A step by step guide to choosing the best LMS for your needs
How many times have you walked into a store with something specific in mind only to get home and realize that you blew your budget and now are the proud owner of 10 items that you didnt need? Over the years, various LMS systems have tried to be all things to all people; the more bells and whistles the better. With all these added features, choosing your LMS can be overwhelming and confusing which can lead to the above example.
According to a survey conducted by The eLearning Guild, nearly one-third of respondents said they were not satisfied with the LMS product they were using. There could be a variety of reasons for this but one thing is for certain, in order for a successful outcome to happen, a company must know what is most important to them and make sure the LMS performs those requirements well.
This short guide will help clarify how to choose the best learning management system software and avoid the exhaustive and costly mistake of selecting an LMS that is poorly matched to your company needs.
The Wrong LMS Wastes Time and Money
The investment of time and money that organizations make in learning management systems is significant and lets face it, nobody likes to lose time or money.
With over 600+ LMSs on the market, it can be quite daunting to choose the right LMS let alone face the consequences that can set you back months or even years in missed learning opportunities.
Having a well thought out plan ahead of time when considering an LMS is a sure way to avoid buyers remorse. It also is a great way to position yourself for optimal success when choosing a learning management system software.
Choosing the Right LMS
In 2004, American psychologist Barry Schwartz published a book called The Paradox of Choice Why More is Less. It argued that by eliminating the amount of consumer choices will greatly reduce anxiety for shoppers. The following guidelines will set a path for success by eliminating the LMS playing field from 600 to 1. The LMS that best fits your needs and goals.
One of the most important parts of the entire LMS selection process is in preparation. This is the time to really focus on the details.
- Choosing an LMS is not a one person job. Its important to create a team made up of a variety of departments in your company. These folks will be using the LMS in different ways and their feedback is critical. The features an information technology person deem important may be quite different then the HR perspective, right?
- Do you have a leader? This person needs to drive the team, an LMS champion. They should be well versed in your company s learning needs, has the backing of management and controls the budget. They should also be able to bridge the various needs of the LMS team and come to a consensus.
- Who will be using the LMS? Its important to define your customers and the ways in which theyll be utilizing the LMS. Come up with a variety of scenarios or initiatives with the customers in mind. Map out exactly what needs to be done and what tools are needed to implement the initiative. One example would be onboarding. If you know that in the next year that your company will be hiring a lot more staff and/or expect changes in user information, it will be particularly useful to have real-time integration features with your selected LMS.
- Make a priority list. Your team of decision makers will be a big help in narrowing down the list. Think about what your company goals are as well as some big projects coming up. Tough decisions will need to be made as needs will not be the same across the organization.
Once a priority list has been drafted, it should be fairly easy to translate that into requirements. One of the biggest traps when shopping for an LMS is asking for every feature that is available that may or may not be needed. Follow your list of priorities to stay focused and on task. An easy way to do this is with the 80/20 rule take care of 80 percent of your needs then see how successfully you can fulfill the rest of the 20 percent. Make everything not on your list of priorities to nice to have.
Vet available Learning Management Systems
At this point, you have slowly narrowed your priority list down to only the most important features along with some nice to haves. Now, the next step is to narrow your choices of LMS providers. Your list of top 10 requirements will rule out non qualifying products. For instance, if you would like an LMS that will leverage your investment in SharePoint, then this would be a good vetting criterion. There are many different pricing ranges for products. Ballpark licensing costs are another good vetting criteria.
- Request for information. An RFI contains a list of all your requirements with a few questions per requirement for vendors to answer. Evaluate the vendor responses with a scorecard that allows scorers to rate how well the vendor meets each requirement on a 5-point scale. After scoring the responses to the RFI, you can rule out some of the lower-scoring vendors and continue evaluating the top contenders.
- In use demonstrations. Invite each of the top contenders to visit your organization for a half day to demonstrate their product. A good approach is to give them all the same use case ahead of time so you can compare them equally. Again, you can use a scorecard to evaluate the vendor demonstration and rule out those vendors whose products did not perform well.
