The worst thing you can do when setting up a corporate university is to get it rolled out and then find that you have too much or too little staff. In today’s economic climate, you’re probably leaning toward having too little staff, but regardless of whether you can hire one person or ten you’ll need to plan carefully. Let’s examine best practices related to staffing your corporate university.

First, examine your current staffing model in relation to the current training offerings and organizational needs. Is it working? For example, how much time are instructors spending in the classroom versus the “ideal”? Do you have online courses sitting on a shelf waiting to be developed? Who is developing classroom training, if at all? Is the current staff overworked or pulled in numerous directions to the point that they are not accomplishing much of anything? If you could staff to your ideal in the current department and climate, what would that staff look like? Although it’s fun to create wish list for staffing, you’ll need to maintain your realism, as well.

Now take a look at the corporate university vision you uncovered in your initial assessment and analysis. What kind of staffing would be needed to fulfill that vision? Again, it’s a good idea to remain realistic about your budget and the organization’s current economic condition. Consider what you need and what you think you can get in relation to staff. But take the time to compare the current staffing model to the one that is going to get the job done. You’ve basically created two “ideal” staffing models: the one you developed and the one that will fit with the stakeholders’ vision. Is the workable staffing model something that can be completed and filled quickly, or do you need to prioritize? For example, if certain instructors are good course designers, consider moving them into development instead of asking for more staff in that area. Are you a “working” manager? Can you add to your workload?

Next, discuss your staff needs with your executive sponsor. First of all, he or she will have insight into the reality of the organization’s financial situation. This sponsor will be able to tell you if your staffing model is currently a “pipe dream” or if it can be achieved. Or, he or she may be able to tell you if you’re going to need to prove ROI from the very beginning before new staff is added. You can use this executive sponsor for advice and reality at a time when asking for staffing money may be extremely difficult.

When you have a better idea of the kind of staffing you may be able to get, consider its structure. Are you going to be able to manage a new corporate university and take on additional direct reports? Or is it time to consider departmentalizing? Another way to consider the staffing structure is to compare it with the needs assessment you’ve uncovered. For example, if it’s been determined that customer service training is badly needed across many different departments, you may need to consider creating a customer service training department or “college” within the university. As you learn more about your assessment, you may find that you’ll need individual people or departments for sales, leadership, management, and operations. If so, are these areas going to be large enough to need their own management and leadership?

Another way to consider staffing is to determine if you’re truly going to go lean. Do you need to hire staff members that will be able to develop training, deploy, facilitate, evaluate, and move on to the next project? If so, you might want to consider hiring “Learning and Development Specialists” who are multi-taskers, as opposed to individuals who specialize in one area or another.

Finally, start small regardless of the budget you’re given. If by some chance the economy changes again, you don’t want to have to contract. See how well you do with a smaller staff as the corporate university rolls out and go from there.

Our next best practice, creating a university structure, is related to staffing but serves a larger purpose.

Copyright Bryant Nielson. All Rights Reserved.

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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.