A Learning Management System (LMS) automates the administration, testing, tracking and reporting of employee training courses. This guide will help help you navigate the LMS software market and make an informed buying decision for your business.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
What is a Learning Management System?
LMS software gives companies everything they need to manage employee training programs. Using an LMS, companies can create training curricula to educate employees and allow them to demonstrate competencies or gain certification in areas relevant to their role.
Core LMS functionality includes:
- Training administration. Employee training software helps users organize and simplify training administration, which includes processes such as distributing training content, managing user information, scheduling and course enrollment.
- Content development and management. This functionality gives buyers the ability to author their own content and design and deliver courses within an LMS.
- Curricula setting. With curricula setting functionality, users can combine courses by focus area and specialization, and assign and unassign courses. Certification paths. This includes tracking, managing and setting certification programs for industries that require employee certification to carry out a specific job duty.
- Proficiency testing and reporting. LMS systems can administer tests to gauge employee knowledge or skill. Analytics and reporting functionality helps companies determine proficiency and identify learning gaps.
- Employee self-service. With self-service functionality, employees can access training materials and on-demand learning courses from their own devices. Electronic record-keeping. By centralizing employee training records within an LMS, users can easily access training materials, test scores and course data from a single system.
What Type of Buyer Are You?
Before purchasing a system, you should assess what kind of buyer you are. The majority of buyers fall into one of these categories:
Integrated suite buyers. These buyers work for organizations that need to improve operational efficiency within their existing HR processes, while effectively updating their management of learning and training. They are looking to implement a range of applications, all within one integrated suite. Integrated HR suites with deep functionality are often the best solution.
Best-of-breed buyers. These buyers are looking for software to update the business’ training management and processes. Functional depth is often more important to meet departmental requirements, which pure-play or best-of-breed LMSs offer.
Talent management buyers. These buyers are focused on building and developing their employees. In addition to applications for recruiting, applicant tracking and performance evaluation, they’re looking for systems that will allow HR to easily track employee training and development. Best-of-breed talent management vendors offer great solutions for these buyers, delivering powerful learning management features needed to meet their training administration and automation needs.
Market Trends You Should Understand
Consider the following market trends as you begin your LMS comparison and research process.
Consolidation. Many best-of-breed programs have been acquired by larger vendors wanting to offer more functionality within their talent management suites. For example, in April 2011 SuccessFactors (now an SAP company) acquired Plateau Systems, one of the industry’s first learning management systems for HR and employee training development. The move gave SuccessFactors the ability to integrate Plateau’s online learning management system directly into SuccessFactors’ BizX suite. We saw similar activity when Taleo (now Oracle) acquired Learn.com in September 2010 for its innovative LMS features including knowledge portals, webcasting product, and content development and management tools. Consolidation gives buyers the opportunity to take advantage of larger resources, but this can also lead to temporary disruptions as products become integrated and offerings are rationalized.
Software as a Service (SaaS). SaaS is becoming a popular deployment option as buyers realize the advantages of lower up-front costs and faster implementation time. SaaS provides a Web-based option for adding new functionality and greater accessibility to your employees. While best-of-breed SaaS options give businesses the ability to configure the system to meet their needs, specific customization options may be limited.
Social learning. To help businesses increase collaboration among their employees, some LMS vendors are integrating social learning features to foster a community-centric environment. This includes functionality such as employee profiles, chat features, announcement portals, news feeds and more. Some LMS applications can bring in social profiles from Facebook or Twitter to increase participation and networking within the system. However, before evaluating systems with social learning features, buyers should first determine if the real business need is for an internal social platform as opposed to an LMS with social features.