Reaching the Modern Learner

At Convergence 2017, Cornerstone OnDemand's annual client and partner conference, I had the privilege of hosting a keynote presentation, Bringing Your Vision to Life: How Altria Made Its Learner-Centric Approach a Reality.

We decided to feature one of our clients, Altria Group Distribution Company (AGDC), because of their decision to make a concerted effort to take a step back and re-imagine their L&D solution by creating a solution that responds to the needs of the modern learner.

Defining The Modern Learner

Bersin by Deloitte analysts introduced the "modern learner" in a research bulletin in 2014, Meet the Modern Learner: Engaging the Overwhelmed, Distracted, and Impatient Employee. According to the research, "today's employees are overwhelmed, distracted, and impatient. Flexibility in where and how they learn is increasingly important. They want to learn from their peers and managers as much as from experts. And they're taking more control over their own development."

meet the modern learner pic

It's been 3 years since Bersin released this report and I've observed that now, more than ever, learners want to collaborate, personalize and align their learning journey with that of their organization. They expect to:

  • Access learning from anywhere
  • Curate content relevant to their success
  • Leverage social sharing to help colleagues
  • Experience intelligent content based on individual needs, interests and learning history

Learners want and need to be at the center of the learning structure. It's time for organizations to give up full control and go from “push” to “pull.” With limitless resources at their fingertips, learners can focus on gaining valuable knowledge instead of searching for the resources they need. It lets organizations be sure that their investments in learning content are used to actually drive performance for the company and help learners improve and develop their skills according to their individual needs.

The AGDC Approach

At AGDC, the paradigm shift to the modern learner started about 2 years ago when the L&D team recognized that the current AGDC University site was being under-utilized. They knew they needed to approach the overhaul by placing the learner at the center. At that point, they partnered with Cornerstone, Tribridge, Bersin and other industry thought leaders to take this journey.

What impressed me about AGDC was their dedication to following a structured four-phased approach to creating a user experience that responded to the needs of its specific learning audience, which is primarily sales representatives

Click here to Enlarge - Four Pillars to Success


To accommodate the modern learner, the AGDC L&D team created the new AGDC University, blending self-directed and social learning options with the traditional formal learning. My team became involved during Phase 3, Build, and Phase 4, Implement. We analyzed the outputs from Phases 1 and 2, and collaborated with AGDC to design and build out a user experience in Cornerstone that was intuitive and engaging.

Making Learning Fun and Competitive

For me, one of the most exciting aspects of this project was the gamification that Tribridge built into the AGDC University. We created a "Fill Your Flame" game. As an employee accumulates training hours, the university flame fills with the colors of Altria's logo, which is a mosaic.


When a learner reaches a certain milestone, he or she receives a Yeti koozie branded with AGDC University, along with a letter of congratulations, in the mail.

On any given day, 25 percent (and growing) of employees engage in the university and spend about 10 minutes each visit. That figure is significantly up from access to the previous site and something the ADGC team is understandably quite proud of.

Learn More

If you'd like to learn the details of AGDC's remarkable journey to creating a learner-centric strategy, you can watch a recording of the Convergence presentation.

Here are a few highlights:

  • More details about AGDC and its mission
  • How a detailed assessment of AGDC learners created seven distinct learning audiences
  • How borrowing strategies from Marketing helped the L&D team understand their users
  • How AGDC reinforced its brand by customizing its LMS Welcome Page
  • How AGDC and Tribridge created a seamless learning experience for users
  • How the L&D team gained leadership buy-in 

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