CBRE's Corporate University Launch and Gaining Executive Buy-In

Carey Bradshaw

A major challenge of launching a Corporate University is gaining executive buy-in and ensuring that the training programs are aligned with bottom-line results. HRIQ speaks with Carey Bradshaw, Corporate Manager of Learning and Development at CBRE, one of Fortune World's Most Admired Companies, 2011.

Can you tell us about the launch of CBRE’s Corporate University in 2011?

The logistics of our launch are as follows:

  • CLO appointed January 2011.
  • CLO worked with internal SMEs and leadership to draft a rough curriculum for upcoming 18-month period.
  • CLO worked with HR to determine staffing needs and partnered with an internal executive recruiter to hire a Corporate Director of Learning and Development, Manager of Learning and Development and a Training Coordinator. This team was on-boarded June 1, 2011.
  • Simultaneously, CLO worked with the internal Events Management team to secure a physical space for the Corporate University Programs. The decision was made to use the Q Center in St. Charles, IL as it had the best setup for a productive learning experience, was centrally located and had the space and timing availability for our needs.
  • The CLO, along with the Director and Manager of L&D (the team) began identifying and inviting internal SMEs to participate as facilitators and also finalized the curriculum while building the session content. There was a strong partnership with the CEO and Global Head of HR throughout this process as they both reviewed curriculum and session materials.
  • The team identified two areas in which to bring in external SMEs: Presentation and Negotiating Skills. Through a series of interviews, two ideal candidates were identified and an interactive course was built for each session.
  • The team reached out to the regional Presidents within the Americas and communicated the nomination process and timeline for identifying their high-potential nominees for each program.
  • After the attendees were confirmed, the team implemented a strategic process to communicate expectations, logistics, pre-work, etc. through email, an internal CBRE University dedicated program website and a private community built within our internal Social Media tool, Yammer.
  • The team assigned pre-work to the participants including pre-reading and four Harvard ManageMentor learning modules (Finance Essentials, Time Management, Presentation Skills and Negotiating).
  • A session detail plan was created to outline the minute-by-minute minutia for flawlessly implementing each on-site program including pre and post-program needs.
  • Participants are required to complete post-work in order to graduate. Participants self-select into "accountability groups," each participant is required to draft three program "key takeaways" into SMART goals and create an action plan for implementation of each goal. One week after the end of the program each person is required to send the SMART goals along with the action plans to the CBRE University team with a cc to their direct manager. The accountability groups insure that each person completes this task and then stays on target to accomplish each goal. No one in an accountability group graduates until all members have completed all follow-up work.

What does the curriculum include and who are the instructors?
22 sessions, 20 of which are led by internal SMEs. Two workshops, Negotiating and Presentation Skills, are led by external SMEs. All internal instructors are very senior-leaders (Senior Managing Directors, Vice Presidents and our CEO) within the organization.

How do you ensure that learning and development is not just content for content’s sake but geared towards driving home bottom-line results?

All learning is tied into our mission statement and includes required pre- and post-work, SMART Goals and Action Planning. We measure results rigorously and strategically through quantitative and qualitative analysis of evaluation results. In addition, we work with each participant’s direct manager to follow up at 30, 60 and 90 days on SMART Goals and Action Plan progress. Over time we plan to evaluate and show quantitative results for how the SMART Goal and Action Plan process directly impacts bottom line profits and results.

The CBRE University team has had buy-in from the very highest levels of the organization, with President, CEO and Global HR involvement in the programdevelopment. How did you achieve this in your organizations?

We are fortunate to have buy-in, support and participation from our Global Head of HR, our President of the Americas and our CEO. With their support, we have launched CBRE University with a mission and vision that clearly and closely aligns with our Global mission and vision.

What is your advice to other organizations looking to gain executive support for their corporate universities?

Learn how to align the mission/vision of your learning organization in a way that positively impacts the overall organization goals. Use business language, as opposed to "learning language," when discussing learning objectives with the C-Suite. It also helps to have a CEO who understands the impact and value that a learning organization can have.

Interview conducted by Alexandra Guadagno, Editor for Human Resources iQ.