Here's an idea that could help you in the battle to retain your most promising employees – and get more out of them to boot. Try setting up a company university.
In the USA, every self-respecting corporate giant has its own university, complete with glistening campus, dean and professors, and a range of study programmes tailor-made to suit the company's needs.

Take General Motors University. Its stated aim is "to align the company's training investment with its business needs, and disseminate best practices and core values". The main campus is located at GM's global headquarters in Detroit, but that's just the beginning: satellite campuses are opening up around the world, and the company intranet delivers training to employees' desktops.

The purpose of corporate universities is to enable employees, and outsiders, to share management knowledge and examples of best practice. Most learning still takes place in traditional classrooms, but an American study in 1999 reported 25% of corporate university lessons being delivered over the internet, and predicted the proportion would rise to 40% by 2003.

Corporate universities aren't just for household names. The British government's Small Business Service says they can add value to small firms, and some of the big corporate universities let people from other companies take part in their courses.

In Britain, leaders in the field include two key construction clients: BAA and Anglian Water, who between them spend more than £1bn a year on construction. Anglian Water's University of Water covers subjects such as customer service, negotiating contracts and environmental planning. Themes covered by BAA include personal development, exchanging information on best management practice, and "social bonding".