One of the most common questions I’m asked as Emergn’s Head of Learning Services is what learning management system (LMS) their business should be using. The truth is, there’s no correct answer. And quite frankly, until your learning strategy and goals are clear, it’s not the most important question to ask. Your LMS is simply a tool – a means of delivering content to your learners. If an LMS checks off all your boxes and does a sufficient job of providing your learners with a platform to engage in education it’s likely a worthwhile investment.
But it is important to recognize that an LMS should only be one (minor) component of your learning strategy. An LMS is a tool, not a strategy in and of itself. Failing to realize that could cost your organization critical components of a successful learning program. Relying on an LMS without a clear plan and overarching learning strategy will not yield the results your business needs nor expects.
I often advise learning professionals to imagine this scenario: You’re hosting a dinner party and really want to make a good impression on your guests. So, you go to the grocery store with the freshest and highest quality produce. You walk the aisles and pick out the tastiest ingredients. When you arrive home and unpack the groceries, you realize while the ingredients are great in isolation, you don’t have the right components to cook an entire meal.
The key mistake? You failed to go into the store with a plan. Rather than thinking about what you wanted to cook, finding a recipe, and creating a list with all the necessary ingredients, you got caught up in finding the individual components that looked the best in isolation and failed to deliver the result you wanted when combined.
Just like your misadventure at the grocery store, focusing on individual components of a learning program, like an LMS, without mapping how they can work together to achieve your learning goals will fail to deliver results.
So, if a learning management system is a component of your strategy, I advise you to consider these key questions:
Is the content I’m offering aligned to my business goals?
When it comes to content, sometimes less is more. While an LMS is great at delivering a lot of content at scale, providing employees with too many options for learning can often overwhelm and discourage them from participating. And with the lack of time that learners often cite as a barrier to participation, it’s important that learning programs help employees focus on the content that matters most. By mapping out an individualized learning path, customized to their role, personal goals, and business goals, leaders can help employees get the most out of their time and efforts.
For example, a public speaking course for an employee whose job requires them to work independently and only communicate digitally, may not be the best fit for them. But the employee may enroll in the course because they find it easy, or they’re simply lacking guidance. Leaders must guide learners and assist them in creating a learning pathway that supports their personal development and the business’s goals. I advise leaders to identify the business, team, and personal goals from the outset, assess the content that is needed to support the learning, and lastly leverage the LMS as a tool to deliver the learning experience.
Am I measuring the right things?
While at first glance metrics and reporting may seem like a breeze with an LMS, the built-in reporting capabilities cannot serve as a stand-alone measure of success. Often, an LMS only provides data on course completion, participation, and assessment scores. While these may be important to consider when assessing whether an LMS has been deployed effectively, it is not a true measure of the quality of learning. Instead, I advise leaders to identify the business goals and problems to be solved, and what the indicators of progress toward those goals are.
For example, in the case of a life sciences company, the problem to be solved may be ensuring employees follow industry and company regulations to avoid fines, accidents, and unsafe lab behavior. A typical metric for success may be what I call “check box training,” or simply ensuring each employee participates in the training program. While this metric may be one high-level assessment, it does not measure if the training changed the way employees actually work and behave.
Instead, the company could monitor the number of incident reports generated by those who completed the course and compare that to historical data or data from those who did not participate in the training.
So, when you’re considering a learning management system to aid your learning programs, consider these two key questions. And never go into the grocery store without a plan.
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