What’s the point of an LMS in the modern workplace?

The discussion about the usefulness of an LMS has been going on for years. Here are 10 reasons why a L&D team might (want to) use an LMS – but are they relevant in the modern workplace?

  1. It’s the place to manage compliance and regulatory training  PROBABLY – If you are an organisation with big compliance and regulatory training needs that must be accounted for, then it is likely that a LMS will help you do this. But for smaller organisations, this may be a costly and heavy-handed way to do so.
  2. It’s the place to track access to and use of e-learning IT CAN HELP  – If all you do is create, commission or purchase online courses, programmes or pathways – and make sure people work on them. However, in the modern workplace, L&D’s work is moving on towards helping to solve performance problems in other (non-training) ways, and managing success using business performance metrics – which can’t be tracked in an LMS.
  3. It’s the place to host performance support and other resourcesNOT IDEAL If you are moving from a “course to a resource” approach, then resources like these need to be available in the workflow for people to access as and when they are required. This means it is much better to host them on the intranet or on a portal where they can be found quickly and easily without the need for logging in. That way they are more likely to be used.
  4. It’s the place to host social learningNOT THE BEST  Social learning happens mostly in the workflow as people interact and learn from one another as they do their work and share their knowledge and experiences with another. And since many organizations have now enabled this with the use of enterprise social platforms and network, it makes far better sense to use these very same platforms to host your formal social learning activities, and integrate learning into work.
  5. It’s a source of continuous learningPARTLY – Continuous learning is much more than using enterprise-stored courses; it is about learning from everyday work experiences as well as the stuff found on the Web. So buying an off-the-shelf library of courses and managing access to it is not the total solution to supporting continuous learning in the workplace. It would be much more useful to help individuals  to understand the wider opportunities for constant learning available inside and outside the organisation.
  6. It’s the best way to engage people with learning UNLIKELY – It is often said that the interactive, immersive and features of a LMS boost engagement with learning, but note that no LMS appears on the Top Tools for Personal & Professional Learning!  Individuals have found many other tools and services to be much more useful and appealing for their own learning purposes.
  7. It’s the place to track everything everyone learns in the organisation – AN IMPOSSIBLE TASK. People learn in so many different ways and from so many sources, and much of which happens without people realising it. Furthermore, if it requires people to record everything they learn on a central system, and they don’t do it, it means that system is holding incomplete date. If, then, decisions are made on that incomplete data, these will be fundamentally flawed. Much better, to help managers identify and track relevant job, team and business performance metrics; it’s about the goal, not the means to the goal!
  8. It’s the place to manage an employee’s own personal and professional learningA BIG NO – That’s for each individual to do in the best way that suits them. It might just be in their brain, although in the new world of work where people need to demonstrate they are constant learners, that they are keeping up to speed with their industry and professional, and have achieved new things –  they need to organise and manage this using personally-selected tools. So it will be far better to focus on enabling and supporting this activity rather than managing everything for them.
  9. It’s the hub for all things learningNO LONGER THE CASE – “Learning” is not a separate activity that be provided for in one central platform. An organisation’s learning ecosystem involves the use of many different tools and platforms – and what’s more they won’t just be learning technologies, but a range of work-based and consumer technologies, services and networks.
  10. It’s the only learning technology that a L&D department needs – BY NO MEANS – The role of L&D in the modern workplace is now much more than organising and managing (e-)training. It’s about helping people do their jobs or do them better in the most appropriate way. It’s about helping managers measure performance outcomes. It’s about seeing learning as an integral part of daily work. It’s about helping individuals self-improve or self-develop in the ways that suit them best. Although an LMS may provide some useful functionality for some organisations (tracking compliance and access to licensed content), it is no longer the centre of workplace learning. Josh Bersin agrees “the LMS is no longer the center of learning; it has become more like the back-office mainframe we use to run payroll. It’s there, it does important things, but we don’t see it that often“. Today’s workplace requires a wide range of tools and technologies to underpin modern workplace learning. Just don’t put all your eggs (ie money and efforts) in one basket!
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Jane Hart

Jane Hart helps organisations and learning professionals modernise their approaches to workplace learning - through public workshops and bespoke consultancy. She is the Editor of the Modern Workplace Learning Magazine, and is the author of a number of books including Modern Workplace Learning 2018 as well as the resource for individuals How to become a Modern Professional Learner. Jane was the 2018 recipient of the ATD Distinguished Contribution to Talent Development award. You can contact Jane at Jane.Hart@C4LPT.co.uk.