Building Talent Internally Through Innovative Corporate/College Partnerships

Delivering Professional Excellence courtesy of SIDC

Last week, I was interviewed at length by News & Observer, a regional newspaper operating in North Carolina for an article entitled “The New Work Study: Companies Invite Degree Programs, Employees Benefit.” The essence of the article was the growing trend among corporations to bring degree granting courses on-site at the company location. Actually, I have been following this trend since 1994 when my first book on corporate universities, entitled Corporate Quality Universities was published. But now I can see that this is the moment for companies and universities to truly enter a new period in creating innovative and customized partnerships bringing accredited learning to the masses.

As they say, “timing is everything.” What we are experiencing now is a global talent shortage. This is finally fueling the demand for companies and universities to re-think how they do business with each other.

The importance of retaining talent is highlighted in the following headlines taken from across the globe:

United States
• Every 10 minutes someone in the Baby Boomer Generation (born between 1946 and 1964) turns 60 years old.

• 38% of UK employers are struggling to fill positions due to a lack of staff with the right skills

• By 2010 India will experience a shortfall of nearly half a million qualified IT workers.

Companies spend millions of dollars on tuition reimbursement and now they are demanding to become true “customers” of the higher education system by creating flexible and innovative programs for their employees. And the results as profiled in the News & Observer article are worthy to take note:

  • 25% of Blue University “graduates” (i.e Blue University is the corporate university of Blue Cross Blue Shield and is the entity that partners with universities) have experienced lateral or upward mobility in their careers within a year of graduating from one of the on-site university programs
  • Company turnover was 16% in 2007, but was just 9% among Blue University graduates

So why has it taken so long to create these on-site and, often times, customized corporate/college programs?

These programs require a new mindset among both heads of human resources and learning as well as deans of universities. Corporations must realize that the days of passively funding tuition assistance programs are ending. Instead, in its place, companies must manage a global network of universities that meet specific criteria just as they manage a network of healthcare providers.

And for universities, there exists a new set of challenges—new ways of delivering curriculum, new mandates to “customize” curriculum that is aligned to strategic business priorities and importantly, new ways to communicate the business outcomes associated with investing in talent.

So, as companies look to “retain” and grow talent internally, they will focus on re-writing the playbook in working with universities. Perhaps the day has finally come for Customized Corporate-College Partnerships.

What do you think?

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About Jeanne Meister

Jeanne C. Meister is a best selling author of three books, internationally recognized consultant and keynote speaker. Jeanne is Partner of Future Workplace, a consulting firm dedicated to assisting organizations in re-thinking, re-imagining and re-inventing the workplace. Jeanne was recently voted by her peers as one of the 20 top influential training professionals in the United States. Jeanne’s name is synonymous with the establishment and institutionalization of global corporate universities. Jeanne is the author of three books, Corporate Quality Universities and Corporate Universities. Jeanne’s latest book is, The 2020 Workplace: How Innovative Companies Attract, Develop & Keep Tomorrow’s Employees Today (Harper Collins, 2010) is in its 10th printing.No information is provided by the author.


  1. Jeanne, on behalf of Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, thanks for both your participation in the News and Observer report and reference to Blue University in your blog.
    We were very pleased by the local story detailing the important investment businesses can make in their employees by utilizing customized education program. Blue University continues to grow and evolve at all levels. We have found this program to be an excellent means of growing and retaining talent. I’d be happy to discuss the basics of Blue Univeristy with anyone else considering the value of this kind of program for their own workforce.

  2. As the Director of Corporate and Community Partnerships for Empire State College, I applaud Blue Cross Blue Shield for its investment and partnership with an accredited program. I’m interested in learning more from T. Johnson regarding the impact that this progam has had on their workforce in terms of its use as a recruitment and retention tool, and the overall impact on employee morale and productivity.

  3. Beverly Banks

    I am rearching the concept of Organization Learning, and presenting a pilot prgram for Corporate University… who would you recommend I contact regarding other firms that are providing this benefit? Would you recommend HR or the CEO?


  4. I am also doing research on Corporate universities. Is there a good website that has a list of companies or Universities that have corporate universities?

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