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Learning Management Systems: Expectation vs. Reality

Growing up, my dad would always point out advertisements to show how they set expectations. We would drive by a tanning salon with a picture of very sculpted and tan people and he would say “Wow, if I go in there - I’ll come out looking like that!” He wasn’t just referring to the shade of the person’s skin in the advertisement. Advertisement is powerful and marketing departments work hard to showcase benefits - tangible or intangible, but sometimes that can set consumers up with high expectations that can’t be met. As much as I wish applying sunless tanner would then give me a six-pack, that’s an expectation that absolutely will not come to actualization (without a lot of other work)…. bummer.

In a similar way, there are many technology advancements that make promises about saved time, or better retention, or increased engagement - but leave out a few important details. The saying often rings true, "You get out what you put in" and technology is no exception. 

Learning Management Systems are one of those products that boast a lot of reward, but deserve a little bit more attention on how to actually make the most of the system. Let's set some healthy expectations of this fantastic learning tool together:

Expectation: Adopting an LMS Will Improve My Trainings

Reality: A learning management system is a system to better manage trainings and a platform for distribution of content. While the intent is that this will then have a positive impact on the way that training is received, higher engagement, and better overall retention of information - that solely depends on the quality of the content.

Learning Management Systems are full of information that can be used to improve trainings, so simply starting to develop content and distribute is a step in the right direction. Improving the trainings requires that action is taken to measure effectiveness, retention and more while making optimizations. With each iteration of the class or content, the trainings should continue to get better as changes are made. An LMS can be so powerful in making changes to existing trainings that will have a far-reaching impact, but that depends on a company’s use of the system and the data that is generated. Understanding the data and how to decipher what it means and how to respond is the key to improvement - not just the adoption of an LMS.

Expectation: Adopting an LMS Will Improve Retention Rates

Reality: Training and a great onboarding experience are vital to retention. In fact, 42% of employees say that learning and development opportunities are the number one reason they choose one employer over another. Learning and development ranks higher on sought after benefits than full coverage health insurance - that’s how important it is to employees. That being said, while adopting an LMS can certainly improve some aspects of your training and onboarding experience, it only has an ancillary hand in improving your retention rates.

The reality of adopting an LMS and higher retention rates has to do with the training and development, content, and prioritization of learning at an organization. An LMS can give employees more control over when and how they learn and even in some cases what they learn. It is up to the employer to get the information into the system, organize in an easy-to-use fashion, and continually improve content based on industry trends and up-to-date information. So while the LMS itself may not cause a boost in retention rates, the proper use of an LMS can absolutely affect this metric and more when it comes to employee satisfaction, engagement, and retention.

Employees taking their online learning courses with a learning management system

Expectation: An LMS Has Content Available

Reality: This varies pretty widely depending on the LMS that you plan on purchasing. For example, large LMS platforms that are free for use typically do not come with content; while other providers have content available for an extra charge. Something else to be on the lookout for when searching for LMS providers is where they get their content, and if it will suit your requirements. Similar to shopping around for an LMS, there are different providers that offer their content and courses through learning management software providers. Ask for a sample of the content to get a feel for whether or not it will work for your purposes. This practice is acceptable and encouraged before buying a package.

While many LMS providers partner up with content providers, unless you see an extra charge for content or have specifically brought this up in a conversation, it’s not likely included and therefore your team would be responsible for coming up with the content for your organization.

Ultimately, a learning management system can be a very powerful tool that delivers excellent and sustainable results if used properly. The tool is what you plan to make of it and the time that you invest will pay back exponentially. 

While most people would like to look like the tanning salon advertisements - results are not guaranteed, setting realistic expectations can change a daunting experience into a fun opportunity to engage a new tool and get the success you hope for. 

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