Since the innovation and technological advances of the industrial revolution, industry and higher education have collaborated in an effort to bring specialized knowledge and training to the workplace.
Nowadays, university and business partnerships mean much more than agriculture and mechanical arts. These relationships can be formed to promote or strengthen efforts in research and development, corporate philanthropy, community engagement, staff development, experiential learning or other areas.
Although these types of partnerships are widespread, they require both higher education and businesses to work outside the usual scope of their day-to-day operations. In order to have the best experience for both, integration is the key word.
The following are the ways I see to best get the most out of a university-business partnership:
1.) Identify a Go-To Person
For universities to become integrated into the culture and development plans of companies, there must be a committed effort to align the systems and people who will support this work. Establishing an internal champion or manager for each partnership to closely monitor the integration and any resulting partnership related activities is essential to the long term sustainability of the partnership work.
On the university side, enrollment, admissions, finance, faculty and other staff will need various levels of information about the partnership in order to adequately provide support. Having a “go to” person to advise them on best approaches to interacting with the partnership will save time and confusion.
On the company side, the champion should serve as the person who endeavors to maximize the partnership benefits on behalf of their organization and its people. If the company is engaged in a partnership with a university, it is likely that much thought went into the design and implementation of benefits for its employees. Company leadership will want to see these plans met with effective management so that they get the greatest return on their investment of time, human capital and brand-sharing.
2) Review Goals Early and Often
Keeping your “eye on the prize” is especially important when goals are shared between two different organizations. Employing a regular practice of assessing how partner constituents are benefitting from the partnership will allow enrollment and student support resources to be properly deployed. Having pre-established metrics for what success looks like within each partnership will greatly support this type of review, and will allow each organization to expand or retract support mechanisms as necessary.
Partners should meet quarterly to review goals and associated performance metrics to ensure partnership efficacy.
3) Be Clear On the Scope
Universities and businesses are complex ecosystems with a great depth of assets to bring into a partnership. It can be tempting for both partners to think about taking advantage of many of these assets, but trying to incorporate too many into a customized partnership can leave its scope too broad and its impact diffuse.
Companies should seek to align with one university program, or at most, a very small sample of programs, for the benefit of their associates. Aligning with degree programs or research centers that most clearly reflect the company’s mission and work will allow employees to gain a greater and truer value to their career, in a digestible format that does not distract them with information about programs or benefits that are not good fits for them.