The Role Of Corporate Universities In Quality Management Commerce Essay


Organizations are exploring new ways of doing business to remain competitive in the fierce global market place. The success of organizations is not only limited to good management practices however, in particular, extends to include essential skills needed by employees to contribute to the over all total quality management approach employed by organizations to deliver superior value to internal and external customers.

The rich wealth of expertise of employees widely contributes to the organizational capacity to provide quality products and services that meet or exceed customer expectations. Recent trends have revealed that successful companies recognise the need to continuously improve employee knowledge and to attract and retain highly skilled workers as an approach to remain competitive in the global market place. [1] 

Continuous employee development aimed at improving competencies and building skills of employees' drives excellence throughout the entire processes of an organisation. [2] The dynamic global business environment has forced organisations to focus on developing tailored employee continuous learning programs as an integral part of their strategic approach to address competitive challenges that emerge over time. The key to sustainable competitive advantage is for organisations to be able to quickly adapt easly to anticipated skills needed to provide superior value goods and services that meet customer expectations and in parallel maintain the ability to learn faster than their competitors. [3] 

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Consequently, the emergence of global business challenges and the increased demand for highly skilled employees has ushered a new model of corporate education that consolidates work and learning in an organization into one activity. This model popularly known as Corporate University, in recent times has gained worldwide recognition among successful organizations. Corporate University goes beyond employee training and education to provide leadership in supporting people and processes to achieve organizational success.

In essence when a quality driven organization provides the best value for money, the organization is more likely to be successful and profitable.

2. Definition of Central Terms

The term Corporate University is not primarily about how to deliver employee learning in an organization. Rather it is about an emerging multidisciplinary view of learning as a key factor in organizational success (Wheeler, 2005; p 6.). According to Peter Glotz a Corporate University is an educational institution mainly committed to provide employees' with specialized knowledge aligned to an organization's strategic orientation. [4] J. C. Meister, further points out that a Corporate Universities is "a portal within a company through which all education takes place. It is an organization's strategic hub for educating employees, customers, and suppliers. Corporate universities link an organization's strategies to the learning goals of its audiences". [5] The two definitions present Corporate University as a global strategic tool established to offer relevant learning solutions for an organisation's strategic orientation.

Differentiation from traditional universities and training department

The traditional university offers wide range of courses and subjects not necessarily designed to address specific competence and skill improvements in an organizations. The mode of learning in a traditional university is most times not easy for employees to combine with their normal work routine. In some cases knowledge acquired may not directly be relevant to an organizations career development goal for its employees. [6] 

Training department tend to be fragmented, reactive and decentralized, with a wide array of open enrolment programs for a wide audience despite providing continuous learning support for employees to improve skills needed to be effective and competent. [7] However, these learning programmes are not comprehensive as compared to that of the traditional university. Training programmes are mostly short term interventions aiming to achieve the organizational tactical orientation. [8] 

Link between corporate universities and total quality

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The establishment of a Corporate University is based on organizational strategic goal to improve employee skills that positively influence the quality of produces and services delivered. The learning modules of a Corporate University is established by translating specific technical and managerial skills needed by employees into tailored development programmes that focuses on competence and skills for employees to implement organizational goals.

The Corporate University model focuses on direct and acknowledged impact on the quality performance of the organization and acts as a hub for knowledge collection and dissemination. The integration of organizational development goals, training, career and leadership development into a more comprehensive approach that empower employees with the right skill and tool needed to improve work flow. The Corporate University provides talent development process that supplies the organization that talent it needs to meet competitive challenges.

Corporate university actively pulls together all learning in an organization by managing education as a strategic business approach to offer relevant learning solutions to improve the quality of knowledge of an organization to meet long-term strategic plans. [9] 

The knowledge development in an organization is not only limited to the employees but widely extends to include customers and suppliers as well as all stakeholders in the entire value chain. Some organizations invest into external customers' education to provide understanding of products and services as well as related quality and service issues. Corporate University may develop specialised training programmes focusing on external customers to address knowledge gaps that may be considered necessary for customers to value quality related processing within an organization. (Wheeler pg. 23)

3. Appraisal of the role of corporate universities in quality management

The derived benefits of corporate university to an organization in improving the knowledge and overall efficiency of its employees corporate universities and the extent to which this investment improves the level of organisational efficiency. For each performance indicator assumptions are made and discussed, summarizing costs and benefits organisations derive from establishing a Corporate University.

Attraction and retention of high potential employees

Organisations are challenged with the growing need to improve the knowledge and skills of their employees. The shift towards a knowledge based economy has given continuous learning a new role in providing employees the needed skills and capacity to develop within an organisation.

A Corporate University can be highly attractive especially for skilled graduates aspiring to gain practical working experience prior to pursuing a specialized educational career path. An organization with the potential to provide employee with prestigious educational credentials while gaining work experience may perhaps be a better choice for new graduate looking for employment opportunities.

The existence of a Corporate Universities may take different forms. Organizations may explore cooperation with outstanding traditional universities to provide the required training and skills for employees. An organization's corporate university facilitates career development in an organization at various levels and provides good prospects for employees to obtain a relevant qualification from a prestigious university. Therefore, highly talented graduates' striving to continue their education while gaining the relevant work related experience may be attracted. [10] 

Continuous improvement of education and training

The knowledge gained by employees focuses on an organization's distinctive strategies. The focus on specific training aligned to strategies helps employees in an organization to become more proficient.

