Skip to main content

Capability Academies and Maximizing Business Goal Achievement

What is a Capability Academy?

Corporate universities are yesterday’s approach to training and education. Capability academies are the training approach that will appeal to many CEOs, as they do the most to drive business performance.

There are several key attributes:

  • Capability academies are an architected collection of learning programs, content, performance support tools, and credentials based on a functional area of a company.
  • They focus on one key area or one major business goal. For example, if your company strategy includes increasing your average gross margin, stockturn, availability on the shelf or similar metrics, then create a Buying and Merchandising Capability Academy. If a key goal is to improve aspects of Store Operations, Customer Service or Omni-channel success, create a capability academy for store operations and omni-channel skills.
  • Capability academies include the training content targeted to educate your teams to improve the metrics and processes appropriate to your business plan or business goals. The good ones focus on education and employee performance support. Unlike corporate universities, the investment in capability academies is more directly measurable. The Board and the CEO can more easily see the return on their investment.
  • Content should be created or sourced for the specific job roles covered by the adademy.
  • Content should be structured to provide any job role with a complete curriculum necessary to fulfil that role. Employees can be guided individually to which content in a curriculum to study, while being given credit for experience developed in previous roles or employers.
  • Learners should get recognition for achievements in completing individual classes using incentives like certificates of achievement, digital badges, leaderboards, award presentations and the like. 
  • Academies differ significantly from corporate universities because they are not populated with large numbers of training classes covering every subject you might ever want to train people on. They have a very well-defined focus and measurable objectives. They are often supported by mentors and coaches from the relevant line of business, or sometimes external coaches, who can help learners achieve optimum results for themselves and their companies.
  • Capability academies are therefore smaller, cost less and companies already on this particular journey often have several academies, each focused on a specific subject and goal area.
  • With this approach, you do not have to boil the ocean. You can start with one capability academy, say addressing supply chain, as that’s the number one issue for many retailers today, and add others as priorities and budgets permit, and company priorities change.

Let’s Take An Example

In this case, we will use a large technology vendor, who sells to retailers and consumer goods companies using a horizontal sales force and determines that they could do much better by having industry specific teams skilled in each sector. Now the goals are fairly easy to define as they are based on the company business plan goals, so they will include things like:

  • Achieving specific sales growth targets over several years.
  • Gaining market share in key areas.
  • Winning a certain number of new name accounts, etc.

The company can then define the key capabilities needed to achieve these goals. These will include such things as:

  • Being able to analyze a target account’s financial reports over time, identifying trends of concern, key performance indicators not keeping up with competitors, etc.
  • Desk researching the company.
  • Analyzing the research to identify possible business situations where the technology company can supply solutions to address these problems.
  • Researching the target company’s organization structure to know who to approach to explore these issues, etc.
  • Providing insights into the target company, some of which they may not have identified themselves.
  • Structuring and executing the right approach to the organization.

These capabilities will be defined by role in the organization. Account managers will need one set of capabilities.  Marketing will need some of the same ones and others too. Sales Enablement will need deeper skills than the account managers as a generalization, so they can fulfil their role of supporting and developing the sales people. Delivery professionals will need deep process knowledge in areas like omni-channel retailing in order to advise clients and help develop solutions.

Some capabilities will apply to multiple job roles, but the depth of skill needed will get deeper as people get more senior. 

Once the capabilities are defined, you can define the scope of content the capability academy needs to fulfil its mission of developing the people skills accordingly. This is a much more limited set of capabilities than is usually associated with a typical corporate university, which often licences training libraries from content aggregators, who can have as many as 60,000 courses in their portfolio.

They use these libraries to supplement their in-house developed classes or other third party classes they also licence. Course libraries often offer mutiple overlapping courses on the same subject, each slightly different.  What they don't offer is a structured curriculum for a job role. 

This is why capability academies are more effective and more economic.

Also, because it all starts with business objectives, it is easy to measure achievement and be sure that the learning and development team is developing the results the company needs and that it is achieving a targeted return on the investment made.

Of course, other metrics should also be tracked, such as the change in annual staff churn as the academy ramps up its progress.

Some suppliers of capability academy training classes can provide the off the shelf training classes, that deliver all the base knowledge that employees need. In some cases they will supply added value services to help clients ensure their employees’ mastery of key skills and acceptable retention levels of key knowledge. The better ones will also supply performance support tools specific to the processes in the relevant industry sector as well as immediate ad hoc access to knowledge bases to help employees refresh their memories instantly when they need to, or to provide just in time knowledge in key situations. Companies like Martec do this as routine.

Generally, clients have management structures, marketing, sales enablement teams and experienced project and departmental managers, who can provide the mentoring and coaching to reinforce success.

Where coaches add value over the training and performance support tools is that they ask individuals stimulating questions to make them think more clearly. They help the individual develop their own action plan to solve a problem or meet a need, they offer them tools or remind them of existing tools already available and offer encouragement. Their success is getting individuals to the point where they can more often solve their problems or develop good plans to solve them themselves.

This coaching is a key success criteria for companies who go down this path.

