The Rise of Corporate U

November 27, 2012 by Wally Bock

In February of 1961, McDonald’s opened Hamburger University in the basement of a McDonald’s restaurant in Elk Grove Village, IL. I don’t know who had the first “corporate university,” but this certainly has to be on the short list.

By 1993, there were 400 corporate universities. At the turn of the century there were 2000. Today there are more. The original Hamburger University now sits on an 80 acre campus. McDonald’s opened one in Shanghai in 2010. It’s all tied to the corporate mission.

“At McDonald’s, our training mission is to be the best talent developer of people with the most committed individuals to Quality, Service, Cleanliness and Value (QSC&V) in the world.

Companies like McDonald’s started corporate universities because traditional university education at traditional universities wasn’t doing the job for them. Corporate universities offered several compelling alternatives.

Education and training is customized. Running a McDonald’s restaurant is not the same as running a branch of Enterprise Rent-a-Car. Some companies, like Caterpillar, use their university to educate customers as well as employees.

The learning is more practical. Over the last several decades, university business degrees have become more theoretical and less practical. It’s difficult to find courses in basic business practices like selling and hiring in many MBA curricula.

Training is a carrier of culture. Values and purpose are both important and different in every company.

On the one hand, corporate universities have been a competitor to the traditional university programs. But, on the other hand, many corporate universities operate in partnership with colleges either directly or through organizations like CorpU.

Wally Bock is a coach, a writer and President of Three Star Leadership.

Posted in Leadership Development

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