ATD Blog

5 Ways L&D Can Align Organizational Strategy With University Degree Programs

Thursday, May 20, 2021

We all know the significant challenges L&D teams face in implementing an enterprise-supported degree program. Resourcing the project, identifying suitable degrees, tackling the disconnect between organizational goals and academic learning—not to mention the high price tag—are just some of the monstrous tasks. Finding a workable solution can be difficult. Let’s start with the goals then work toward solutions.

An institution’s strategy for accredited employee learning can typically be achieved by:

1. Implementing a program that will provide professional development for the employee

2. Developing employee skills and knowledge that will directly benefit the objectives of the employer and job function

3. Retaining and motivating key talent through career progression opportunities

4. Reaching the above within an approved budget


Many L&D degree efforts meet some of these goals. For example, sponsoring staff to take courses at their local college may be a good perk but rarely would provide direct skills acquisition to move the company strategy forward. On the other hand, well-designed, reputable, tailored programs are possible but won’t easily fit into the desired budget. These compromises usually end up with the company’s only option being to focus on a few superstars. Meeting all four objectives might seem like an impossible undertaking, but it can be achieved. Here are five steps to help get there.

5 Tips to Align a Degree Program to Organizational Goals

1. Define the objectives under each goal above.
For goals one and two, tools that can assist in aligning staff development to organizational goals include a Balanced Scorecard developed by Harvard University.

2. Develop a strong, focused retention strategy.
Unlike skill development, degrees are uniquely suited to achieve this as they are typically multiyear undertakings, followed by a multiyear retention policy. A rule of thumb would be a requirement to remain an employee for two years post-graduation or four years from the start of a program.


3. Obtain buy-in across the organization.
Building on goals one and two involves buy-in from department managers on organizational outcomes and skill needs, as well as support from the HR department. Goal three requires multiple stakeholders to drive performance, and goal four means engaging and garnering the support of the finance department. Any enterprise- or division-specific degree implementation is a long-term project. To be sustainable, it needs excellent socialization and communication throughout the organization on the plan, goals, and expectations of the employer and the employee, followed up by metrics-based reporting of the value back.

4. Implement project-based learning.
Most degrees deliver academic courses and assess these through papers and exams. To put it another way, whether a student works for a railway, a bank, or a tech company, they would be in the same classes writing the same papers. This is the old school way of learning. Many institutions now have sophisticated, applied, and project-based learning methodologies in which assignments are tailored and integrated into workplace solutions. Think of a railway employee-student working on a project to reduce inefficiencies in their logistics process, or a banking employee-student studying how AI can support the bank’s service goals. If employee learners are truly studying and solving complex problems associated to your company, the ROI is significant.

5. Operate within budget.
This goal is potentially the most complex, given the typical tuition reimbursement policy is $5,250. This is a mere fraction of today’s full tuition costs and why so few use the benefit. Imagine this: "We will contribute three cents toward your next Starbucks coffee.” It may be a nice gesture, but would the employee care about the difference to their $5.95 frappuccino? American tuition is around 1,000 percent more expensive for tuition than world-class international accredited universities. At 10 percent of the cost, a prestigious international degree option can fit within a tuition reimbursement budget, making the entire program free or practically free to staff. Think: “Valued employees, we are now funding the whole cost of your frappuccino!” By offering more affordable, flexible modern degrees, your program may be favorable to your operating budget and your employee’s personal tuition budget goals.

Ultimately, the success of any degree implementation must be a win-win outcome. If staff have greater access through their employer to achieving their college dreams, they will be grateful and more loyal. If the company is simultaneously boosting productivity, skills, and morale, it’s well worth the effort. If your company needs help, reach out to an enterprise degree solutions vendor with multiple university partners across the globe, giving employees more options and opportunities.

About the Author

Mat Jacobson, is Dūcere Global Business School’s founder and CEO, doctorate candidate on the Future of Enterprize Learning, and CEO Magazine Education Executive of the Year. Ducere works together with presidents, prime ministers, global CEOs, and other prominent leaders to deliver on the vision of providing sophisticated tertiary qualifications for adult learners and for enterprise.

As a thought leader in innovation within education, Mat has hosted and spoken at numerous academic and business events including, chair of the ADC Forum Summit, The Future of Australian Higher Harvard University, 21st Century Academic Forum Harvard University Keynote, HPAIR Conference, Financial Review Higher Education Summit, and Apple Leadership Summit.

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