Published on 2012/07/12

Is Mass-Tailoring the Future of Corporate Programming in Higher Education?

Organizations and their employees differ greatly from firm to firm. Institutions must tailor their offerings between organizations to ensure their programming is suited to the client. Photo by Andres Rueda.

Human beings have some fundamental needs regardless of their station in life, incidence of birth, educational preparedness, culture, socialization, political and other affiliations, psychosocial positioning and so on. All these needs require attention in tailoring learning for a corporate audience.

A person has:

  1. A need for acceptance;
  2. A need for belonging;
  3. A need to love and be loved;
  4. A need to have their physical and safety need met;
  5. A need for self-expression;
  6. A need to feel useful and valued;
  7. A need to become all that is in their heart to become.

Sometimes if one or more of these needs are not met they can create all kinds of discomforts in people that can lead to marginal performance and sometimes different kinds of dysfunctional behavior. At the same time, what it will take to satisfy one person’s need is different both in quality and quantity from person to person and situation to situation. These must be factors in crafting any kind of learning intervention.

In fact, Deci and Ryan (2000) pointed out that “social contexts and individual differences that support satisfaction of the basic needs facilitate natural growth processes including intrinsically motivated behavior and integration of extrinsic motivations, whereas those that forestall autonomy, competence, or relatedness are associated with poorer motivation, performance, and well-being” (p. 227).

Therefore, for learning to occur there must be congruency among needs, context and the quality and quantity of the learning intervention and each person will require something different to enhance learning outcome and increase skill transfer possibilities. Therefore, mass tailoring of corporate programming will not work or produce desire results that are sustainable without some accommodations.

Organizations can be looked at in terms of size, products and services, industry affiliations. They can be assessed by their business configuration, market share, revenue structure, leadership, history, mission, vision, founder’s effect, strategic plan and future positioning, market responsiveness.

They are also typically judged on their workers’ educational preparedness, employment structure, training and development activities, organizational culture as well as that of their employees and many other factors. Anyone examining these factors will find that these organizations can be grouped as good, bad or even indifferent in many respects. The fact that organizations exist for different reasons and may response differently to market conditions; they should be treated differently in terms of how learning interventions are structured and rollout.

A study by Bloom, Genakos, Sadan and Van Reenen (2012) confirmed differences in firms by using double-blind survey techniques and randomized sampling to construct management data on more than 10,000 organizations across 20 countries” and found variation in operations, management practices and outcomes (p. 12).

Actually, the study found:

  1. Divergence results in level of education and managers’ performance;
  2. Government owned and operated entities had the worst management;
  3. Hospitals in the US were better managed;
  4. Indian, Brazil and China contained some of the worst-managed firms of the 20 nations; firms run by founders or their decedents—especially first born son were among the worse managed—multinationals reported good management practices in almost every country they were situated.

Other findings were reported, but what is clear is that none of these situations reflect uniformity in how they present and how these entities should be treated should also be dissimilar. They must be assessed differently and receive different treatment for the challenges they present. Like people, organizations are different in what they need to achieve their mission and vision. It’s important for higher education leaders to recognize that differences between organizations require different learning solutions as one size in various situations will not fit all.

There are some kinds of learning that transcend organizations and persons, for instance ethics or impression of right and wrong, safety and how to treat other human beings—among other things—but still the context where this kind of learning is to take plac will have to be given attentive consideration despite the perceived universality of the attributes.

Kim, Bonk and Teng (2009) conducted a study by surveying 674 training and human resource development professionals from five different countries, mostly from the Asia-Pacific region (i.e., China, South Korea, Taiwan, United States, and the United Kingdom) and found that “blended learning will become a popular delivery method in the future of workplace learning not only in Western countries but also in Asian countries…there is a pressing need, therefore, to provide practitioners with guidance on how to implement blended learning in their organizations.” (p. 299).

What the Kim, Bonk and Teng (2009) study established is a call for higher education institutions to satisfy a pressing need. However, success in this endeavor will depend on whether higher education learning leaders view entities as unique and severed or if they treat them as collective to be treated the same. It is believed that the more sustained results can be garnered if the uniqueness of each entity is given serious consideration.

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