Building an effective corporate university is no easy task, especially with a shoestring budget, virtually no staff and an employee population deployed around the globe. Fortunately for ManTech International Corp., Alan A. Malinchak is used to doing things the hard way.
As a former special agent, administrator and educator for the FBI, Malinchak understands the passion, commitment and ingenuity it takes to meet objectives under adverse conditions. In his first year as ManTech University’s founding chief learning officer, he demonstrated his ability to apply those skills in a corporate environment.
Exceeding all the company’s expectations, Malinchak successfully centralized the organization’s learning initiatives, created more than 140 courses and delivered courses to 5,200 employees — about 93 percent of ManTech’s employee population.
Malinchak said this success stems from early conversations with the company’s business leaders. During his first two months at ManTech, a national security and mission-assurance company that works with the U.S. government, he spent hours with these executives in an attempt to identify each business unit’s needs and priorities.
Armed with this information, Malinchak developed courses that centered on the skills that were most relevant to ManTech’s diverse employee base. Without the cooperation of these leaders, it would have been much harder to get the company’s employees to accept ManTech University as a vital part of their development program, he said.
“We centered the learning courses on the needs of the business units, based on our executives’ knowledge and business forecasts — their input was invaluable,” Malinchak said. “They helped us focus on what they needed so that their employees would get better at what they do, and we’d be able to provide employees who were educated, certified and capable of high performance when we were responding to government contracts. This had great business impact and provided ManTech several victories.”
Although Malinchak said the university’s success is the result of a collaborative effort, his colleagues know his efforts played an integral role in getting the program off the ground.
Robert A. Coleman, president and COO, said Malinchak’s dedication, experience and interpersonal skills brought people together and fostered widespread enthusiasm about the project. He also said Malinchak’s friendly, team-oriented style got ManTech’s business executives excited about working with other divisions to help their employees achieve their professional development goals.
“Al knows how to work with people,” Coleman said. “He took the time to listen to the needs of the field units and crafted training curricula that addressed those needs. He then communicated the benefits of attending these programs. If you’ve ever met Al, you know that he’s a very effective and passionate speaker and extremely knowledgeable and thorough in his approach. So, it’s hard to argue with him.”
Although this cooperation helped Malinchak develop interesting courses aligned with the company’s strategic goals, delivering these classes to workers stationed in more than 40 countries with little funding and no learning management system (LMS) presented another formidable challenge to the university. Making the courses available online 24×7 was an integral and effective part of the solution, but manually administrating the registration and reporting for these virtual classes created a lot of work for ManTech University’s staff.
Because this staff consisted primarily of Malinchak and a part-time administrative assistant for the first year, building class rosters, creating certificates of completion and compiling reports by hand created several roadblocks for the e-learning initiative.
Malinchak knew, however, that putting the courses online was the only way to reach a majority of the company’s employees. Therefore, it was critical to the university’s success. Angela Logan, ManTech University training coordinator and Malinchak’s only official assistant in that first year, said it was Malinchak’s organized, goal-oriented style that made it possible for them to get through the mountain of administrative work.
“He’s a planner. He sees the future, and he knows what he wants to get accomplished,” she said. “That’s why he’s able to do what he does.”
The learning team’s efforts paid off — 80 percent of the university’s enrollments were for online courses. The high level of employee participation and feedback also demonstrates that course topics matched employee needs.
By focusing on skills directly related to improving job performance and allowing workers to take classes on their own schedule, Malinchak made it very appealing for them to take the time out to learn.
Logan said she often receives e-mails from around the world praising the university’s courses and asking the department to develop more.
“They’ll e-mail me and say, ‘I hadn’t looked at it from this perspective,’ or, ‘Thank you, this has opened up a lot of new avenues and doors for me,’” she said. “So, it’s the employees that really keep us moving and motivated.”
Although everyone involved expected this kind of positive response to the courses, they were pleasantly surprised by the scope of the success the university has achieved. Because ManTech’s operating units are essentially stand-alone groups, Coleman said the number of enrollments in the centralized learning program was refreshing, and the number of deployed workers who took advantage of the courses also was remarkable, Malinchak said. In fact, the business unit with the highest number of employees deployed had the highest percentage of enrollments.
“We were invigorated by the popularity of the courses that we offered,” Malinchak said. “It appears that our employees were eager to learn. We have employees who are actually stationed overseas in the war zone who are taking our courses on the computer when they have downtime. Our employees are actively involved and engaged in their growth and self-development at a greater pace than we had anticipated.”
Employee involvement also was facilitated by the number of courses offered and the broad range of topics covered. Yet, developing high-quality courses each quarter was challenging with the university’s limited resources. Malinchak said he used his academic and professional connections to build the curriculum, getting internal staff and outside experts to teach classes at little or no cost. Malinchak even led about 30 of the courses himself.
Many of ManTech’s employees have doctorates in various fields and have, as a whole, taught courses in a wide range of subjects, so it wasn’t too difficult for Malinchak to identify qualified teachers.
After doing some networking and advertising, as well as some training for those who needed a little extra experience, Malinchak put these internal instructors in front of a live audience. The feedback for these teachers has been very positive, which proves the success of this cost-effective solution, Malinchak said.
“I was elated that all of our internal instructors have been very well-received, and their evaluations are extremely good,” he said. “It’s worked out from both a financial and an employee-involvement point of view that these employee instructors have developed a loyalty and an allegiance to helping ManTech University further the learning culture within our corporation.”
Malinchak hopes to further this culture of learning by developing a leadership program, a knowledge management center and more courses that build on the skills and talents of ManTech’s employees. It’s important for the curriculum to continue to expand so none of the material gets stale, he said. To keep this momentum alive, he plans to spend a large chunk of his second year’s budget on building a team dedicated to meeting this goal.
“The CLO, the corporate university staff and all of the organization’s employees who offer their assistance to the corporate university absolutely must be passionate and enthusiastic about education and training and the importance of educational training to career development, and that enthusiasm must show 24×7,” Malinchak said.
John Hovell, formerly the company’s webmaster and now the director of knowledge management for ManTech University, is one of the dedicated people Malinchak chose to be part of this new passionate and dedicated team.
He and Logan will work to implement ManTech’s first LMS, which will help expand the university’s scope and get even more people involved. They’re excited for the year to come, and Logan eagerly awaits the opportunity to work with Malinchak because his enthusiasm and positive attitude are contagious, she said.
“He’s very inspiring, not just as a supervisor but as a person,” Logan said. “He encourages ownership of my work and for this reason, for me, I want to work harder for him.”
“There are not many people that have that charisma that Al has,” he said. “Working with him is just that much better because he’s got that special blend of professionalism and charisma. He can make you laugh, but you also just want to hit the ground running for him.”
– Tegan Jones, firstname.lastname@example.org
NAME: Alan A. Malinchak
TITLE: Chief Learning Officer
COMPANY: ManTech International Corp.
Learning Philosophy: “I believe lifelong learning is an essential responsibility of every employee, not only to develop themselves but to better the organization. I tenaciously embrace education and training at all levels, and I urge employees to attend college courses, utilize e-learning opportunities and attend seminars and conferences to broaden their perspective, intellect, knowledge, skills and abilities. I lead by example in this pursuit, as I am actively engaged as a Ph.D. candidate in business administration.”