The CU is teaching employees from different levels how to improve their performance on a daily basis. The specialization of study promotes expertise in a certain field, expertise that is needed to sustain competitive advantage in the global market place. Corporate universities use substantive business case studies as discussion material in order to find solutions to existing problems of top management and, depending on the target audience, of other groups of the workforce or value chain. This ensures that the gained knowledge is inevitably useful for work and directly increases performance. [11] 

Over the years, executives of most organizations realized that one of the key success factors of launching a Corporate University is to involve top management.

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Corporate University provides a platform where top management can step back, listen and learn from its employees. In turn, the employees have the chance of exchanging ideas on various topics such as product development, leadership or new ventures. [12] That also implies that a Corporate University has the potential to flatten hierarchy levels through the gathering of employees from different levels. [13] Dialogs between the board of directors and participants are vital in terms of gaining commitment of new initiatives and ideas. In addition, top management involvement in the training process promotes a high commitment of the participants and creates the platform for change and innovation. Top management outlines and sets new directions and strategies. Therefore, involving executives within the Corporate University support not only the generation of new ideas but also fosters management's commitment on implementing them. [14] 

Besides relying on high quality standards within their own global branches and offices, organization are to a large extent also dependent on foreign suppliers or merchants selling their services and products on the global market. That is why some Corporate Universities also integrate external clients and vendors of the value chain. Integrating the value chain enhances networking with important partners as well as forming vital synergies with suppliers and other business partners. [15] This ensures involving important external groups of the organization's value chain in the quest to optimise processes and hence, becoming more efficient.

One option for the Corporate University is to include supplier training in order to improve their skills and expertise needed. Mostly the long-term partnerships ensure that both sides provide the same level of quality practices. [16] Another option is to further include customers. This target group might improve their identification with the organization and certainly its brand which in turn improves the loyalty of customers to the organization. A third option is to include even the forefront of the organization namely the wholesalers and dealers locally or even on a global scale.

Besides, a Corporate University platform that is open to the entire value chain, other benefits can be in terms of a better understanding of foreign markets through the expertise from partners. Feeding that knowledge back into the organization could eventually be helpful in entering into new markets.

Flexibility and response to change to meet or exceed customer expectations

The time frame for an organisation to implement its strategies and achieve anticipated results is a critical factor for success.

Critical business information that can significantly drive up profit margins is easily available to employees through a Corporate University. [17] Immediate corporate strategies to address business trends are promptly integrated into courses offered to employees, which in most cases cannot be sufficiently offered in traditional universities. The focus lies on being proactive (as compared to training departments that are rather reactive) and on "just-in-time" learning. Therefore, employees gain "just-in-time" access to materials provided to specifically address an immediate skill development or business issue. [18] Thus, Corporate Universities have succeeded in combing work and study in a more efficient way. This creates a flexible and convenient atmosphere for employees to work and develop their working skills. The methodologies used provide a 24/7 access to learning which enables the organization and employees to be more flexible and in addition, productively contribute to optimize processes. Besides, the organization benefits from the centralization of education in terms a quick and concentrated implementation of all training and education measures.

Moreover, the Corporate University provides a quick implementation of new corporate initiatives through the platform of the CU. Wheeler is stating that it is "good for getting things implemented fast and provides direction in times of turmoil." [19] The quick respond to align corporate initiatives to required employee skills highlights the key role corporate universities play in facilitating a responsive approach for organizations to become more productive and hence, more efficient.

4. Conclusions

The Corporate University is an integrative instrument which looks at the company as a whole, connecting elements of strategy as well as organisational and personal development. It entails the 'whole picture' of the organization and is, therefore, able to support creating a vision of the organization's future path. In addition, the Corporate University outlines and addresses cost effective and efficient ways necessary to achieve this vision. The connection and focus on specific relevant topics coupled with strategic teaching techniques that involves top management creates a continuous benchmark that can boost organisations training investments.

While a Corporate University is no guarantee for an efficient personal management, it inevitably has the potential to attract and retain high potential employees that are vital for an organisation's overall all success. A Corporate University can support top management to become aware of the trends in the global market, to know what type of skilled workers are available and have a strong understanding of the skills offered by their current employees. Knowing future potential and current employee's skill-base will ensure an organisation's commitment to keep up with new market trends in the market.

Moreover, organizations have derived numerous benefits both tangible, such as a lower retention rate, and intangible, including building a CU brand, by investing in the corporate university approach as a vital tool to develop skills and improve competence. The analysis brings to light tremendous improvement in business models of organizations and outlines best practices that create high value for human resource development programmes leading to increased productivity. Organizations with corporate universities have succeeded in repositioning its core business with the right skilled employees to maximize shareholder value, build capacity to meet and in best cases exceed customer expectations.

The main conclusions that can be drawn from the study is that most corporate universities are focusing on high quality skills needed by employees to enable organizations gain competitive advantage and to enable them respond quickly to global business trends. Furthermore, this "workforce-based competitive advantage is providing more enduring than technology-based competiveness which quickly slips away as new technologies become equally accessible to companies on the global basis." [20] Therefore, a competitive advantage of an organization is based on its employee's skills and competencies that can not easily be duplicated which means it provides a long term added value.

In a nutshell, a Corporate University is worthwhile to consider for every organization to strive and sustain competitive advantage in a fast changing business environment.