The Definitive Guide to
Learning Management Systems

lms-overviewLearning management systems (LMS) offer organizations a way to develop their employees with education.

Employers are moving toward eLearning software to train their workforce while cutting costs and saving time.

Learning management systems are critical for training and developing top talent within an organization. This software may offer a range of educational features such as:

  • Online classrooms
  • Message boards
  • Competency tests
  • Performance tracking
Did You Know: Providing training and development opportunities, such as access to an LMS system, can lead to a 34% higher five-year retention rating.

Benefits of LMS

Learning management systems enable workers to enhance their skills and increase contributions to your company.

As HR technology has evolved to become more digital and user friendly, LMS vendors are shifting to meet the same next-generation needs. LMS software provides an online space to enable communication between instructors and learners, giving your trainees all the personal attention they need. Learners can also access course material asynchronously for learning at their own convenience.

When the system supports both in-person and online lessons it’s called a blended learning approach.

The software can help your workers with their current positions by bridging any competency gaps, and it can also teach skills needed for promotions so employees are always focused on professional growth.

Rather than looking outward for new talent, learning management systems help companies groom future leaders from within. Not only can professionals become experts in their current jobs, but they can enroll in programs to learn skills to impact the business’s future.

Top 5 Benefits of LMS:

1. Improve Employee Retention

Through a survey conducted by Better Buys, we discovered that employees with access to professional development opportunities have a 34% higher five-year retention rating compared to those who do not have

When focusing on engagement, we also found employees with access to professional development opportunities are 15% more engaged than those without access.


But our most compelling finding is that even when employees are disengaged, having access to these opportunities still has a significant impact. Of employees with opportunities that ranked themselves as a one or two on a five-point engagement scale, 28% claimed they would remain at their job for another five years. This is compared to just 15% who would stay when they don’t have any professional development opportunities.

Investing into your employees’ development not only increases the value of your workforce, but also gives talented employees the incentive to stick around.

Even for those who aren’t actively engaged, having access to opportunities leads to better retention ratings and leads to bolstering an ROI on the cost of an LMS.

2. Optimize Onboarding

New hires make or break a company’s talent pipeline. When employees aren’t onboarded correctly, they often won’t stick around. The eLearning Industry has found nearly one-third of all new hires leave within the first year.

In a separate study, The US Department of Labor found that of the next four employees a business hires, one will leave in the next four to six months.

Having an organized onboarding process helps your newest employees hit the ground running.

Through learning management systems, employees are taught exactly what they need to know to get the job done so everyone has clear goals and expectations from the start.

Using the software for training gives you the ability to educate multiple employees at once, keeping them on the same page throughout the onboarding process.

3. Enhance Workforce Productivity

productivity-lmsTo develop a competitive workforce, learning management systems help improve employees’ productivity within your company. You can identify skill gaps and enroll employees into programs for improving their abilities.

While planning your company’s growth, you can foster the skills needed within your workforce to support the next steps.

LMS solutions also harness a key concept called social learning. When people learn through interacting with one another, they’re able to more efficiently adopt what they need to know and are intrinsically motivated to meet each other’s expectations.

Most LMS platforms are developed around this method of interactive learning.

4. Save Time and Money

Building an end-to-end training program takes time and resources that most HR departments don’t have. With learning management software, training programs efficiently handle large groups of employees.

The time it takes to train batches of employees is drastically reduced with learning management systems, allowing you to shorten your training cycles and reduce costs.

For example, IBM was able to cut training costs by one-third, saving $200 million by implementing a learning management system.

save-time-and-money-lmsRather than hiring an instructor or an HR administrator for leading courses, the software incorporates features for engaging employees without an educator. Your courses can be online and only require an instructor at certain times or not at all.

Once training programs are in the system, the content and materials can be used over and over again. HR covers the prep work for creating training programs and then reuses the content for a consistent and efficient training process. Courses can also be purchased through the LMS vendor.

Your lessons are saved in the system so you can use them to educate a new pool of employees.

5. Simplify Compliance

Employees responsible for meeting compliance standards benefit from learning management systems for certifications in specialized areas.

Mandated training programs ensure employees are certified with up-to-date material that meets state and federal regulations. Working with specialized LMS vendors ensures that the right courses are provided to the business’s workforce so standards are maintained across roles.

Learning management systems keep your company on track for reducing liability risks by automatically notifying you when it’s time to renew certifications.

