Implementing custom corporate education for improved productivity and bottom line results

By: Brian Breen, Director, Corporate Education, UC Irvine Extension

Competition is fierce in today’s increasingly complex business environment. As your customers demand that you deliver more than just good products and service, gaining and sustaining a competitive industry advantage will depend on how well your staff executes. Research shows that well-trained employees are more efficient, more satisfied and are proven to remain loyal to the company. A well-trained workforce is the key to building a long-term, sustainable advantage in your industry.

Bringing corporate training to your workplace ensures that your employees are all receiving the same quality education, getting the most relevant and immediately applicable skills and knowledge, while meeting budget and company objectives.

When implementing a corporate training program in your company, there are several considerations to keep in mind. Here I will outline the top three steps you need to take when implementing corporate education in order to ensure corporate success.


I. Set Training & Development Goals

Your first step is the most important: identify your organizational needs and goals.

You need to be able to answer the question, what are you looking to achieve from corporate training? Are you simply looking to update your employees’ skills, or prepare them for career advancement? Is it an enterprise-wide initiative that all employees be given training in a particular functional or management area?

Investing in training will improve your organization’s capabilities, productivity and bottom-line results. Understanding the importance of continuing education for employees and the long­term advantage of having well-trained, efficient employees is a big undertaking, logistically and financially. Your company can only be successful if it begins with capturing the right content and specific training needs.

Focus on management expectations, performance goals and expected outcomes to create individually-tailored solutions. The best learning experience for students is practical education with real-world applications. You want to give your employees the valuable tools that they need to help your company gain a competitive edge.


II. Make It Convenient

Once you know what you would like to achieve, it is time to look at the best methods for integrating training into your organization for the greatest impact.

A well trained staff is one of the biggest investments a company can make. Having engaged employees participating in the training is crucial to the success of the program. Offering flexible training options will ensure that your investment does not go to waste.

Consider weekday on-site classes, short intensive weekend workshops, online, hybrid or any combination of these. A custom solution will be more flexible, with a number of delivery options available to select from, and ready to be tailored to your business and employee needs.


III. Partner with the Best

Finally, you want to select a training provider that can help you achieve your goals with a custom solution designed just for your organization.

For the greatest success, it is vital that your training partner should be fluent in your industry, and with the way you do business. You should ensure that your provider can deliver high-impact, collaborative solutions.

The instructors leading your training program should be seasoned professionals in their respective fields, with a results-oriented approach. The instructors’ expertise and real-world insights in the classroom can result in immediate improvements in skills and capabilities as employees take what is learned in class and apply it immediately on the job.

The best corporate training solution provider for your company should take into consideration these key factors:

  • A pre-training assessment, building the foundation for a training program that meets company goals and addresses specific training objectives             
  • Development or adoption of a results-oriented program geared to meet your company’s exact needs
  • Selection of a provider that incorporates your company’s processes and systems into the curriculum to ensure immediate impact on performance    
  • Training delivery offered in flexible formats in order to reach all students without sacrificing productivity



This three-step approach toward corporate training will ensure that your employees learn and grow, ultimately improving productivity, and providing your organization with numerous benefits including:

  • An immediate return on your training investment
  • A better trained and more productive work force
  • Higher employee satisfaction and retention
  • Increased customer satisfaction




Hashtags: A History & Basic Guide

 By Lalida Sriyordsa


Every minute, social media is changing around us. With the evolution of popular sites like Facebook and Instagram becoming integral parts of everyday life, the way we market our companies and businesses must also adapt to the way society conforms.

If you’ve ever seen images followed with the pound sign and a keyword (#swag is popular for the millennial generation), then you’ve at least seen what a hashtag looks like in the wild.

According to Lifehack:

“The very first hashtag EVER was #barcamp by Chris Messina. Due to this initial successful tryout (against the Twitter boss’s wishes) we now see hashtags as the first place to find information on the latest news and events on a global scale. Things happen on Twitter through hashtags faster than breaking news programs are able to catch them-the result being that Twitter is now a primary resource for many news stations.”

Without a doubt, whether you’re looking to reach audiences within a specific conference group or hoping to share your social media around the world, hashtags can (and should) be used as a valuable and fun tool to spread news.

Almost all social media sites such as Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Youtube, Tumblr, Pinterest, Google Search, and Twitter all allow uses of hashtags that allow you to search for anyone who is interested in that keyword as well. In fact, LinkedIn is the only social media outlet that doesn’t allow the usage of hashtags.

