Published on 2015/05/19
The EvoLLLution | Five Steps to Becoming a Preferred Corporate Training Provider
Success in the corporate training space requires the university’s corporate training division to think of itself more as a business and less as an academic unit.

The corporate education space is immensely promising for colleges and universities, but succeeding in this market requires institutions to take a slightly different approach to programming than they normally do. Success in the corporate training space requires excellence not only in open enrollment courses, but in the customized space as well.

A customized program indicates that someone from the university met with a company representative and offered training designed to meet the specific needs of that company and/or its employees. I have had the good fortune to be involved in many of these discussions on both sides of the table with great results and not so great results.

The following scenario is an example of what I find when dealing with most universities’ corporate training departments: after listening to the company’s issues or needs, the university representative often offers an established, offered-regularly credit course with little or no modification. This puts the onus on the company representative to determine whether the training offered would fulfill the company’s needs and whether the suggested course includes enough relevant material to justify the investment. In my experience, universities have often not been proactive about moving these relationship forward, instead waiting for the next request from the company. The company eventually finds a training organization, generally a for-profit training company, which is more proactive about resolving their training needs.

With the right staff and a few basic processes, a university can avoid being labeled as irrelevant to the business community and instead establish itself as a preferred training provider. Success in the customized training space is often dependent on institutions committing to the following five principles:

  1. Maintain a committed internal staff
  2. Identify the company or sector to work with
  3. Establish a relationship
  4. Deliver the right training program
  5. Follow up

1. Maintain a Committed Internal Staff

Staffing is key to a successful corporate training department. Employees will need to maintain working hours and work standards similar to their clients. Companies do not operate on a semester schedule with multiple breaks and usually have employees that work different shifts. Although it is important that the department’s decision makers have some postsecondary experience, the most important experience they can have is a leadership role in managing a company or major function of a company. It is critical that the department has a sense of urgency that is usually not found in academic departments. With proper leadership, a corporate training department’s culture will have that sense of urgency and work ethic that mirror their clients.

2. Identify the Company or Sector to Work With

A university’s corporate training department cannot be all things to all companies in their service area. The easiest way to lose credibility is to over-commit and under-deliver. The process of selecting and regularly validating target companies or sectors is essential in keeping a training division’s requests for service within its capabilities. One of the first steps is to research which industry or business sector is important to the regional economy and is responsible for a great deal of local hiring. It might be IT, manufacturing, banking, insurance, or a combination of a number of identified sectors. Pick the most suitable company or companies, start small and develop internal skills and/or capabilities as you go.

3. Establish a Relationship

If you have the right team, establishing a great relationship with a target company is easy. First, do the homework by finding out as much about the company as you can. Some of the critical information that is easy to locate is their mission, vision, expansion plans, major competition and any positive/negative recent news. You can also easily learn about any major labor issues and determine whether employees are union or non-union. The more information you can obtain, the more confidence you will have during the first meeting. Start each meeting by listening to the client and keep them actively engaged as you identify the opportunities and develop possible solutions. Always remember that you are not building a relationship with the company. Your client is the company representative and that’s who you must build the relationship with. If your contact with the company changes, you will need to start over in building the relationship.

4. Deliver the Right Training Program

In order to deliver the right training, you and your client must agree on the required behavior change needed by the targeted employee group, the most effective training to accomplish the change and how the results will be measured. Identifying effective metrics for the training is a good way to stand above the crowd, which helps your client show the ROI for the resources spent on the training.

Be ready to develop new programs to fulfill the requirements committed to the company. This not only allows you to deliver the training that has the best chance of meeting your client’s needs, it will also expand your future capabilities. Sometimes the hardest, but most important task, is finding an instructor that can bring content credibility and relate the material to the students’ occupation. The person you select to teach the class will enhance or destroy the relationship you have built with the client.

5. Follow Up

Your last chance to stand out from the crowd and become a preferred training provider is to work with the client to collect and analyze the predetermined program metrics. Following up with the client on the results of your training program is a great opportunity to identify program improvements and to begin the process of identifying and resolving the next issue.


There are many universities and other postsecondary institutions that are very happy to offer their services to businesses, but are not willing to work at being a preferred training provider. The company is forced to either fit their needs into the school’s current programs or find another, lower quality training provider.

A university that can obtain the right resources and create a few simple processes discovers that they not only stand out from other training providers, they also make a significant improvement in the school’s relevance to the local community. This includes the businesses they serve and the local workforce looking for livable wage jobs. By following this process, the university will gain the knowledge to drive positive improvements to credit and non-credit programs.

The final benefit of implementing the mindset and steps described above is that the staff will generate a tremendous amount of enthusiasm, and they will feel like they are constantly in start-up mode.

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