Key Features of LMS

Learning management systems give your company the tools for cultivating employees’ skills and expertise.

Training Administration

Training administration is the hub for pulling together your training operation. You have full control over distributing course material, scheduling course times and communicating with enrolled employees.

User Management with Self-Service

Employees are given a login for self enrollment. Through the self-service feature, administration sets up eligibility and then tracks how employees enroll in lessons.

One way LMS solutions handle user management is to allow administrators to build a sequence of courses. As users complete each course, they’re able to auto-enroll in the next advancement. By designing prerequisites, administrators let learners take each course at a time down a path.

User profiles for each employee track completed courses and certifications. Employees’ performances are kept on record to review test and quiz grades.

Schedule Sessions

Whether you intend to schedule a one-time lesson or a course spanning weeks, training administration features help you track each lesson’s preparation, execution and results.

scheduling-sessions-lmsYou can communicate with employees enrolled in each course, sending them necessary material for their lesson plans. If a teacher is required, their schedule can also be worked out in the solution and they can be given their own access to uploading training materials or checking attendance.

Employees can either work alone at their own pace or collaborate in real-time during lessons. All the material is stored and accessed electronically, allowing your employees flexibility.

Course Development

The way LMS vendors approach course content may differ.

Some LMS solutions serve as a platform for learners and fill their client’s content library with third-party providers. Through consultation, the LMS vendor determines what types of courses should be imported into the client’s library and works with third-party providers to obtain the best and most up-to-date course material. This style is a good fit for clients who are looking for an LMS that can certify their employees. 

Other LMS vendors provide authoring tools so clients can create the courses themselves. For training that’s unique to in-house needs, courses can be developed by your own staff through various tools such as PowerPoint presentations, interactive questionnaires and various documents. This type of LMS allows users to create exactly what material they need and stores the resources for employees to access.

A third option that an LMS vendor may offer is to develop all the material itself. Clients may have unlimited access to any content the vendor puts into the system, or the vendor might charge per course offering, but provide a very wide range of courses to choose from.

The content you create or upload varies depending on what you’re trying to teach and how it’s meant to be taught. Course content may include:

  • PowerPoint presentations
  • Infographics
  • Animation effects
  • HTML5 interactive pages
  • Embedded videos
  • PDFs
  • Exams

Learning management systems may offer many types of customizable options, as well as templates for guiding administrators through authoring lesson content.

Even if you start from scratch developing your lessons, the software ffers help for getting started with its tools. And with LMS solutions that provide access to course content, administrators don’t have to worry about authoring.

Course Execution

Depending on how you organize your training process, you’ll either have your employees taught in-person or through the web, where the combination of both is blended learning.

Learning management systems help you organize and schedule in-person lessons, but they specialize in optimizing virtual web-based lessons.

Classroom-based: For lessons in a classroom setting, you’re able to organize all the factors involved with in-person learning. This includes how to:

  • Assign an instructor
  • Create and print attendance sheets
  • Determine a location and time for single or multiple events
  • Set the classroom capacity and control enrollment

Virtual classroom-based (eLearning): For lessons entirely on the web, courses are created to enhance user engagement. The top priorities for this type of lesson are:

  • Interactivity to fully engage with the software through clicking, moving sliders, dragging items, drop-down menus and more
  • Including graphics alongside text
  • Embedding videos for instructor tutorials

There are two ways to execute an online course. Virtual lessons can either be synchronous or asynchronous:

Synchronous lessons are given in real time and require all enrolled employees to be present online during the lesson.

The benefits: Employees are able to discuss course content on message boards or through video feeds during the lesson to help them fully understand the material.

The drawbacks: Employees might feel restricted by set times and have lower engagement with the lessons.

Asynchronous lessons are taken at the employee’s leisure and don’t require a set time for participating.

The benefits: Training materials can be accessed 24/7, giving employees the flexibility to balance coursework at their own pace, increasing participation rates.

The drawbacks: Employees are given more independence with the coursework, so they might be less inclined to take a proactive approach with the material.

If your employees are spread across locations and need to complete lessons at their own pace, virtual lessons are ideal. When scheduling courses, consider that 87% of surveyed learning management system users preferred online lessons during work hours in a synchronous setting.

Performance Tracking

performance-tracking-lmsLMS reporting features allow you to track the progress of each enrolled employee.

You’re able to compare employees based on course progress, returned course work and completed tests.

