How has Motorola Inc. evolved into a model for training? First, there's the company's commitment to employee learning and development: Every one of its 150,000 employees is expected to have 40 hours of training a year, and Motorola University, the company's training institution, offers more than 3,500 "learning interventions." Then there's the investment: $225 million annually.

Motorola University is a direct reflection of the changes at this $30 billion telecommunications giant. Its hub is the Galvin Center for Continuing Education, located on the company's 325-acre headquarters site in Schaumburg, Ill. Its origins can be traced to the Motorola Training Education Center, started in 1979 to help the corporation "build a culture focused on quality and customer satisfaction."

"Back then, we were designing training for very specific audiences and challenges," recalls Vincent Serritella, director of global business development at Motorola University. Today, Motorola University has 23 branches around the world, up dramatically from 14 just a year ago.

Ahead of the Learning Curve Serritella and his colleagues have to stay ahead of the learning curve in an industry where, as he puts it, "The world changes every 14 seconds. We have to make sure our people have not only the most up-to-date skills possible, but future-dated skills. Just look how our industry has been bombarded by the crisis in Asia, which few people forecast very well. . .You find out, in these chaotic times, that you need to add curriculum, to be teaching people what globalization is really all about."

The University has played an increasing role in developing Motorola's worldwide presence, as well as in responding to the company's globalization. Motorola establishes a new site abroad when the businesses request it, but on occasion, the University is asked to "to raise the flag," says Serritella--to help create an emerging market for the Motorola business unit to sell product. To do so, it may partner with local governments to offer programs that build the knowledge of potential customers. Sometimes, it creates courses for telecommunications ministers and other government officials on infrastructure issues.

Incorporating Online Training Though the company delivers about 85 percent of its training through its regional centers, computer-based education is gaining ground at Motorola. For example, the company has developed many short, desktop tutorials to help employees work through process-mapping problems, to eliminate wasteful extra steps in such areas as manufacturing, distribution, and administration. But Serritella and his counterparts view Internet training as an introduction, not a complete replacement, to on-site classroom programs. "People will always need to be supported in their learning. More and more, we find that many do pre-work on the Internet, and then move into one of our training sessions. They share experiences with each other and get coaching from the instructor about what they were learning, and how they were using it well, and not so well."

At the centers, computers often provide a springboard for group interaction. Students might be studying how to develop a business in a new market. The whole group will go into a lab at the same time, and work through the business simulation on computers. Then they will leave their screens and divide into small groups to exchange ideas on what they've seen.

Leaving the ROI World How does the company measure the return on the hundreds of millions of dollars it invests in training each year? The University uses a combination of empirical measurements and "tribal stories," which Motorola evaluators probe for when talking to University graduates. But Serritella admits that judging the University's success is a challenge. "We've never found that you can control all the variables needed for an accurate return-on-investment (ROI) study. Also, we offer more than 3,500 different learning interventions. So, even if we can prove ROI for this particular course in this particular part of the world, what difference does that make for the entirety of a $30 billion company?" As a result , he says, "We left the ROI world."