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January 2014
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TD Magazine

Showroom Quality

A partnership between a higher education institution and a global automobile company exhibits best practices.

Intelligence8
General Motors has partnered with Northwood University, an academic institution known for producing leaders of the automotive retail industry, to offer its employees three significant new options for career development. GM employees now can pursue bachelor's degrees, master's degrees, or an advanced leadership program in automotive marketing, business, and leadership. The offerings allow students to significantly grow their skills without taking time away from their jobs.

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Northwood University has been a long-standing strategic partner for GM. "More than 1,000 Northwood University graduates either work for General Motors at the corporate level, or work for or own GM dealerships across the United States and around the world," says Keith Pretty, university president and CEO.

"We've established a design committee that consists of three of the best automobile dealers within the GM dealer network, GM corporate leadership from the GM Learning Center, and key faculty and staff from Northwood University," says Timothy Nash, the university's vice president of strategic and corporate alliances. "Not only does the committee survey the program participants on a regular basis; every two weeks it gets together for a conference call to discuss program progress, current needs, and future needs."

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The program's return-on-investment is carefully measured by enrollment numbers and business metrics, such as increased dealership profitability, sales, customer retention, and employee retention. (In fact, the Advanced Leadership Program has metrics built right into it: Students must design and complete a project in collaboration with their dealer that generates revenue or cost savings of at least $75,000.)

So far, more than 1,000 employees have earned or are earning the bachelor's degree.

About the Author
Stephanie Castellano is a former writer/editor for the Association for Talent Development (ATD). She is now a freelance writer.
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