Solutions also track employees’ interaction with the material to measure their engagement. If you notice low engagement, it might be time to restructure your content.

Competencies and Certifications

Learning management software can help bridge employee performance gaps.

Whether your lesson plans are meant to onboard new hires or train managers, you can create various courses to teach new skills. Employees can be continually challenged to meet the next standard.

Courses created with learning management systems can also help employees learn the skills needed for certain advancement opportunities.

Some occupations require employees to be certified in certain areas, such as with safety. Learning management systems give your company the ability to certify your employees for those highly specialized jobs.

Your company can also create its own certifications to prepare employees for the next step of their careers within the company.

LMS Market Trends

Learning management systems began in the consumer market, and they continue to expand into the business world.

Here are the two most important trends that will impact the future of learning management systems:

SCORM Certified

In the earliest days of learning management systems, the US government developed set standards for content created and used in eLearning software. Any system that is Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) certified can exchange the same lesson content.

This way, any time lessons are created, they can be shared across platforms rather than duplicated and recoded for a new system.

Having a SCORM certified learning management system means you can use third-party lessons within your system, and your own authored lessons can be distributed to other systems as well.

Not all vendors are SCORM certified. Investing in a certified vendor may not be necessary for your business, but certification will likely be a determining factor when making a buying decision.

Mobility and Gamification

Mobility and gamification features go hand-in-hand as newer solutions are designed to be interactive and accessible.

gamification-lmsEmployees are increasingly using mobile devices for work, causing businesses and vendors to meet the demand for a high-tech workplace. Out of 350 surveyed businesses, 60% wanted a new LMS for meeting advanced needs such as mobility.

HR solutions in general are a step behind with mobile trends because most existing systems require an entire structural shift to work on mobile devices. Some may only work on Android products or Apple products, or may even lack a mobile platform altogether.

Some LMS mobile may also only be cosmetic, and they aren’t user-friendly. If you’re searching for built-to-last software, it’s important to know the difference between a “mobile-native” solution and those that only scratch the surface of device functionality.

As vendors build LMS solutions to create the best experience for learners, gamification is an important focus to use social learning techniques. When employees are put head-to-head and interact through social features, administrators can easily gauge their performance.

Businesses that make the most of these features have a transparent platform to develop talent.

LMS Buyer’s Guide

buyers-guide-lmsBefore purchasing any solution, companies need to first figure out what their requirements are for using LMS – such as whether they want to buy or build their own content. One good recommendation is to have a checklist of the necessary features ready before looking at vendors.

For a full view of buying this software, check out the complete guide.

7 Step Checklist:

1. Cost– LMS varies in cost, and you’ll need to factor in the number of users, subscription packages, cloud storage costs if applicable, upfront costs for managing servers with on-premise systems, and other services such as implementation and software upgrades.

2. Scalability– If you plan to train more employees in the future, make sure the system is scalable. You’ll want to make sure it can hold a large amount of content and that the content can be used again.

3. Integration abilities– Make sure LMS is compatible with other systems the company uses, such as a Human Resource Management System (HRM) or an employee database. Having LMS integrate with an HRMS eliminates the need to manually enter employee data – such data is transferred from the HRMS to LMS, or the administrator can sign into both systems at once.

4. Input from users– The company will need to get buy-in for the software, not just from top executives, but from HR, IT and the managers responsible for training their employees. One way to do that is to get those users involved in choosing the system – for example, have them participate in software demonstrations.

5. Training and support during and after software implementation– You’ll want to ensure the vendor offers implementation assistance, including any training. Does the vendor offer training remotely or onsite? You’ll want to choose a vendor that can provide training at your company’s convenience, if possible – for example, having a rep conduct training sessions to multiple users onsite. Also, make sure the vendor provides support after software deployment, such as 24/7 tech or customer service support via phone or online.

6. Length of implementation process– The implementation process can vary. You’ll want to speak with the vendor and request details on implementation timelines. You’ll also want to plan for any issues that could arise during the implementation phase.

7. Request to speak with vendor’s current or past customers– It’s important to get references from a vendor’s existing or previous clients. You’ll want input on not just the positive experience, but any issues as well. If the vendor has been in business for less than five years, it’s especially important to get references from its clients.

For a look at the complete check list download our LMS Buyer’s Guide.

Top Learning Management Solutions

Finding and selecting the right LMS for your organization is no easy task.

To narrow down your search, we’ve listed and profiled some of the most popular applicant tracking and recruiting solutions: