If you haven’t turned your company into a learning institution, maybe it’s time to take the plunge.

I’m not talking about establishing an MIT or a Harvard Business School on your premises. But if you haven’t yet made learning an integral part of your business process, you’re missing out on a good investment.

Let me explain.

Every business consists of three major elements: a product, a process and a person. Businesses spend gobs of money developing, advertising and selling the products. They spend more money on the buildings and equipment that are vital to their processes. Doesn’t it make sense to invest just as heavily in the human element?

When you spend money on equipment, you expect a payback in the form of longer life, fewer breakdowns, lower operating costs and higher productivity. When you spend money developing your work force, your payback comes in the form of higher productivity, higher quality, greater innovation and more competitiveness in the marketplace.

The Motorola Corporation has estimated that each dollar it spends on educating its employees delivers $30 in productivity in three years. That’s dramatic payback.

I know, I know. You’re running a business, not a university. But it’s possible to have a successful corporate education system under your own roof, using your own personnel. I know because I’ve designed such systems for successful corporations.

A good corporate education system uses an integrated approach to educate the entire organization. Its purpose is to improve the whole individual — the mind as well as the hands. If you do it right, it will break down the adversarial relationship between management and employees and guide them into a mutually beneficial partnership.

Corporate education can help employees to form personal visions that are congruent with the corporate vision so that everyone is working toward the same end. A good corporate education program begins with a question: “Where do I want this company to go?”

Once you’ve answered that question, you devise a plan for developing in your people the qualities and attitudes that will take you there. You should look upon your education program as a continuum and not as a series of one-time efforts. Devise and follow a clear plan for moving from Point A to Point B efficiently and profitably.

In recent years, America’s pace-setting corporations have spent at least 3.2 percent of their total payroll on continuing education and development. Some have spent significantly more, because they know they can’t invest in anything more valuable than the people who work for the company.