Here are a few tips and tricks that can help you effectively use hashtags:

  • Feel free to use numbers, but no punctuation marks. #50thUCI
  • Keep it simple and think of your tone. For example, Nike’s #makeitcount relates to the brand’s theme and resonates.
  • Keep it relevant to your brand. Anything too vague such as #happy or #fun may not attract the audience you’re going for.
  • Be creative and feel free to make your own. Whether you’re using the hashtag to run a promotion, giveaway, or just adding news, creativity always gets bonus points #uciegiveaway

You can also use some great tools to help find trending topics and related hashtags:

  • Trendsmap shows latest trends from Twitter for anywhere in the world based on a geographic location
  • gives you the latest trending hashtags related to hashtags updated daily
  • RiteTag can also help you identify hashtags that get results and leads you to use them more

Have any awesome hashtags you’ve found success with or have any other tools that you use? Share with us below.

Why Healthcare Needs Project Management

By Martin Wartenberg, UC Irvine Extension Instructor

At the dawn of the 20th century, Wilbur and Orville Wright developed the first airplane capable of sustained heavier-than-air human flight. Working from their bicycle shop, the Flyer was built of spruce, linen, and wire, and fitted with a crude engine of their own manufacture. It flew successfully on the Kill Devil Hills of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina on December 17, 1903.

But what if Orville had crashed on that first flight? Most likely, he would have been treated by a local physician, working from an office in his home, to whom Orville would have paid cash at the time of service.

Fast forward one-hundred years. Aircraft are now built in plants that resemble cities, with components and raw materials assembled from around the world. Yet air travel, even in the age of global terrorism, is still one of the safest activities in which a human being can engage, despite the myriad opportunities for a small glitch, whether in design or manufacture, to cause the plane to fall in flames from the sky.

So, what about the healthcare industry—how has it handled the process of maturing, as private practices have been swallowed by giant healthcare corporations? Indicators are that it has not done as well. A 2012 report by the National Institute of Health and the Medicare Inspector General states that as many as 440,000 deaths per year result from hospital errors… It is estimated that as many as one in three patients is affected by hospital errors and complications…” Since the initial NIH report of 1999 (“To Err is Human”), hospitals have risen from the sixth place to third place among the leading causes of death in the Unites States. Hospital costs and death rates have been doubling every decade.

These statistics are appalling. Consider the public outcry if 440,000 people died each year because of preventable errors in the aircraft industry. As the NIH report observes, the 2012 mortality rate from preventable hospital deaths was “equivalent to two daily Jumbo Jet Crashes.” When a single plane crashes, the FAA examines every possible cause to prevent further carnage. So, what can healthcare learn from the aerospace industry?

Let’s look at the years between the Wright Brothers and the Dreamliner—between the country doctor and the HMO—to find out. In both aerospace and healthcare, advances in research and technology exploded in the 20th century, spawning phenomenal growth within, and the birth of new industries to support them. But rapid deployment of new technologies came with a price tag, both in squandered money and in lost life.

While some of the blunders and tragedies can be attributed to and the growing pains of these new industries, significant blame can be traced to the preventable human errors that came from a lack of proven, systematic processes, administered by trained professionals, to shepherd projects from inception to completion. Absent this overarching administration, projects that were not well defined to begin would receive more money thrown at them, often amid a cloud of miscommunication and resentment. When the money ran out, these projects would be judged as failures, or, worse yet, they would be deployed with their flaws in place, resulting in crashed planes, or in the case for healthcare, dead patients.

So what changed in the aircraft industry that the healthcare industry might learn from? Someplace around WWII, the aerospace industry, building on methodologies that date back to the construction of the pyramids, began compiling data and practical evidence on what caused projects to succeed and fail. This grew over the years into a body of knowledge that now guides those trained in its ways through the process of initiating a project, managing its scope, risk, duration, cost, and stakeholders, and succeeding with a quality deliverable.

Using these techniques resulted in:

  • Better control of financial, physical, and human resources,
  • Improved client and stakeholder relations,
  • Shorter development times,
  • Lower costs,
  • Higher quality and increased reliability
  • Improved productivity,
  • Better internal coordination, and
  • Higher worker morale and reduced stress.

But hold on—human beings aren’t airplanes, and all the aerospace engineers on the planet couldn’t create anything so elegant or complicated as a toddler’s left foot. Perhaps not, but much of the business of healthcare doesn’t involve medicine. Healthcare will continue its astronomical growth, and provide some of the highest paying jobs, each of which plays a critical role in delivering quality, affordable patient care. But the reality is that these jobs are frequently project driven, and the success of these projects can quite literally mean the difference between life and death.

Consider just a few scenarios:

  • Information Technology, including data management, records, and artificial intelligence systems, where wrong information can kill patients and intelligent mining of data can identify lifesaving patterns on which to develop new research.
  • Facilities upgrades, where development of new standards and specializations in operating theatres, clean rooms, ICUs, and in the wards can abate the spread of resistant bacteria.
  • Process improvement projects, targeted at each critical procedure, to reduce errors and cut cost, including nursing procedures, nutrition, drug administration.

These are clearly within the domain of project manager, and the application of good project management practices may be part of the overall solution of how to make hospitals safer. Much of the research currently being developed in this field is from the USC Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics, led by Professor Joel W. Hay.

