5 Tips for Choosing the Perfect Learning Management System for Your SMB




  • — April 10, 2018

    TeroVesalainen / Pixabay

    In a recent conversation with an HR manager at a midsize tech firm, I was asked why the company’s investment in a learning management system (LMS) had not delivered the results he had expected.

    The system was not a complete failure, but it definitely fell short of his goals. Employee performance was still low, retention rates were actually dropping, and the company couldn’t seem to get a hold of its spending (causing its return on investment to take a hit). Clearly, something was amiss.

    When I asked what sort of LMS reviews he performed and how he went about the vetting process, the deafening silence on the other end of the line told me everything I needed to know. Instead of researching the various LMS tools available and clarifying the company’s goals and objectives to find the right features, he had made a common mistake: thinking all LMS platforms are created equal.

    Staff size, essential features, budget, and future growth all play important roles in determining which LMS platform is an ideal fit. After some targeted inquiries, I learned that the company in question had an LMS with an overly complicated UI that lacked the reporting features necessary to monitor relevant key performance indicators.

    The last straw was the system’s inability to properly scale as the company expanded into new markets and added more staff. These issues stemmed from a lack of support for multiple languages, data management tools, and role-assignment features.

    Most companies don’t have the time or resources to waste on trial and error, which is why it’s crucial to get your choice right the first time around. The best way to make that happen? Understand that there is no one-size-fits-all LMS solution.

    Choosing the Right Tool for the Job

    A study by Deloitte found that 83 percent of executives recognize the importance of learning experiences and employee development. That’s probably why there are hundreds upon thousands of available LMS options. Such variety means that you can theoretically find a system with the precise features, pricing plan, and flexibility your organization requires. Of course, the sheer quantity of options can make it feel impossible to find the right fit.

    Not long ago, small and midsize businesses were forced to purchase more product than they actually needed or sacrifice features for an improved user interface. Fortunately, that’s no longer the case. A number of LMS vendors now offer SMB-specific solutions that cater to businesses with finite resources and rapidly evolving needs.

    With an LMS specifically designed for a business of your size, you can provide targeted online training resources for your employees instead of casting an unnecessarily wide net and overspending on learning and development. LMS metrics have also become more robust in the past few years, meaning you can monitor, reevaluate, and adjust every aspect of your training program on the fly.

    Fortunately, online directories of LMS reviews allow you to compare platforms based on the criteria you find most important. When deciding which LMS best meets your needs, there are a few questions you should ask yourself:

    1. What is the skill set and experience level of your in-house team?
      Many organizations make the mistake of choosing platforms without considering the experience of their team. They might end up with one that’s too complex or a platform that lacks the advanced features they need. Evaluate your in-house team, and find a balance between a user-friendly platform and one with robust features.
    2. What is your online training budget?
      Your LMS isn’t the only factor in this equation. Include your content development, maintenance, and other “hidden” fees so you can calculate a realistic budget that you can meet.Cloud-based platforms typically offer three distinct pricing plans based on users, functionality, and payment frequency. Instead of maxing out your budget for tools you don’t actually need, pay only for the features that are most valuable to you.
    3. How big is your workforce, and where is it located?
      Because LMS platforms have different price brackets for users, make sure you’re taking into account your requirements. Some platforms also limit access for users so employees don’t overload servers and slow down the training process. This creates issues like lower engagement and reduced effectiveness.The size of your team is a major consideration, but the location of your employees is equally important. Two key LMS features come into play here: responsiveness and multilingual support. Can team members access online training materials anytime, anywhere, and on any device? And is the LMS platform able to deploy content that they easily can absorb?
    4. What are your plans for future growth?
      It’s easy to make the mistake of choosing an LMS solution based only on your current training needs. As your team grows, however, those needs will likely change. Where will your company be a year from now or even five years down the road?Imagine every scenario possible, and consider whether your systems can adapt as your company matures. What would happen if your company were to hire 100 employees only a few months after investing in an LMS? Objectives could also change based on industry trends. Choose an LMS that can evolve with you to avoid any unnecessary growing pains later on.
    5. What are your measurable learning objectives?
      The beauty of the saturated LMS market is that you can find a platform that aligns with any objectives or outcomes. However, you must start with measurable objectives in order to pick a solution that can track them and make necessary adjustments.For example, if your critical metric is a customer satisfaction score, you’ll want an LMS that offers online training certification courses or microlearning performance support tools for your customer service staff. Customizable reports will also be crucial for monitoring individual progress and relating LMS metrics to changes in customer satisfaction ratings.

    What role does learning tech play in your overall business strategy? Deciding how your LMS will properly equip employees and maximize your return on investment is a critical component of finding a platform that will enable your organization to expand.

    Take advantage of free trials and demos to ensure LMS tools live up to your expectations, and schedule follow-ups with vendors to guarantee you’re using the right LMS for your SMB. Lastly, educate yourself about available support services and other features included in the pricing package. A methodical approach will help you take full advantage of the services you’re paying for while avoiding any unwelcome surprises.

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    Author: Christopher Pappas

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