The learning management system technology market has evolved dramatically over the past two decades. Learning management systems, now commonly referred to as learning experience platforms, are an integral resource for any organization concerned about productivity, organizational agility and operational excellence. These technologies enable organizations to demonstrate an investment in people, as the LMS not only facilitates regulatory and legal compliance and other forms of cost and risk avoidance but also improves internal mobility, career growth and the employee experience, leading to improved employee productivity, engagement and retention.
In years past, the LMS served primarily as a means for documenting compliance-related activity, or facilitating traditional, instructor-led training sessions across a geographically dispersed audience. Today, asynchronous, self-paced learning, often structured into a personalized curriculum along a desired career path, has become much more prevalent. In fact, I assert that by 2024, LMS and LXP platforms with embedded skill and job ontologies that recommend optimal learning paths will guide one-half of organizations to elevate employee engagement, retention and productivity. Further, organizations are emphasizing informal and social learning to engage workers more effectively, within the flow of daily work.
Many of today’s learning management platforms use a broad, robust set of capabilities and emerging technologies to personalize the learning experience. Often, instruction is video-based – as opposed to the historic paradigm of slideshow or document publication and review – and often enables comments and messaging to encourage collaboration and group learning. Technology providers have made significant advances in how organizations create and curate content, and artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities have revolutionized how and where content is recommended to the learners consuming it.
These new technologies do more than just facilitate a more personalized learning experience: They also provide valuable guidance on learning types and preferences, allowing organizations to maximize learning outcomes and, ultimately, the return on investment. Therefore, business cases for LMS investments are no longer focused primarily on compliance management and skill augmentation, but also on the significant value of knowing the optimal timing, medium, content and target employees for learning initiatives.
Investments in LMS also support organizations’ environmental, social and governance efforts, the disclosure of which are now largely required by the Securities and Exchange Commission, and increasingly by candidates when considering job opportunities. Social and environmental responsibility encompasses a wide range of topics, but the expectation is that organizations create, communicate and operate according to a set of values that permeate the culture and show commitment to issues like diversity, equity and equality, pay equity, pay transparency and environmental sustainability. Investment in LMS or LXP can help formalize communication of and training around these issues, leading to better democratization of closing skills gaps through AI-recommended learning and development to encourage career growth for everyone. Reduction in carbon footprint is also a benefit, accomplished by moving learning away from paper and into the cloud. These benefits must be measurable for organizations to accurately reflect efforts in these areas. Learning platforms can document and report on measures taken to communicate an organizations’ stance on ESG-related issues and measure worker actions in alignment with these objectives.
There are endless priorities competing for a piece of the HR leader’s budget, but perhaps none can impact a wider range of organizational objectives than a robust LMS platform. This single investment can bolster employee experience, improve engagement, assist in self-directed career pathing and skills development, mitigate compliance-related risks and even encourage investment through its support of well-structured ESG initiatives. That said, there are myriad technology offerings in the space, and they are not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Organizations considering investment should carefully evaluate current system capabilities – not just on existing content, but ease of new content creation, delivery modes that support a variety of learning types, reporting and analytics, the ability to integrate with other existing technology systems and the use of AI/ML to automatically curate and push new content suggestions to users based on existing behaviors. Most importantly, buyers must determine the level of consultation and change management support that vendors are willing and capable of providing over the lifetime of the relationship. Regulations, candidate and employee expectations and technology will evolve, and the LMS must evolve simultaneously. Proper vendor knowledge and support will ensure the best return on this critical investment.