Corporate Universities: In This Life, Nothing is For Free

“Nothing is free and there is no such thing as a free lunch”

– Milton Friedman, statistician, economist and intellectual defender of the free market

We don’t really value the things that don’t cost us anything. How many times have we paid for a personal trainer or gym to force us to exercise when we could have done it alone with an app and some motivation? How many of us have gone to a nutritionist so they design us a weight loss diet, when we know ourselves what we should and shouldn’t eat to be healthy? And I ask myself this question also: why do companies insist on giving free training to their employees, knowing that the evaluation that people complete on certain accomplishments has so much more to do with what it is costing the company to get those accomplishments? And this is not only in economic terms, but also considering the effort needed too.

Today many companies face the fact that their employees do not attend Corporate Universities or they don’t take the training seriously or with a committed attitude as they would like them to have. However, on the other hand, if those same people were offered a Master’s degree program outside of the company, they would make sure to attend and take advantage of it.

This made me think about some particular aspects of Corporate Universities, that undoubtedly constitute a large investment with large returns in terms of improved efficiency and performance.

There are many questions that can make us rethink the way that we design and manage Corporate Universities in our companies:
1. Should all employees, without exception, enroll in the Corporate University, or should we do it as an incentive for a few to achieve a higher valuation?
2. Should attendance stop being mandatory and just expect that people really have a need and interest in learning and developing themselves? If so, what about what skills and capabilities management requires its employees to learn because of their real business needs? Perhaps it should be mandatory to train people in the early stages of company induction, and then set a continuity based on other criteria (e.g. performance, career path development, etc.)?
3. Should contents be created that are an interest to the company, according to the roles and responsibilities of the positions, or should we present and invest in contents that interest our employees? Some employees comment that they are available to attend courses on Saturdays for long periods of time, as long as the topics interest them on an individual level (in other words, a difference develops between personal and corporate training).
4. Should Corporate Universities be free, knowing that free things are not always valued as much? If it should not be free, what strategy should we follow to position the CU, and what alternatives do we have for “charging” for them? Of course, this charge may not be necessarily economic, but in terms of effort and personal reciprocity. A real example would be of a bank commercial director that proposed offering courses on Saturday mornings. Undoubtedly, this was a measure that would probably impact the training activity’s evaluation, or result in a direct rejection of attendance too.

The big question to be answered is what would motivate our people to really want to attend. Or, put another way, what will make our employees commit to their learning and higher level professional self-development.

To conclude this article, I want to mention some examples and methods that some Corporate Universities have applied successfully:

  • “This content is the bomb!”: contents that surprise on topics that are not necessarily related to better fulfill the job’s requirements, but help develop professional capabilities.
  • “Only for a few”: specific courses or learning paths have a better attendance and success than those that are open enrollment, and are rewarded based on commitment and personal involvement.
  • “This is different”: content that is not “more of the same stuff”, but deals with groundbreaking aspects that allow our companies to rethink and contribute from a different angle to allow current functions to be performed.
  • “I’ll bring it back to my desk”: 100% practical face to face sessions, where the key is the internal networking that is generated, the redemption of company best practices, and the solution search that can be applied the next day on the job.
  • “This works for my personal life too”: when we learn the applicability of the topics, they are not only able to be implemented in the company’s work, but also can apply to our daily lives.
  • “I leave energized”: achieve that the participants leave the training and learning experience with a energy level capable of infecting others in the company. The commitment level with the company is increased when one feels that you have also given something to them personally, without an explicit company interest.

Surely there are many other success factors that each organization that has created a University has experienced, and we encourage them to share these successes in the debates that relate to this post. Also we recommend our book Universidades Corporativas, written by Antonio Rubio, where you will find many other tips for success shared by our clients that have implemented this training model in their companies.

We must ensure that our employees say that our University is worth more than paying for a Master’s outside of the company. Let’s work to get that “WOW” for our Corporate Universities!

For more information, write us at or call at +34 91 7210221

Related links:
Corporate Universities: The new Google of the company?

Corporate Universities: Strategic leverage of the company?

Antonio Rubio presents «Corporate Universities» in Capital Breakfasts.

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