Magazine article Workforce Management

Grading Executive Education

Magazine article Workforce Management

Grading Executive Education

Article excerpt


Firms are setting hard criteria for selecting programs and emphasizing strategic results

In 2005, American corporations spent about $20 billion on tuition assistance programs. But according to a study conducted among 1,304 U.S. human resource professionals by the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, almost 40 percent of companies didn't know the actual impact of their assistance programs in terms of recipients'job retention, performance or promotion.

That finding, in conjunction with a recent study of 70-plus North American chief learning officers and chief talent officers, shows an overwhelming need among corporations that sponsor tuition assistance programs to take steps to change how they operate their initiatives. The study was sponsored by Kaplan University, a subsidiary of Kaplan Inc., which in turn is a global education company and wholly owned subsidiary' of the Washington Post Co.

The chief learning officers and chief talent officers interviewed for the survey stressed that companies need to hold universities accountable for customization of industry-focused learning programs, apply innovation in the design and delivery of custom programs and identify "hard" business metrics to justify continued sponsorship of tuition assistance programs.

The days when corporations would passively fund tuition assistance as an entitlement program are over. Now employers are becoming the customers of education and are managing university partnerships just as they manage other vendor relationships. They are setting hard criteria for selection, insisting on customized programs to fill industry needs and requiring levels of accounting and metrics that heretofore have been reserved for corporate training vendors rather than university partners.


As corporations become astute customers of education, they are taking a much more strategic approach to managing tuition assistance programs. Just as the corporate training budget has come under pressure and is expected to be closely linked to business strategy, tuition assistance programs are now being viewed as a strategic investment rather than a corporate human resources benefit.

The first step to managing this as a strategic investment is to create a set of selection criteria that potential university partners must meet in order for corporations to fund their programs. The recent survey of chief learning officers revealed the top five criteria in selecting a university partner:

* Customization of learning, which may result in new accredited programs to fit industry needs.

* Innovation in design, delivery and addition of new services for families of employees eligible for tuition assistance programs.

* Creating "hard" business metrics to justify continued support of tuition assistance programs.

* Flexibility in working with corporate partners with a focus on exploring eligibility of corporate training programs for possible college credit.

* The brand of the university and the quality and cost of the programs created for a corporate audience.

Many corporations now expect universities to be flexible in working with them to jointly develop customized and innovative programs to fit business needs.

A case in point is Ingersoll-Rand, a $10.5 billion industrial manufacturing company that generates 40 percent of its revenue outside of the United States. Hence, one of the top issues for IngersollRand chairman, president and CEO Herbert Henkel is to develop global leaders.

But while the company has a generous program for tuition reimbursement, a study commissioned by Ingersoll-Rand University found the tuition assistance programs to be fragmented and not aligned with corporate business priorities. In fact, the company estimates that it was funding more than 70 different MBA programs of varying quality, none of which really linked to the company's business goals. …

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