Case studies

Case study: Cerner transforms learning to revolutionize healthcare IT

Disrupting healthcare IT starts with disrupting the way people learn

If there’s any industry that’s behind the digital curve, it’s healthcare.

Cerner got its start more than 35 years ago when its founders saw an opportunity to break down the silos that prevented the free flow of patient information from one physician to the next. It seems intuitive today, but at the time, the idea marked a revolutionary shift. 

As both technology and healthcare continue to evolve, new problems and opportunities emerge.  To continue its track record of innovation, Cerner’s learning approaches must evolve to keep up with business demand.    

“Supporting a technical space, the rate of change is phenomenal,” says Cerner learning strategist Brandy Poiry. “The training that they needed yesterday is not helping today.” 

Working collaboratively with experts across the organization, Brandy’s small team supports learning and development for Cerner’s approximately 8,000 technologists. Until recently, her team spent most of their time creating training materials in-house. Unfortunately, that often meant pulling internal subject matter experts off current projects to develop those classes. Add in a distributed global workforce, rapidly evolving technology, and challenges scaling up to match rapid company growth, and it was clear that yesterday’s answer to training needed to be exchanged for a new one.  

“We needed to focus less on getting out the courses and focus more on enabling our organization to solve big problems,” Brandy says. “We were thinking about the upcoming challenges we were going to see from a business perspective. Training for those was more than we could tackle with internal development, and one-off outside training was going to be excessively expensive.”

Decreasing drain, increasing productivity

A good training platform does more than help associates develop skills. It also needs to be able to do it efficiently. Associates were always looking for ways to build skills, but it often involved hours lost to internet searches or sitting in a classroom. 

“Associates would learn by doing their own research and learning from each other,” Brandy says. “That process isn’t very effective or scalable, and it’s definitely a drain in certain areas.” 

With on-demand training from Pluralsight, associates won’t lose time waiting for classes or searching through Stack Overflow to vet information. “With Pluralsight, they won’t have to wait for a class to come around so they can ramp up on something,” Brandy says. “They can do it right then and there.”  


Investing in a platform that empowers

Cerner started searching for alternatives. They piloted solutions such as Skillsoft and Lynda, but they lacked the technical depth Cerner needed for this audience. Then they found Pluralsight. 

Teams within Cerner had used Pluralsight before to meet specific team requirements, and reviews were positive. As Cerner considered different training options for its broader workforce, Pluralsight was the clear favorite—preferred by more than 90% of pilot participants. “I think that as a platform, our people feel more at home with Pluralsight,” Brandy says. “One quote in some of our survey feedback was, ‘It doesn’t feel like someone in a suit is telling me to go take training,’ which we think is a plus.”

Eric Geis, vice president of IP Development, has also seen a positive response to Cerner’s choice of Pluralsight. “It’s been wonderful to tell all the associates about the investment and see the excitement on their faces. They’re excited to get a tool to help them learn continually.”  


What made Pluralsight stand out from the other options? It offers a learning platform that helps Cerner do three key things: develop and retain talent, increase adaptability and improve operational efficiency.

“To me, it was a no-brainer,” Eric says. “When you weigh the content that you get, how many things we could use it for and the number of people that could use it, it was well worth the investment.” Investment is a key word here. Cerner knows that helping associates build their skills ultimately positions them to deliver more value to clients. 

Laura Evans, senior director of Cerner’s Associate Learning and Development organization, sees the broader potential of the learning shift Pluralsight represents. “We’re excited about the Pluralsight platform for lots of reasons, not least of which is the quick ROI to the business from having relevant, timely learning available at scale. We want associates to be empowered and motivated to continually grow their capabilities, and Pluralsight enables that.”   

Making a true investment in people—from onboarding to every day

Like many other fast-growing companies, Cerner hires hundreds of recent college graduates every year. As they join the company, managers use Pluralsight to customize every new hire’s learning program by first measuring their skill levels with assessments.

Brandy hopes the assessments will aid associate placement and progression. “Our hope is that it will give us a little more insight into where they’ll be a good fit,” she says. “We’ll be able to see where they’re strong and where they’re not, so we can provide specific training and coaching to help move them further down the path.”

This personalized approach shows associates that the organization is invested in helping them develop. That makes them more likely to stick around—no small achievement in the competitive tech industry. “There are a lot of opportunities out there,” Eric says. “So I think the more we can invest in our associates by giving them better tools, the better we will be able to attract and retain them.”

“Learning opportunities are really important, especially to our technical associates,” Brandy says. “It’s something that we see year after year in our associate satisfaction survey data.”

An eye toward the future

In addition to helping build individual skills, Pluralsight offers tools to help predict and meet emerging needs. The channels feature allows users to group, organize and share specific content for specific initiatives, such as security and quality.

Analytics shows which courses and topics are trending across the company. “We believe Pluralsight will give us visibility to technologies our associates are interested in and what tools our associates are exploring, so that we can stay ahead of it,” Brandy says.   

Eric notes that balancing present demands while keeping an eye toward the future is part of the company’s culture. “The thing we’ve done very well as a company is focusing on what we need to deliver now for our clients while also investing in what we need to be doing five years from now,” he says.

Creating the future of Cerner

Based on early feedback, Cerner is optimistic about the future impact of the Pluralsight investment. 

“Our solutions are currently used in over 35 different countries, and we’re growing into new markets,” Eric says. “We have to keep up with the requirements of those markets and make sure we’re delivering what we need to meet our clients’ needs.”

For Brandy, her small team now feels a whole lot bigger: “I don’t think that I could achieve everything that I need to achieve over the next three years without Pluralsight.”

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