- Trial version. As you continue to evaluate the finalists, you may ask for a trial version of the LMS software where you can explore the finalist products. Hands-on exploration will give you a better sense of the user-interface design, features and capabilities of the product.
The final step is to select an LMS. Send a Request for Proposal (RFP) to each of your finalists asking for pricing quotes, implementation timeframes and support options. If you followed the above guidelines, you should feel very confident in your choice of learning management system software.
Leverage the Benefits of Your LMS
You should take the opportunity during your LMS implementation project to review your current business workflows and amend them as desired. You want to gain productivity and automation with your LMS and not be messing around with your LMS to get it do the things you need. There are so many benefits you will gain with an LMS, among these are:
- More engaged workforce with self serve learning and development.
- Reduced training costs.
- Track and report easily to manage compliance and regulatory requirements.
- Engage with new hires and offer consistent high quality on-boarding.
- Use the LMS for resource planning, succession planning and skills gap analysis.
In today s business environment, an LMS is the backbone for training and development and continues to gain in popularity. One of the biggest advantages of an LMS is efficiency. In fact, many companies report a 50-70% cost savings just by switching from instructor-based training to eLearning. Your LMS should be able to manage online, instructor led and blended learning delivery to gain efficiencies in all learning modalities.
Welcome Aboard. Sink or Swim With On-boarding.
Imagine you are marooned on an island inhabited by a tribe of friendly people but culturally vastly different to what you are used to. All of the norms of this tribe are not threatening but far outside your patterns of behaviours. You can imagine how difficult and intimidating this would be. Why do you think it is any different when people join organisations as new hires?
The experience a new recruit has joining a new organisation has an enormous impact on how soon a person ramps up to effectiveness and how quickly they become engaged with the organisation and its culture. You can refer to the previous blog for a great definition of employee engagement.
If you have ever experienced a bad hire and either had to take action to remove a new hire or they leave quickly on their own accord, the impact goes way beyond the cost, pain and frustration of having to start a recruitment process again or settle for your second or third choice. The ripple impacts of a bad hire hit your culture widely and deeply. You can reduce or eliminate these risks by developing a solid on-boarding strategy.
Here are some ideas that I have seen work well in some of my clients’ organisations. Some of these ideas work better for some organisations and less so for others depending upon a number of factors such as industry, location, resources and culture. You should also consider the type of position you are inducting.
You may have a different style of on-boarding processes in your sales team as opposed to your finance team. These differences take into account the type of individual[s] you are inducting and the culture of the team they are joining.
Here are some ideas:
- Start the induction early using your LMS or other web based platform. Start the process before they arrive for day one by offering some online videos, courses and information they can review in their own time. Make this fun, interesting and collaborative.
- Include a social gathering either prior to day one or shortly after. You can make it a dinner with their new manager or a small gathering of their manager and team members.
- Make the induction a ‘high touch’ experience. I am always surprised how often a new hire is sitting alone in their office or workstation going through induction. This is sending all the wrong messages to the new hire. Include different people to interact, support and coach the new person. Do this even if you are inducting a number of people at once and use workshops to deliver induction training.
- Include some online learning and collaboration to deliver a ‘blended’ approach. You do not need to use costly learning content. You can use some home-grown videos, presentations and links to other resources.
- Add sense of achievement when a person completes their induction. You can have a small team social gathering over coffee, deliver a certificate of completion or another gift or token signifying the completion of the induction. Using a certificate or token item makes a great cultural ‘tradition’ and you can award them retro-actively if you want to.
- Include some interface between the inductee[s] and senior management. Choose the highest senior level leader you can but choose wisely. Do not make the mistake of choosing a senior leader who does not have the commitment to successful inductions and culture required or is not reliable to stick to appointments. This tactic can backfire if you choose a leader who considers this a nuisance and cancels appointments or lacks the EQ to conduct a meeting with new hires effectively.
