, Singapore

What is corporate education?

By Philip Young

Suppose you are the owner of your own small business in Singapore with only a few employees. One of your toughest challenges is to find good people to work for you. Equally important is the challenge of developing and keeping good people.

Now imagine you’re the CEO of a large, well-established company with many thousands of employees working around the world. What are your toughest human resource challenges? They are essentially the same, but because of the size and scope of your organization, they are much greater and more complex.

Big companies, particularly publicly traded, global companies use corporate education as a way to meet these human resource challenges. Simply put, corporate education consists of “company-funded education programs that advance the professional and personal development of employees.”

The ultimate goal of corporate education is to help a company to achieve and sustain its success.

Sometimes, the term “corporate training” is used interchangeably with “corporate education.”

Although these two activities may sometimes overlap, the general understanding in business is that they do differ in content and objectives.

Corporate training programs develop specific skills and knowledge (e.g. learning a new version of a software programming language or becoming proficient in “six sigma” methods of operation). Corporate education programs tend to be broader in scope (e.g., learning all about a company’s new strategy and what you and your team can do to help implement this strategy).

“Executive Education” is another term sometimes used interchangeably with Corporate Education. But as in the case of corporate training, there is a somewhat of an overlap in the contents and objectives between the two terms.

There are different ways to implement corporate education programs. Companies can support an employee’s study in a university Executive MBA program. They can also send them to short (e.g., one-week) non-degree courses on selected topics such as leadership, strategic marketing, and finance run by universities or private, non-academic organizations.

They may also contract with universities or private consulting companies to design and implement company-specific programs. Some companies even have their own “corporate universities.” A common practice is for companies to use a combination of outside consultants and their own staff in their corporate education programs.

A primary focus of corporate education is on leadership and teamwork (See Figure 1). Examples of the types of activities used to develop leadership and teamwork are case studies, role playing, and presentations by a company’s senior leaders.

Sometimes, activities are outside the boundaries of the workplace such as working with a Formula One race team to help improve teamwork. At the more senior level, leadership development and teamwork could also involve presentations by outstanding leaders in fields outside of business (e.g., successful managers of major sports teams or retired military senior officers).

Other presenters often invited to speak at senior leadership programs are highly regarded authorities on special business topics.

For a good overview of current trends in leadership development programs, go to https://dukece.com/elements/docs/preparing-leaders.pdf .

A second area of focus is business acumen. This includes understanding the strategic and financial challenges of the company and how each individual and their teams contribute to the company’s success.

Case studies and business simulation exercises are often used to supplement interactive lectures given by a subject-matter expert. This is the area that I work in. Let me use this topic to illustrate another example of the difference between corporate training and corporate education.

When I cover the topic of finance, it is not with the intent of training program participants to be chartered accountants. My main objective is to educate non-financial managers and staff about the basic financial concepts and tools of analysis to help them to understand the financial challenges of their company and how they and their colleagues can help the company to achieve their financial goals.

A third area of focus in corporate education programs is a general category that can be called “personal development.” A wide variety of topics fall into this category such as: creative thinking, effective listening, working with others in teams, understanding one’s personal work style, communication and presentation skills and the management of one’s career path.

Global companies as well as large Singapore corporations have been conducting corporate education programs for their employees in Singapore over the past decade. But perhaps corporate education is relative new for mid-size companies or for family-owned companies. For any company in Singapore that is interested in starting its own corporate education program, a helpful guide on what to consider can be found by going to: www.marketinggenerics.com/images/uploads/How_to_buy_Executive_Education.pdf

I have been fortunate to work in corporate education programs ever since they began to be used extensively by global companies in the1980s. Over the past three decades, I have observed first hand many of the new or evolving challenges that large corporations face because of changing competition, technology, customer demands, and government policies.

Based on my experiences, I know that companies continue to count on corporate education programs as a way of ensuring that their people are consistently up to the task of meeting these new challenges.

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