A Beginner's Guide to HRMS Learning Management
Ultimately, the success of your business relies on the application of skills and knowledge by your workforce. If you agree with that statement then you understand the value of training and development for your employees and are likely to appreciate the value of a learning management system, or LMS. (Incidentally, if you have employees and you don’t agree with that statement, then what are they for?)
If you’re considering learning management software, the following guide covers the key issues, including:
What is an LMS?
An LMS automates the delivery and tracking of learning activities, encourages skills and career development, and ensures any necessary regulatory compliance.
Long before the COVID-19 pandemic, face-to-face training courses had ceased to be the primary form of skills and knowledge in the workplace. The twenty-first century has seen the modern workplace embrace a variety of training delivery options: e-learning, m-learning, just-in-time, bite-sized downloads, coaching, blended learning, and so on – many not even requiring the learner to leave their desk or workstation.
This proliferation of options has been in direct response to the variety of training needs in a complicated world. The pandemic, with the consequent wide adoption of home and remote working, forced most employers to move even further away from the ‘classroom’ style of knowledge acquisition.
The result is that managing your organization’s learning activities is a complex administrative job: matching learning solutions to individual learning needs, managing development plans, organizing access and events, evaluating how new knowledge and skills are applied to the benefit of the business… and so on. The logical response is to automate the process as much as possible, and that’s where an LMS comes in.
LMS modules offer varying levels of functionality. The following key features are likely to be the minimum for most organizations:
- Administration – before anybody learns anything, there is administration: training nominations, course management, updating materials, and ensuring compliance (SCORM, AICC, etc.). An LMS will handle all this for you, processing requests, sending out notifications (to both the learner and their manager), dealing with cancellations, engaging with trainers and instructors, and of course, reporting on everything.
- Training ‘directory’ – before they can choose the right option for their needs, learners need to know what’s available and your LMS should include a full catalog of options, easily accessible and providing all necessary information, including who and what each learning solution is suitable for (linking to your performance management system and any competency framework you may have in place).
- Self-service – employees should each have access to their own learning records and be able to link them to career plans and future aspirations. Not only does this give the individual some control and input, but it also boosts employee engagement through their involvement. What’s more, you’re giving responsibility for accurate recordkeeping to the person or people best placed to know what accurate is!
- Automatic reminders – as with any lengthy, multi-stage process, it’s easy for people (both learners and managers) to forget their tasks and milestones. After all, they are busy doing their job today as well as learning to do the job of tomorrow. Whether it’s chasing up pre-learning preparation, or a gentle bump about post-learning evaluation questionnaires, an LMS should remind participants when they need to take action.
- Professional qualifications – many roles require or benefit from professional certifications and/or continuing professional development. Ideally, your LMS will track such roles and prompt the necessary activity, including reminders of the imminent expiry of certificates and licenses.
- Evaluation – any learning professional will tell you that most training activity is wasted without evaluation. As with any other investment, you need to measure and determine your return. An LMS will not only prompt necessary action but can also process and report on the resulting information, linking it to KPIs and team/departmental targets.
- Employee collaboration – an LMS should connect individual employees. After all, mentoring and coaching account for a significant amount of business learning, and an LMS should promote and enable knowledge transfer and crowdsourcing as an option.
- Make it mobile – finally, given the flexible nature of the modern workforce, more learning than ever is carried out via mobile devices. The ideal LMS is compatible and optimized for a variety of devices and accessible via an online portal.
With an LMS, extra benefits come from an integration with the rest of your HR systems. Many of the above features (for example, professional qualifications and evaluation) benefit from or depend on linkages to the data commonly stored in an HRMS. An isolated LMS is often little more than a glorified automatic booking system.
So much for the key features that you should expect in any LMS (in some form or other). If you or your workforce are looking to get a little more sophisticated, you might want to explore the following, more advanced features…
- Social learning – these days, learning is about more than formal, structured options. Social learning adepts say that around 20% of our learning comes from interactions with peers and colleagues. Some LMSs enable you to leverage online platforms and content to enable your people to network, share, collaborate, and exchange problem-solving ideas.
