Leadership Funnels at Cerner

Cerner’s leadership development framework is designed to empower organizations across the company to systematically identify and grow prospective leaders.

By Margery Weinstein

Critical to Cerner Corporation’s success, the company says, is the way it creates a culture of leadership and builds a company of leaders. To ensure Cerner generates a pool of talented leaders, the company designed a framework to define its overall strategy for leadership development. Its goal in creating this model is to empower organizations across Cerner to systematically identify and grow prospective leaders. Additionally, Cerner aims to decrease turnover and increase its internal promotions vs. external hire ratio.

Cerner’s leadership framework has several parts:

  • Individuals express interest in leadership and/or are identified by existing leaders within their organizations. The funnels represent the different levels of leadership at Cerner.
  • Aspiring Leader Funnel: Organizations are expected to identify leadership potential early in an individual’s career. Those identified exhibit Cerner attributes and exceed expectations in their individual contributor roles. Once identified, aspiring leaders are assessed and moved quickly into the developing leader funnel, where they are eligible for more formal leadership development opportunities. Additionally, associates can self-select themselves for this funnel.
  • Developing Leaders Funnel: Those moved to the development leader funnel are given both Cerner and organization-specific leadership development opportunities. Leaders begin to fully emerge from this funnel and are selected to become successors for both corporate and thought leadership roles.
  • Green Funnels: Leaders continue to progress through the green funnels and are supported by a formal succession management process and individualized development plans.
  • Executive Development Program (EDP): A small percentage of internal associates are identified as individuals who are capable of leading large Cerner initiatives within 12 to 24 months. As they move through the green funnels, they are exposed to projects, mentors, and development opportunities that prepare them for large challenges. 

Leadership expectations are clear and consistent, Cerner says, as it has adopted a comprehensive, organization-driven approach toward leadership development that fits within the company’s culture. Expectations and formal/informal leadership development opportunities are articulated in each of Cerner’s three collaborative online leadership portals:

  1. uAspire (associates who want to be managers)
  2. uManage (associates who have direct reports)
  3. uLead (associates who want to be executives).

These three uCern portals have high adoption rates with the associates eligible to join them. Specifically, uManage has 96 percent participation of all Cerner managers.

Throughout the leadership development process, the company says it ensures its leadership supply aligns with business need (right leader, right time) to keep its candidate pipeline robust and diverse.

HAVE INPUT OR TIPS on this topic? If so, send them our way in an e-mail to lorri@trainingmag.com with the subject line “Cerner,” and we’ll try to include your advice in an upcoming edition of the Training Top 125 Best Practices/Executive Exchange e-newsletter.


Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.