- After the induction process is completed include a meeting schedule for a month or two after. I suggest a coffee or informal meeting of about 10 to 15 minutes duration and conducted by human resources or another manager; not their direct manager. The purpose of these meetings are to get some feedback, check for any barriers to work objectives and be alert for some innovation. It is surprising how a newly hired person will identify areas for business improvement and innovation. They are not yet fully immersed in the role and the ‘third party’ perspective is priceless.
A great induction process takes work and attention. The induction process needs to designed and documented. The process needs to be aligned with the organisation’s strategy and supported at all levels including specifically the CEO and other ‘c’ level executives.
If you are considering developing a new induction strategy or re-developing an existing one, we can have a discussion and share some ideas. You can keep your focus on your objectives and we can help you develop, implement and execute an effective on-boarding/induction strategy.
We have heard this statement over and over “People join organizations and quit managers.” But is there any truth to it? According to two different research reports, one reason people leave organizations is due to the boss. Kenexa research shows that 30% of turnover is due to the boss. Forbes completed a study titled, “Why Your Top Talent is Leaving in 2014 & What It’ll Take to Retain Them” and they cite that 37% of top talent is leaving due to Boss’ Performance.
Research conducted by Gallup, Inc. supports the statistics from Kenexa and Forbes. They go on to quantify the qualities employees want in a manager. The top four are:
- Managers who show care, interest and concern for their staff
- To know what is expected of them
- A role which fits their abilities
- Positive feedback and recognition regularly for work done well
One of the reasons employees leave is because of their boss. So, to improve retention, we need to improve boss’ performance. How do organizations improve management performance? Here are a few ideas:
- Set clear performance expectations. Your leaders need to know that you expect them to be good leaders and that you want them to show their employees that they care, are interested in them, provide feedback and recognition, to provide employees with a job that fits their abilities and that employees understand what is expected of them.
- Train your leaders. Offer your leaders management development opportunities on the qualities and capabilities you want your leaders to demonstrate. Ensure that the courseware helps your leaders apply the training on the job. Remember – your leaders will only become good at being a leader if they practice the content in the courses they completed.
- Be a good role model. Model the qualities you expect of your leaders.
Author: Cindy Pascale
Cindy Pascale is the CEO and co-founder of Vado and has 16+ years of HR, Training & Development and OD leadership experience and 12 years running talent management, development and assessment companies. Vado is the e-learning courseware provider ‘changing the face of learning’.
An old adage about advertising says: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” Many organisations look at learning and development the same way as some look at traditional advertising. They are often not sure whether money spent is delivering measurable returns. When organisations start tightening budgets or changing their spending priorities, learning and development is commonly a target and made to operate with fewer resources. Despite the evidence we’ve learned on the importance of learning and development and its positive impact across many facets of an organization, including the bottom line, learning and development continues to be a cost cutting target.
One of the key reasons this happens is the lack of strategic linkage. Strategic linkage is lacking in a couple of primary ways. There is often not a strong representative of learning and development in the executive management team and even less so on a board. The second and somewhat related issue is the lack of demonstrable alignment between the strategic objectives of the organization and the learning and development strategy. The latter issue is often a perceptual problem in the executive team and one not shared by the learning and development team.
In a perfect world these two issues would not exist and in our client community I can happily report that these issues are becoming less common. I know from speaking to many learning and development professionals and senior organizational leaders the gap between the two is sometimes quite wide on a couple of fronts. The first is the lack of communication both up and down. This lack of communication is both interpersonal as well as the l & d team not having the tools to provide senior executives the data that would contribute to better decision making.
The second gap is one of return on investment. I am seeing more emphasis from senior executives on compliance and often at the exclusion of other measurable benefits that learning and development can deliver to an organization. One of the most obvious ones is resource planning. In an environment wrought with skills shortages and often a lack of quality candidates in the market, learning and development can deliver improved succession planning, improved productivity and overall risk reduction.
So how do we work to improve the situation? I will look at some ideas in our next posting.