Engaging Your Corporate University to Generate Revenue

Welcome back to "Learning STRATactically", a monthly column aligned to learning and human resource professionals who focus on the strategic and act on the tactical – providing thought leadership for sharing, reflecting and discussing as life-long learners.

Last month, our article addressed the challenge of becoming a Learning EnVisioneer, where we asked if you possessed the qualities needed as a conductor whocasts the vision, develops actionable steps to achieve it, and executes the plan to accomplish your vision. Today we are asking if you can see yourself using the structure of your corporate university to generate revenue or become a cost-neutral operation.

In a 2011 white paper titled Developing Business-Savvy Leaders: Raising the business acumen of managers for bottom-line impact, Chairman and founder of Paradigm Learning, Inc. Catherine J. Rezak, related the stories of an Operations Manager, a Sales Manager and an IT Manager – noting "the commonality amongst them is they share a focus on their own job responsibilities to the exclusion of the bigger picture of the company. They don’t look at the numbers as a whole or consider how the work they are doing aligns with company strategies and initiatives."

Rezat’s point can be applied to those who lead others in a company’s corporate university – analyze and identify learning projects/ programs and courses to be developed for internal employees, and develop a business plan to align what you have developed internally to an external market. Basically, can your internal learning courses/services generate sufficient income to reduce the company’s budgeted monies for the learning function, eliminate the need for a learning budget (become cost-neutral) or even generate sufficient revenue to become a profit center for your company?

In the March 2012 issue of Chief Learning Officer, Bill Perry authored Learning for Sale stating "internal learning organizations can turn a profit selling their wares if they act like a business and identify a niche in the market." Perry notes that learning does not need to remain on the expense side of the balance sheet.

I agree with both Rezak and Perry. As a learning professional within your organization, you have a responsibility to develop your employees to improve their performance for your company’s clients, and, as you have already invested (expensed the cost) in the development of a learning course/service, you have approximately 90 percent of a completed course/service that you can re-package and sell to your current and future external customers. Whatever course/service you are developing or providing internally, it’s a short drive to generating revenue with very limited additional investment, and you will be on the road to generating revenue. This is a road that will allow your company to foster a culture of business acumen and reap the rewards tangibly through generated revenue and intangibly through enhancing your reputation within your industry space. If your employees need leadership courses, HR courses, compliance courses and even professional certification courses for their position and/or for the benefit of working for your clients, you have identified a niche to consider turning an expense into generating revenue. This is an avenue to consider whether you are a small, medium or large company.

As an illustration, one professional certification in high demand that requires continued professional development units (PDUs) to maintain is the Project Management Professional (PMP). Assuming your company employs 100 PMPs, the approximate cost of their acquiring a PMP certification from the Project Management Institute (PMI) includes membership in PMI, passing a PMP Exam Prep Course and completing the PMP application with PMI and taking the PMP exam – in total approximately $3,000 each, at a total expense to your company of $300,000.

To maintain their PMP certification,PMI requires each PMP to complete 60 PDUs every three years. On average, a PMP will need to take 20 hours of PDUs each year to fulfill this certification requirement– it is both the PMP and the learning professional within a corporate university who are responsible for ensuring this occurs – remember, it is important to you internally and to your customers who employ your PMPs working on their projects. Assuming one hour of a facilitated PDU course costs $100, that is a yearly cost of $2,000 per PMP. Multiplied by 100 PMPs, this equals. $200,000. Multiply that by three years for a total of $600,000.

You should also note that the above illustrative numbers do NOT take into account the lost productivity and subsequent loss of revenue to your company when these employees are enrolled in facilitated PDU training courses - those are numbers you can determine internally, and add to your company’s total expense affecting the bottom-line and net operating profit.

Based on the above illustration of each PMP taking 20 PDUs annually, there is a yearly $200,000 expense to maintain your 100 employee PMPs certifications. Thinking STRATactically, your corporate university could become a Registered Education Provider (REP) for PMI at an annual cost of approximately $1,000.00. Using your internal PMPs as Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) working with your internal learning professionals, your corporate university could potentially develop courses approved by PMI as PDUs.

Assuming an internal cost to develop a one hour web-based PMP PDU course, at $10,000, the cost to develop 20 PDUs would be $200,000. Assuming your PMP employees also have an obligation to maintain their professional certification, and with the web-based courses available 24/7, the PMPs are able to take the course(s) after normal work hours or on weekends. The cost to develop the 20 PDUs is less than the cost to send your PMPs to courses, as there are no other costs associated with the loss of direct revenue as when an employee is taking a facilitated course.

Following this illustration, you have developed 20 PDUs for PMPs internally, yet these internally developed courses also have applicability to all PMPs who require the same 20 hours of PDUs each year to maintain this certification. It is a short leap to placing your PMP PDU courses on your website, using an eCommerce payment capability, advertising/marketing to the PMP community, and generating income!

Once you have succeeded in selling your internal course/services externally, your imagination can likely provide other venues for your analysis and eventual pursuit of more opportunities aligned to your learning courses/services ability to generate revenue.

We encourage your comments and reactions, and yes— next month, we will offer a perspective on the importance of "How to Lead a Multi-Generation Workforce" within your organization STRATactically.

Alan A. Malinchak is
the Chief Learning Officer at Homeland Security Solutions, Inc. (HSSI) and capture/business development executive for eLearning training programs and initiatives. Al has over 35 years of professional experience in the government (FBI Retired), industry, academics and a U.S. Navy Veteran (DAV). Al recently received the 2011 Learning Elite Award and has four Gold Division 1, "Learning in Practice Awards" from Chief Learning Officer Magazine: in 2009 for a Learning Team which established horizontal relationships across business units; in 2008 for Business Impact resulting from eLearning initiatives having a significant impact on profit/loss and business operations; in 2007 for Leadership as a learning industry thought leader; and, in 2006 for Achievement Impact based on e-Learning design, development and accomplishments. Al can be reached at malinchaka@homelandsecurityinc.com or contact him through LinkedIn.