- AI-enabled learning paths – in the same way as Amazon and Netflix et al. can learn your viewing preferences and make tailored recommendations, an AI-enabled LMS can do the same with learning options for your employees.
- Gamification – imagine learning was fun – your employees are acquiring the skills and knowledge they need to perform and they’re actually enjoying the process. Arguably, this kind of learning is the most effective and long-lasting. Some LMSs will incorporate game elements, such as points, badges, leaderboards, contests, and rewards to increase learning engagement.
- Chatbots – also sometimes referred to as ‘virtual coaches’, these AI-driven interface tools are capable of basic conversations with learners, helping guide them through the system to the learning solutions they need.
Hopefully, by now the benefits and advantages of using an LMS are becoming obvious. Just to spell them out clearly…
- One-stop shop – you have all your learning content accessible via a single portal, simplifying things greatly for employees and their managers. Similarly, all your learning data and records are centralized (often securely in the cloud).
- Reduced learning and development costs – this is especially true if you’re currently working with a more face-to-face training model, cutting down on trainer/instructor time and travel, plus the cost of printed materials. Likewise, an LMS should offer enhanced administration of learning while simultaneously reducing the administrative overhead.
- Compliance – an LMS makes updating learning content much simpler and easier, ensuring compliance where necessary with changing legislation or regulations. Similarly, any changes to your internal company policies, guidelines, competencies, and other frameworks that impact the learning you provide can be efficiently incorporated.
- Retention – having recruited your talent, an efficient LMS can help you keep it. A common reason people leave a position is a lack of learning and development opportunities.
- Employee engagement – gone are the days of managers ‘sending staff on training courses’; with a robust LMS, individual employees have much more control over their own development. Within the organizational context, learning can be self-directed, covering not only what is essential for a specific role or set of responsibilities but also an individual’s interests.
- Succession planning – an LMS gives you an in-depth picture of the skills and knowledge within the organization. Linked to competence frameworks and/or responsibilities and functions, this can be used in succession planning for specific key roles. Reporting functions allow you to identify potential and nurture it to ensure that such roles are not left empty.
As with most other HR technology solutions, LMS costs are broadly dependent on two factors: 1) is the system in the cloud or on-premises, and; 2) is it part of a wider HRMS package or a standalone module?
The cloud offers obvious benefits with its ‘pay as you go’ subscription model of payment: no software license fees and no ongoing investment in hardware. What’s more, in accounting terms, a cloud subscription is usually classed as an operational expenditure and not a capital cost. This can make a significant difference to your internal budgets.
A standalone LMS module is undoubtedly cheaper than a full HRMS but if you break down the costs by function, the LMS portion of an HRMS probably comes in below the standalone cost. Though, of course, a standalone module offers the possibility of best-of-breed functionality and if your organization has particularly unique learning management needs, that may be the way to go.
Though your requirements will, of course, vary, the following is a short list of well-established vendors of learning management software options:
- Cornerstone LMS – created by Cornerstone OnDemand and incorporating mobile access, support for social learning, and streamlined processes, this module is part of Cornerstone’s fully compatible range of people-focused software.
- Docebo – billed as, “The Learning Management System You’ll Love to Use”, Docebo offers access to online courses (including support for multiple formats such as xAPI, SCORM, and AICC), facilitates coaching, and competency mapping.
- SAP Litmos – a cloud platform that combines pre-packaged learning options with your content management system. A standalone option that claims to connect easily to your other business systems.
- Saba – another cloud-based option, providing learning management combined with talent management features such as performance management, goal tracking, succession planning, and even recruitment.
- eSSential LMS – designed for large and medium-sized organizations by eLogic Learning, and boasting mobile access plus gamification tools, eSSential can be deployed either on-premises or in the cloud.
- Moodle – claiming to be “the world’s most popular learning management system”, Moodle is a free, open-source, global cloud platform used by some impressive names, including Shell, London School of Economics, and State University of New York.
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