What is LMS and how can it benefit your company

Your business success depends on the skills and knowledge of your workforce. If you agree with that statement then you understand the value of training and development for your employees and appreciate the value of an LMS, or learning management system.

If you’re looking at learning management software, the following information covers the key issues, including:

  • What is LMS? 
  • Key LMS features
  • How much does LMS cost? 
  • Recommended vendors

What is LMS?

An LMS automates the delivery and tracking of learning activities, promoting career development, and ensuring any necessary regulatory compliance.

Gone are the days of all new skills being provided as face-to-face courses. Modern workplace training consists of a range of delivery options: e-learning, m-learning, just-in-time, bite-sized downloads, and so on – many not even requiring the learner to leave their desk or workstation. What’s more, as the world (and organizations) has become more complicated, the variety of training needs has proliferated.

Check out our exclusive HRMS features guide to find other essential features to add to your HR software requirements

The result is a complex administrative job: matching learning solutions to individual learning needs, managing development plans, organizing events, evaluating how new knowledge is 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.

Key LMS features

LMS modules offer varying levels of functionality. The following key features should 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 nominations, 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.
  • 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-course preparation, or a gentle bump about post-course 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 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 sharing 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 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.

How much does performance management software cost?

As with most other HR technology solutions, LMS costs are broadly dependent on two factors: 1) if 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 operational expenditure and not a capital cost. This can make a significant difference to your internal budgets.

Use our comprehensive HRMS pricing guide to find out how much HR software really costs

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.

Recommended vendors

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.
  • 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 and boasting mobile access plus gamification tools, eSSential can be deployed either on-premises or in the cloud.


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Dave Foxall

About the author…

Dave has worked as HR Manager for the Ministry of Justice for a number of years, he now writes on a broad range of topics including jazz music, and, of course, the HRMS software market.

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Dave Foxall

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