Customized programs tailor content to business needs

As the parent company to nine pest management companies (including Orkin) with more than $1 billion…

Georgia (Jul 25, 2014) — As the parent company to nine pest management companies (including Orkin) with more than $1 billion in revenues, Atlanta-based Rollins Inc. knows the value in strengthening leaders within the company.


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That’s why, three years ago, Rollins hired Georgia State University’s J. Mack Robinson College of Business to help leaders and potential leaders hone their skills as part of the Rollins Leadership Development Program.

Georgia State helped Rollins develop a customized executive education program specific to the Rollins business and culture, according to Henry Anthony, Rollins vice president of human resources.

“This program is for multi-unit leaders who are performing at a very high level — ones who are seen as having long-term, significant impact on our company — because this is a significant investment,” Anthony said. “Through last year, 70 key leaders from all our brands have completed the program. We wanted the participants to immediately utilize the learnings from the program, so we put them into teams of four that were assigned real work projects at the end of the program. Their research and recommendations from these projects were presented at a later date to senior management, which provided many very practical solutions to several key business issues.”

Rollins is one of many companies that have started looking to institutes of higher learning to provide tailor-made professional education training for its employees. Though some business schools and colleges have long provided customized versions of their executive education programs, in the past five years those schools have increasingly received requests by Atlanta-area companies to design specific programs for their employees.

The programs are in high demand because they help a company develop the leadership skills of its top talent while at the same time addressing real-work challenges and opportunities, according to Dan Stotz, senior director of executive education for the Robinson College of Business.

“Custom executive development programs are popular because the company’s senior executives and the university’s top professors work together to design and launch a program that is a blend of several topics — such as strategy, leadership, and innovation — with the intent of addressing strategic issues that are critical to the company’s future,” Stotz said.

The most common requests Robinson College receives are for custom programs around the topics of leadership development, project management and Lean Six Sigma. Currently, however, the hottest topic is business innovation, Stotz said.

“Companies are looking for ways to create new value for their customers while at the same time developing a new competitive advantage in the marketplace,” Stotz said.

Custom programs are typically designed for employees who have been identified as “top talent” — typically upper-level managers or vice presidents who will be playing a key role in the company’s future. According to Stotz, typically 16 to 24 employees participate in a company’s custom program with the client paying anywhere between $5,000 and $7,000 per person for a four-day program with the cost varying depending on the amount of customization required. In addition to Rollins Corp., Robinson College has also provided custom executive education programming for the Atlanta FalconsCox Enterprises Inc.Regions Financial,MARTA and T-Mobile, to name a few.

More than 500 executives participate in Emory University executive education programs, many of whom come for more than one program session over the course of the year, said Lisa Kaminski, associate dean of executive education at Emory’s Goizueta Business School. Though nondisclosure agreements prevent Emory from sharing client names, Kaminski said 11 of Georgia’s 25 Fortune 1000 companies are clients of Emory Executive Education.

Clients/students pay anywhere from $1,995 per person for a two-day program to $5,995 per person for a four-day program, Kaminski said, adding that custom pricing is dependent on many factors, including duration, number of participants, degree of content customization, number of sessions and program location.

“We currently engage with our clients to run 20-30 custom programs in any given year, ranging from three days to several weeks in length, depending on the client’s needs,” Kaminski said. “In addition to these custom programs, we offer nine open enrollment programs focusing in key business functions and leadership subjects. The subject matters covered in our custom programs vary widely, as we work closely with our clients to determine their precise needs and ensure that the content is custom for the specific audience in the classroom.”

The reasons clients seek customized professional education business courses naturally varies, said Michael S. Salvador, director of executive education programs for Kennesaw State University’s Michael J. Coles College of Business, which has been offering customized executive education programming since 2009. However, there are generally a few common reasons behind a request for the programs.

“As a result of the ongoing war for talent and the economic incentives associated with long-term retention of their best-performing employees, organizations perceive high value in targeted, customized mid-career educational investments,” Salvador said. “[Also], many organizations are proactively engaged in strategic workforce development, i.e., the programs they are asking us to develop and implement are uniquely tied to a specific, funded strategic imperative. In addition, we are finding that many organizations favor in-house or customized programs because proprietary content (e.g., financial statements and strategic plans) can be introduced for more effectiveness; this, of course, is not possible in a generic program offered to the public.”

The very nature of customized programs is to allow the strategic objectives and program content design dictate the medium for the delivery of the material, Salvador said. Therefore, some are full in-classroom, instructor-led courses while some may be fully online programs. Many, however, are hybrids of both, he said.

Such is the case at Georgia State, where custom programs follow a “Play- Practice-Purpose” instructional design platform, according to Stotz. Employees begin the process by learning through play, an online experience, and then they go to the GSU Buckhead Center classrooms to learn through practice in a real classroom experience. They then learn through purpose — a field experience — where they work with a leadership or innovation coach for a period of three to six months to use their new knowledge and skills to complete a strategic project that is critical to the company’s future.


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit