Cerner: Providing a Hub for Learning

» Posted by Jeanne Meister  » Posted on 12.03.07

Published February 2006

In an industry as complex as health-care IT, associate and client training is crucial to a company’s success. Cerner committed itself to investing in learning and development with the launch in 1996 of Cerner Virtual University. Robert Campbell, a learning and development professional who worked for other large firms, was brought in to guide and shape this new learning function. The initial focus of Cerner Virtual University was to address the orientation, cultural and job-specific competency needs of Cerner’s exploding workforce. During the late 1990s, Cerner was doubling its workforce organically every two to three years. In addition to this growth, Cerner was moving outside the scope of internal associate learning and development to meet client learning needs related to Cerner’s software, and in 2005, into pure clinical education, which improved the capabilities of nurses and physicians in core, role-specific competency areas.

Since its inception, Cerner Virtual University has grown in scope and target audience to move from a cost center to contributing more than $17 million a year to Cerner’s top line through learning services offered directly to clients. Over the same time period, Cerner’s number-one challenge was how to optimize the intellectual capital of the firm. The new mantra for Cerner in this space is “What we learn today is used tomorrow.” This means streamlining the creation and distribution of all intellectual capital and moving it rapidly through both formal learning events and knowledge access points (portals, communities, etc.) to the Cerner associates and clients who need it.

The result has been the creation of a new business unit named Cerner KnowledgeWorks, which combines Cerner Virtual University with content creation, distribution and management. In addition to Cerner Virtual University learning professionals, this new business unit has expanded to include business strategists, system implementation professionals, knowledge managers, content specialists and documentation developers. “KnowledgeWorks’ success depends heavily on its ability to align with what matters most to the business and to integrate into core processes, from software development through the successful client implementation of that software,” Campbell said. “The new entity is responsible for the timely creation, maintenance and delivery of intellectual capital and to dramatically improve the human performance of Cerner associates, clients and business partners.”

At the heart of this new organization is Cerner’s one-to-many model for capturing knowledge. Cerner operates on a shared services infrastructure with the goal of capturing, creating and delivering intellectual capital in a myriad of delivery forms to a broad audience of employees, customers and other stakeholders.

“Cerner’s intellectual capital can now be created by Cerner KnowledgeWorks once and then distributed into numerous forms such as a training module, face-to-face instructor-led classes, performance support for the help desk, documentation/publications, mentor training or even a 15-minute Podcast,” said Bill Klco, learning services director. In essence, Cerner KnowledgeWorks becomes the hub for all learning, performance support, documentation and content management for the firm.

The overarching goal of Cerner KnowledgeWorks is to move intellectual capital through the organization faster and to get it to the people who need it when they need it and in a form that is most easily consumed. Cerner has transformed its Virtual University from a catalog of learning programs to a business unit responsible for enabling a much broader mandate encompassing formal learning as well as real-time knowledge support for the company’s associates and clients, with a robust intellectual capital syndication from which many types of learning assets can be created on demand.




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