverse corporate experience of organizational development, learning and talent development, and corporate training, that also includes personal coaching of top sales individuals and companies of all sizes. For the prior 4 years, Bryant was the Managing Director and Leadership and Talent Manager for Lengthen Your Stride! LLC. In this position, Nielson was the developer of all of the courses for MortgageMae University (MMU), the Realtor Development Center (RDC), and of Lengthen Your Stride! (LYS). In that position, he developed material, refined over many years of use and active training, and condensed the coursework and training to be high impact, natural learning, and comprehensive. Bryant has over 27 years of Senior Management experience encompasses running his own Training and mortgage firm, in New York City. He strongly believes that the corporate training is not to be static but should 'engage and inspire' students to greater productivity and performance.

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