Why Cultural Alignment Should Be Your #1 LMS Requirement
Yes, I said it: picking a Learning Management System is a cultural decision.
There are over 700 Learning Management Systems available to choose from. If you are willing to put in the time and effort needed to pick and implement a Learning Management System, it had better fit your corporate learning culture. Your real corporate learning culture; not the one you want to have in five years. Since most Learning Management Systems come with the same core functionality to schedule, track, assign, and host training, the decision really comes down to your organization’s cultural needs. If you want to determine cultural alignment, you have to first answer these 3 questions:
1. How Do You Define Learning?
This is a hotly debated topic in most organizations. Merriam-Webster defines learning as:
The act or experience of one that learns
Knowledge or skill acquired by instruction or study
Modification of a behavioral tendency by experience (as exposure to conditioning)
Yes, even the dictionary is vague. Suffice it to say learning comes in a variety of shapes and forms, and no two organizations are the same. For organization A, it could be podcasts, books, articles, professional society meetings, on the job, mentoring sessions, lunch and learns, eLearning modules, and classroom training. For organization B, it is defined as classroom training and eLearning modules created and published by the training department.
You can see Organization A’s needs go far past the core functionality of a Learning Management System. If they purchased a Learning Management System that offered the bare minimum, the new Learning Management System would suffer from low adoption, the Learning and Development team would suffer a loss of credibility, and other teams will start developing their own learning solutions.
2. Who Is The Learning Management System For? Your Admin Or Your Learner?
Are you maintaining training records in order to provide reporting for compliance or to help HR determine if an employee had been trained on the proper procedure? Do your employees and teams have wikis and SharePoint filled with searchable data that is used as an internal FAQ or user manual? Are your organization’s employees and divisions' performance rankings based on professional development goals related to learning or mentoring?
If a Learning Management System is being used for compliance tracking and reporting, a low frills Learning Management System with an easy to use admin interface is needed for a high level of administrative adoption because they are your primary audience. If the learner is your main audience, then having the ability to thoroughly brand and customize your user interface is essential for success. You will want a user experience that incorporates minimal clicks to reach content, and is fully functional on a large variety of device types. If your organization has committed resources and budget to growing a learning culture, the primary audience is still the learner, but it has to have a solid user experience for the admins as they enable and manage new features as your learning culture grows.
3. Where Do They Learn?
Are your employees sitting in a company classroom listening to a corporate instructor? Are they at a Toastmasters class improving their public speaking skill set? Are your new hires sitting at their desk, or in the facility's learning lab, taking their required modules? Is the employee on their phone taking a course through Udemy, Degreed, or LinkedIn Learning?
If your employees are taking company provided training at designated times and locations, a Learning Management System with mobile, MOOC integration, or LRS capabilities can be a hard sell because it does not align with your corporate learning environment. On the other hand, if your organization wants a one stop shop that can integrate multiple learning tools to build an ecosystem, going with a core functionality only Learning Management System, possibly due to cost savings, can quickly lead to lack of use and low adoption across the board.
Learning And Culture
When shopping for a Learning Management System, ask yourself where your learning culture is today and where it will be in three years. An average Learning Management System contract is three years in length. Do not buy a luxury model Learning Management System when all your learning culture can support is a standard Learning Management System for the next three years. Your goal is to find a Learning Management System that will support high adoption rates amongst your targeted audience, not lead to buyer’s remorse. If you are not going to use 70% of what is being offered, do not sign with the vendor. You want to utilize more than half of your Learning Management System functionality with room to stretch and expand your learning culture at your pace, not the system’s.
Previously published on eLearning Industry in 2017.