Learning management systems: the complete guide



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6 mins


We explore how learning management software can form part of your training strategy, their place in the wider L&D landscape, and six key benefits of using an LMS

Training employees is essential to your organisation’s success and their personal development at every stage of their employment with you; whether that’s during their onboarding phase as a new starter, to support a role change, or to make sure they’re up to date with compliance requirements.

For many teams, organising learning programmes is not an easy task. But a specialist learning management system (LMS) can help to lighten the administrative load for HR and L&D teams, improve the quality of analytics insight you have into employees’ learning and performance, and boost the speed and quality of learning.

Here we explain what exactly as LMS is, how such systems fit with wider trends in the L&D landscape, and how one might benefit your organisation.


What is an LMS and what can it do?

An LMS is essentially a virtual delivery space where training materials can be stored and organised, assessments can be assigned and completed, and students and teachers can interact through a blended learning experience. While an LMS supports an organisation’s L&D strategy, it should not be considered a strategy in and of itself.

For insight into the role of an LMS in today’s organisations, let’s turn to a Twitter conversation hosted by L&D Connect (@LnDConnect), which asked its followers: ‘How can an LMS aid L&D?’ From the various responses and replies, we can see that the success or failure of an LMS has a lot to do with organisational culture and its over-arching L&D strategy.

The many replies and understanding of what an LMS does, was insightful with regards to the good and bad experience of the poster’s own organisation’s set-up and L&D strategy.

  • N Shackleton-Jones (@shackletonjones), author of A Preliminary Explanation of Human Learning & The Methods of Learning Design, replied: “An LMS really has nothing to do with learning, & now stands in the way of actual investment in learning (‘we bought an LMS’) so this is a huge problem.”
  • Talent manager Dan Hewitt (@DanDHewitt) replied: “I introduced ours for 3 (fairly traditional) reasons and it’s helped with all of them: 1) Reducing admin, giving the team more time to spend adding value. 2) One central place for people to access L&D-led formal learning. 3) To provide reporting on 2.”
  • Christine Locher (@ChristineLocher), a learning leader and author on decision-making and values, said: “I have actual grey hair named after bits of functionality #ldinsight and I also have grey hair from a stint at an org that didn’t have one, the manual stuff driving everyone bonkers.”
  • Jack Lockhart (@JackALockhart), a learning consultant at Virgin Media, added: “Lot of opportunity: – Central area for people to access/explore learning – Data driven insight – Reduce monotonous/automatable tasks – Ability to offer ‘core’ learning to a role and ‘supplementary’ learning, a bit more personalised than an Argos catalogue approach”
  • Wes Atkinson (@wesatkinsonuk), co-founder at Apitierre, said: “LMS should be an extension of L&D, not underpin it. It’s a method of delivery, not a strategy. Your peers, team and organisation shouldn’t ever know they are logging into an LMS, it should be a seamless experience as easy as visiting a website to do something.”


How does an LMS fit with the wider L&D landscape?

LMS’s core capability is to deliver effective learning programmes. And effective learning is high on the agenda for many decisionmakers, according to recent research by Fosway Group, an HR and L&D analyst firm. Human Resources Online reported that “76% of those surveyed will be investing in HR tech within two years with the intention of ‘changing their employees’ onboarding experience, talent acquisition, analytics and performance management’.”

Organisations’ ‘duty of care’ to workers, and the need for people to be regularly learning new skills in order to keep pace with technology, was a key point of debate at the 2018 CIPD Annual Conference and Exhibition. At the event, Rajeeb Dey, founder and CEO, at Learnerbly, said: “It’s not about tech versus humans. It is about how we integrate technology to better support humans with active and dynamic learning in the workplace.”


How could an LMS benefit your organisation?

Fundamentally, an LMS can help you more effectively deliver L&D programmes and training courses. But the advantages of specialist software go far beyond simplifying training administration. Here are our top six benefits of using an LMS.

1. Employee engagement

A good LMS should allow you to visually customise the user interface and learning journeys to fit with your brand. You should also look out for systems that engage and motivate employees with gamified learning elements such as achievement badges, points on a map or positions on a leaderboard. The sense of fun and competition these elements bring can really enhance the learning experience.

2. Employee empowerment

A well-designed user experience can also give learners the opportunity to create and contribute their own content, and collaborate to learn from one another via social media or community forums. In this respect, an LMS provides a powerful tool for engagement not just across the whole organisation but also within teams and specialities.

3. Deep insights

Real-time data and analytics help you to track users who are excelling, and in what areas, and where you need to apply more focus. Choosing to integrate your LMS with HR  provides you with more sophisticated reporting and help you more effectively track the impact of learning on performance.

4. Task automation

Being able to report on how well your training strategy is meeting your designated objectives is just one advantage of syncing an HR system and an LMS. Details of new starters, leavers and role changes entered in the HR system will be automatically updated in the LMS – saving you the task of entering data twice.

5. Improved L&D uptake

If you have integrated HR and learning management systems, which enable users to move seamlessly between the two thanks to single sign-on, you can expect a higher cadence of usage of your LMS than if it was a standalone system that required another set of login details.

6. Learning as and when people need it

If your organisation has multiple locations, then access to L&D via an LMS means learning, training or scheduling assessments can happen on any device, desktop or mobile, and at any time – whenever the learner either needs or wants to access training resources.

So, why would you choose an LMS system to support your L&D strategy? The answer is simple, why wouldn’t you? A good LMS is a key tool for solving current and future HR and L&D challenges.