Benefits of The Capability Academies Approach to Companies and Their Employees


This approach to delivering training has a number of benefits to employers:

  • The investment made is directly related to the achievement of the company''s business goals and objectives.
  • The supply of training classes, other content, performance support tools, instant access to job role related information and the like is more focused and consequently more economic.
  • Companies project a much better image to their employees.
  • New recruits into a company can see immediately how their own careers can be progressed and this helps reduce staff turnover and associated costs.


Some of the same points above apply equally to employees:

  • They can see what skills and knowledge they need to master to maximize their personal success in a given role, and can take pride in their mastering of these skills as they are achieved
  • Having mastered one curriculum or learning path, those most motivated can start studying the next learning path in their own at home or at work in lunch breaks etc., thereby increasing their opportunity to be considered for promotion. Not everyone will want to do this, but the more motivated and ambitious ones will. Employees doing this in their own time is an important signal to the line of business management and the Human Resources team.
  • The recognition employees can receive will be another important motivating factor in the success of a capability academy investment.

How to Get Started

There are a series of steps to get started:

  • Talk to business leaders to identify your company’s number one priority – or start by reading the company business plan if you have access to one.
  • Agree with senior executives that this is a top priority to support the business plan achievement. We gave one example for a technology vendor above. As another example in a retail business, let’s assume that the priority is to address performance challenges in buying and merchandising.
  • Agree the program goals and success metrics.
  • Create a diagram or map of all the career paths in buying and merchandising starting with induction of new employees to the company all the way up to senior management positions. If you want to see an example to get the idea, go to
  • Then for each job role, take the job description if you have it and, if not, identify the key skills and knowledge that individuals in that job role need to achieve the company goals, or at least make their contribution to them, depending on their seniority.
  • Use this knowledge to create individual learning paths for each role. You can see an example by clicking on any person icon in the example career paths map at the link above or go straight to this one.
  • These examples are generic to many retailers, but you can create the variants you need to get the most perfect match you can.
  • As well as retail, we also cover consumer goods manufacturing and as we said earlier, companies that sell products or services to retailers and consumer goods companies, including technology companies, consultants, accountants and third party logistics firms.
  • When using our learning paths or adjusting them as necessary, you will need to include work experience opportunities in your own company and possibly project assignments to achieve the full capability vision. If you can also provide internal coaching, that will increase your success level still further. Your line of business sponsor should be willing to provide this level of assistance from within the resources he or she controls.
  • Decide whether you want to run this academy on an in-house learning management system if you have one, or whether you should use a third party cloud service like Martec's. Even if your long term preference is to run it in-house, you may prefer to start more simply using a third party. This may avoid the need to spend extra money on system software to support a proof of concept.
  • Build a digital badging program designed to suit your key business goals into the project.
  • If you want help with any of this, feel free to contact us for no obligation discussions and we’ll be pleased to respond.

How Does Martec Help?

If you are a technology vendor, consultancy, accountancy or third party logistics company, we can provide a very large share of the capability academy content you will need to deliver greater success in either retailing or consumer goods manufacturing. This includes classes, ad hoc immediate access to key knowledge and performance support tools. We can customize this content to suit specific needs and we can host the capability academy on our LMS, for those that do not have one, or wish to jump start their investment. We can also host your in-house or other third party developed content to make your academy specific to you, even as far as using your branding.

Our digital badging program will help you achieve your business goals and if you add custom content, we can add additional elements to our program specifically to support you.

Image of people studying in a capability academy program

We have a comprehensive ROI model which you can use, or we can use for you, to help you plan your capability academy investment using a rigorous financial methodology, which will stand detailed scrutiny by your Chief Financial Officer. You can use this the in the planning stage to get support for the investment.

You can also use it after to go live to track progress against key business metrics, identify any issues that need addressing to ensure success, and drill down on the root causes of any problem area to develop remediation plans to get back on track.

You will also have the benefit of our customer service package that offers unique benefits that other companies do not in addition to all the industry standard benefits.  Learn more about what makes Martec unique.

For retailers, we can also support a Buying and Merchandising Capability Academy now in the same way as described above. Our Store Operations Academy is in development and key parts of it are already available. It will be completed progessively this calendar year.

Remember, you don’t need to build it all at once. You can start small, focused on one or a few job roles and build out from there.

We can support you with classes to build initial knowledge and skills, micro-learning in the flow of work once your team has enough base knowledge, and with performance support tools to help people perform their roles better after they are trained.

If you have a corporate university already, you can even use our cloud-based Learning Management System to pilot your first capability academy, before deciding whether to take it in house or leave it with us. And if you use other companies’ content, which conforms to industry technical standards, we can host that for you too, so your pilot can reflect your specific situation.

If you would like to see examples of our products in action, discuss our services in more depth or just get pointers on how to move forward contact us, or call us directly in the UK or via our US phone number.

We can offer demonstrations of any of our products including our ROI model and provide test drive access so you can verify that we really can meet your needs.

If you are not ready for the complete journey, you can protect your new L&D investments by adopting parts of the capability academy approach now and add to it as the company develops its business planning approach.

When it comes to retailing and the consumer goods sector, we are the experts.