Guiding employee-owners from hire to retire.

Border States uses Adobe Learning Manager to enhance employee-owner engagement with required trainings and offers dynamic courses aimed to improve skills at every career stage.





2,400 nationwide

Fargo, North Dakota


Completion rates for required training, up from 40%


Adobe Learning Manager ›

Use Case: Employee Reskilling

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Increase the percentage of employee-owners completing required trainings.

Standardize required trainings while expanding customized course content.

Upload and publish content faster.

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Standardized required trainings and made trainings available via mobile app.

Increased content volumes to 350 courses and between 700–1,000 training modules.

Enables subject matter experts to upload their own content for admin review.

Employee-owner learning from hire to retire

The words “required training” do not fill many employees with excitement. They look at their schedules, wondering how they will attend in-person sessions, or they imagine spending hours reviewing material on outdated online training modules — potentially on their own time, if they don’t have work computers. Companies are challenged to give employees the knowledge they need to understand the business, perform their jobs, stay safe and deliver quality customer service. For employee-owned companies, where all team members are accountable for every aspect of success, getting employee-owners to complete training is especially important.

It’s an opportunity that Border States, one of the largest employee-owned companies in the country, understands well. A wholesale distributor that provides products and services to construction, industrial and utility markets, Border States has approximately 2,400 employee-owners. Since its founding in 1952, employee-owner passion has helped Border States expand across 22 states. The company is Electrical Wholesaling magazine’s seventh largest independent electrical distributor in the United States.

Building on this success means giving every employee-owner the skills to excel throughout their careers. Border States provides training in three key areas: business-related initiatives, such as sales enablement, products and safety; technology, including SAP Inventory Management and Microsoft business tools; and professional skills in leadership, job competency and soft skills.

Until recently, they relied primarily on a classroom training model that offered a personal experience, but it didn’t always fit the schedules of some employee-owners. Though it had an online learning management system (LMS), it was prone to technical issues and delays that made the learning experience frustrating. Required trainings, like onboarding, had only 40% completion rates.

In its search for a new LMS, the company looked at a variety of solutions, including Adobe Learning Manager. Many solutions lacked the robust analytic and publishing capacities Border States wanted, and other potential solutions would take nearly 12 months to implement. Adobe Learning Manager offered an out-of-the-box platform ready to create responsive, personalized learner experiences — and it could launch in just 12 weeks.

“Adobe Learning Manager has the best features to help employee-owners develop from the moment they’re hired until they retire,” says Sara Madsen, Border States Instructional Designer — Learning and Development. “With Adobe Learning Manager, we can offer standardized trainings to thousands of people along with refined training for each unique job and skill level content with equal ease.”

Only a few months after selecting Adobe Learning Manager, Border States launched the solution — first to its managers and supervisors through online training modules before it went live to the entire company.

Inspired learners complete courses at their own pace

Phase one of Border States Adobe Learning Manager launch — focused on standardizing the onboarding process, promoting safety trainings and offering more job skills training — occurred as many branches moved operations remote due to COVID-19; however, some employee-owners stayed on active job sites without access to personal work computers. Fortunately, Adobe Learning Manager is easy to use across multiple platforms, helping the four-person Learning and Development team better engage workers wherever they are working.

With the Adobe Learning Manager app, employees can download course materials to access them offline. The app also synchs an individual learner’s progress when they return online, allowing someone to continue training uninterrupted. As the Learning and Development team tracked the uptick in employee-owners using the mobile app, it saw the best content options can be easier to view at a learner’s own pace — even if that pace is on the go. To make it easier for learners, approximately 70% of general course content is video-oriented, and 30% involves interactive elements and quizzes.

In the first six months, onboarding training completion went from 40% to 85%, driven by new employee-owners. Other mandatory trainings for Customer Service Representatives, such as shipping and handling UPS and freight parcels, reached 75% compliance. Since Adobe Learning Manager provides a single platform to share content at a large scale, the Learning and Development team has celebrated that dispersed employee-owners at 99 branch locations are receiving the same onboarding experience.

“Adobe Learning Manager is so easy to use that even employee-owners who were resistant to training because of their busy schedules feel like learning isn’t a challenge. Instead, it’s become a more enjoyable, self-directed experience that adds value to their careers and our business,” says Madsen.

Bringing new teachers to the digital classroom

Engagement surveys from before Border States adopted Adobe Learning Manager showed that employee-owners wanted job skill trainings that help them advance within the organization from day one. There is arguably no better teacher than someone who’s already mastered a particular skill, so Border States invited subject matter experts from all departments to contribute content.

Using the author function in Adobe Learning Manager, these experts can record their own MP4 videos and write course descriptions before sending them to the Learning and Development team for review. Sometimes, an expert video will be ready to share right away; however, the Adobe Learning Manager integration with Articulate, a course authoring software, allows the team to collaborate with the expert to revise or reimagine the content as interactive exercises before publishing.

“Right now, we have six generations in the workforce, and they offer that first-person knowledge you can’t find elsewhere,” says Madsen. “Adobe Learning Manager lets us shape and share their insights to provide the personalized attention you would get in a small classroom at a scale reaching thousands of employee-owners.”

Empowering subject matter experts to develop training materials, along with the ability to incorporate some of its third-party safety trainings directly into Adobe Learning Manager, has expedited the time it takes for the Learning and Development team to upload and publish a course. Though the team has accomplished a lot with four people, the automation within Adobe Learning Manager helps it stay on pace with the company-wide demand for trainings. With the previous LMS, the team had to send course materials via email and wait at least two days for it to upload. Adobe Learning Manager helps ensure that trainings are available instantly, enabling the Learning and Development team to upload 30 courses a month.

In only the first few months, Border States published 70 courses. Only six months later, it had published 350 courses with between 700–1,000 individual training modules. Best of all, about 70% of learners have already completed at least one course.

The Learning and Development team’s efforts to make more trainings available occurs in tandem with the company’s plans for quarterly in-person or virtual trainings — aspiring to provide employee-owners with the knowledge they need in the way that suits them best.

“With Adobe Learning Manager, we can offer standardized trainings to thousands of people along with refined training for each unique job and skill level content with equal ease.”

Sara Madsen

Border States Instructional Designer — Learning and Development

Upping the fun factor in online learning

Though Border States has moved between 80%–90% of its trainings online, as social distancing restrictions ease and offices reopen, the company plans to resume more in-person trainings. Moving to a 50-50 hybrid model will allow employee-owners to enjoy in-person camaraderie while still learning at their own pace online within Adobe Learning Manager.

The Learning and Development team is especially excited about phase two of their Adobe Learning Manager launch, with its emphasis on building and buying more unique content and implementing gamification and social learning. Gamification features, like badges for training completions, personal learner home pages and the Adobe Learning Manager leaderboard — which showcases the ranking scores of top learners — can make training feel like spending the afternoon with a favorite video game.

With the leaderboard, learners can start friendly competitions within departments, teams and across branch locations to drive training completions. The deep institutional knowledge among employee-owners is prompting interest in using Adobe Learning Manager social learning, allowing users to follow and post on skill-based discussion boards.

As it considers an internal marketing push to promote these features, Border States is also using Adobe Learning Manager to expand certifications in safety and ethics, giving employee-owners solid foundations to advance in the organization.

Learning to use Adobe Learning Manager internally will eventually lead the company to provide training to their customers, like large utility or construction companies who might need help curating large-scale employee trainings.

“Adobe Learning Manager has the potential to help us deepen our service offerings,” says Madsen. “And it’s already helping us develop our most important customer service resource, highly trained employees-owners who are excited about every stage of their careers.”

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