Indeed, as the healthcare industry continues to grow, it is being pushed towards upping its project management game. In a report co-sponsored by Georgetown University and the National Institute of Health, it is predicted that the healthcare industry will create 5.6 million new jobs by 2020. Americans spent $2.6 trillion on healthcare in 2010, which is ten times more than in 1980, and the demand for healthcare continues to grow at a rate twice that of the national economy. Rising costs are increasing scrutiny of how healthcare providers run their businesses. An example of this can be found in a provision of the Affordable Care Act that holds providers to higher standards for their major IT functions.

While the government’s desire to reduce overall cost of care serves as an external pressure to improve processes from admittance through discharge, internal pressure is also mounting. Healthcare organizations are realizing that, to remain competitive, they must develop skills to effectively select and manage the projects they undertake. They also realize that many of the concepts of project management will help them as they execute projects in such diverse areas as Information Technology, Facilities Management and Process Improvement. In addition to project management, healthcare organizations are embracing program and portfolio management as a means to address enterprise-level needs and to balance conflicting needs and priorities among stakeholders.

What is clear is that healthcare will need to hire or train employees to serve in project management roles. These jobs will require higher levels of education, along with continuous certification. UC Irvine Extension’s Project Management Certificate Program focuses on the specific areas of project management that are necessary in the healthcare delivery environment.

Business Marketers: Are New Facebook Changes Causing Concern?

Attention business marketers! You may have noticed that your Facebook’s organic reach has dropped, which some may say was bound to happen. Below are some eye-opening answers to questions and concerns you may be having.

Earlier this year, Facebook made a change to its algorithm again, which has altered which stories happen to appear in your newsfeed. This article “So Your Facebook Views Have Dropped, Huh?” – a repost from Small Business Trends, includes some fantastic tactical suggestions to respond to these changes.

Here’s an excerpt:

The bottom line: As experts advise, businesses both large and small should be willing to shift their social media marketing tactics. We suggest the best course of action would be to continue to reach your demographics with Facebook, but to also diversify the overall social media piece of your marketing plan by participating in Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.

4 Tips for Recent Grads in a Tough Job Market


Authored by Adriana Maestas

As graduation season comes to an end, the reality of finding a job starts to sink in. The class of 2014 becomes the sixth consecutive class of graduating college seniors to enter a weak job market. Despite the continued bleak economic outlook, 84% of graduating seniors expect to find a job in their chosen field.  

Here are some tips if you just graduated and are looking for a job:

  1. Polish up your LinkedIn profile and while you are at it, it might be a good idea to scrub your Facebook profile of any pictures you might now be embarrassed of. Human resources professionals are becoming savvier about looking up the social media profiles of prospective employees. You want to represent yourself in a good light and highlight your achievements in any public profile. With LinkedIn’s focus on professionals, you can tap into pools of hiring managers and groups that share your professional interests and network online.
  2. Consider internships. Just because you may no longer receive college credit for an internship, don’t assume that employers are not looking for interns who have recently graduated. Sometimes working for free or a reduced rate will help you get a foot in the door. You can also volunteer and note that experience on your resume as well.
  3. Brush up on your interview skills. When you start getting call backs for interviews, have a friend or mentor ask you interview questions. You can even give your friend a copy of the job description so he/she can tailor some specific questions for you.
  4. Have patience, and don’t give up. Finding a job in this economy takes time. And the hiring process takes time, especially in the summer when people schedule vacations. Be pro-active, keep networking, and do something related to your job search every day.

The Perils of Wishful Thinking

Authored by Janet DiVincenzo

Recently a work colleague and I were discussing a project that has gone from bad to worse. Because she was in the thick of things, and I was only peripheral to the project, I was able to see the forest and the trees. My colleague was stuck in the trees. Maybe even the branches. In an effort to get the project back on track we consulted an important stakeholder who has power and influence in the organization. This person was even further removed from the moments of irrationality this project has bestowed on us and the advice offered I can only describe as wishful thinking.

Wishful thinking. Hmm. You see that a lot in organizations. Sometimes, people just want something to be true and so even in the face of a long list of issues and yellow flags on the field, they blissfully offer remedies that have no hope of working.

Today I came across this quote in a blog:
• “Because denial and wishful thinking enable a company, project, or product team to self-destruct, it’s critical that CEOs, project managers, and product managers relentlessly discipline themselves and everyone else in the company to be rational at all times. Everyone in a company should continuously be checking their own thinking to detect and correct illogical thinking.” (emphasis added) (

Wishful thinking is a common occurrence among newbie project managers. You just SO WANT something to work that you ignore the fact that your lead programmer has been late on every deadline (you NEED him! maybe he won’t be late the next time!) or that your graphic artist has flaked out on you every time. Be mindful of this tendency. As the blogger above says, check yourself for illogical thinking. Don’t let your unbridled optimism take hold. Wishful thinking will not buy you time. It steals time. Keep it real.