The Complete Guide To Buying, Building And Launching An LMS Or LXP
Whether you’re searching for your first learning management system or ready to upgrade your learning platform, buying the right technology isn’t a decision to be taken lightly!
It might not even be your decision ultimately. You might be researching, testing and presenting the best options to the people with power.
But whether you’re the one signing on the dotted line or setting up the contract, the steps you need to take remain roughly the same. Which is why we put together this guide to help everyone from L&D leaders to CEOs, whether they’re in fast-growing startups or well-established global companies
This is your tool for finding the perfect learning technology; from working out what you need to successfully launching the tool that transforms your organisation and its learning culture.
Everything you need to know about the LMS and its learning technology rivals
What’s an LMS, and what do I need to know about it?
Welcome to the land of acronyms! Learning and development is full of them, but the learning management system (LMS) is the one you’ll probably see popping up more than any other.
So, what is it and why are you likely to come across it so often?
Defining what an LMS is
Well, in its simplest form, it’s somewhere for organisations to store, provide and measure their training or learning content. It’s a place for employees to log in and complete compliance courses or find the onboarding guidance they need as they join a new company. If employees are lucky, their employers might upload content that helps them develop new skills or gain knowledge.
A brief history of the LMS and its role today
Just like the film Inception, the timelines of the LMS’ backstory can be a little confusing, to say the least. Various decades are credited with welcoming the first version of a learning management system, but the mid to late 1990s is most commonly given the nod for its emergence as a corporate software force.
This is when e-learning became a common and viable tool for businesses. But much like that Christopher Nolan masterpiece, what came before gives us a lot of context for the LMS and its success. Our reference point is essentially face-to-face training.
Back in the early 1990s, shipping people off for training courses or signing them up to external qualifications were seen as the only formal options for learning in the workplace. The trouble is that takes people out of the office for a decent chunk of time, and the costs soon add up. So, it’s no wonder that people were so impressed by the LMS’ capability to bring consistent resources into a single place. One that was accessible in the office rather than hundreds of miles away.
The problem for the LMS (and anyone born around that time and rapidly approaching their mid-30s) is that we’re decades away from the 1990s. And when a global pandemic puts an end to face-to-face training, that reference point fades away – instead, the LMS becomes our reference point of what came before…
Is it time to move on from the LMS?
In 2019, Association for Talent Development (ATD) research revealed that 83% of talent development professionals were using an LMS. What’s interesting is that, despite those high numbers, if you Google that statistic, you’ll find a fair few articles questioning whether or not the LMS is on life support or has already passed onto the workplace tech afterlife.
So, how can something so many companies use and the one L&D acronym to rule them all be in such doubt?
Well, a third of respondents said their LMS had limited capabilities in general, and a similar proportion said the same thing about its data and reporting functions. With four in 10 saying their employees lacked sufficient time to learn using their LMS, clearly showing that, for some, the LMS isn’t solving the pain points they expect it to.
A quarter of LMS users stated their intention to change to a different LMS provider, the trouble is that they’d find the same problems waiting for them from the moment they logged in. That’s why it’s time for us to log out of this one acronym and start thinking about the problems we need learning technology to solve for us.
Comparing your learning technology options
Ever used the term Pritt Stick when you really meant glue? Or scrambled for a Post-It when a genius idea comes to mind, without realising that’s just the biggest brand name for a sticky note?
That’s the point we’ve been making so far. People use the term LMS because it’s the one they know, and it’s synonymous with learning tech. But when it comes to solving their workplace learning problems, there are more options out there, and some are likely to be much better!
Here are some of the alternatives that also highlight the limitations of the traditional LMS…
Content creation tools
The most common example you’ll see is the authoring tool, and there’s more than a fair dose of irony in that two-word title. Typically, these tools are filled with pre-existing templates to build out learning content, lessons and courses, so there’s a fair amount of L&D ghost writing involved.
Essentially, there’s a drag and drop or presentation style interface that you can use to create the content or course structure, which you’ll then populate with images, audio, videos and other elements. You’ll also encounter interactive parts, enabling you to add tests, questions and full quizzes that test recall and knowledge levels. You’ll find different authoring tools for different levels of content creation capability, meaning there should be an option for everyone.
In a lot of cases, there’s an ability to co-author with others on the platform and when it’s ready, you can export it and upload it to your LMS, LXP or other learning tool.
Typically, an LMS is limited on the content front. Why? Because it’s dependent on what you upload onto it. This means people face two problems, they run out of content and end up thinking, what now? Or they can’t find the type or topic of content they want and hit a brick wall.
That helps explain the popularity of content libraries like LinkedIn Learning, Udemy or Coursera. When companies buy a subscription to this kind of service, they open up thousands of courses to each learner in their company. The only trouble is you might find them going from too little choice to too much, with a new sense of overwhelm preventing them from finding the content that’s related to the skills they need to build or knowledge it’s crucial they acquire.
Shared drives and knowledge hubs
Companies in the early stages of their learning journey might start smaller by simply starting a shared place to store important documents and people’s knowledge. Companies unhappy with their current LMS might realise that they were only using their tech as a file storage facility and have outgrown the current tool.
Learning experience platforms (LXP)
The biggest rival to the LMS’ learning acronym throne, the LXP is a tool that prioritises the end-user rather than the admin behind the tech.
In an LMS, decisions are made from the top-down; which content is available, who is it available to, and when do we assign it to them? Typically, an LXP empowers people to seek out learning content while using AI to personalise resource recommendations and still allowing managers to set an overall structure and strategy that it all exists within.
In general, LXPs host more diverse content types and third-party resources while offering integrations with tools people use each day. This allows learning to happen as they work. With an LMS, you’re tied to the idea of learning being something people go to do rather than something that happens as they go about daily tasks.
All of the above in a modern LXP built for the L&D problems of today
Chances are that with each option we’ve discussed so far, including the LMS, there was something you agreed with. One aspect that drew a nod or even went as far as enticing a ‘that sounds about right’.
And you’d be right! There are redeeming, appealing, and absolutely brilliant aspects about each, that’s why it’s pointless compromising or placing yourself strictly in one box. That’s our view, and it’s why we built HowNow – the LXP that connects people to the knowledge they need faster, everywhere they already work.
We’ll act as the single front door for all your learning! The place where people can share knowledge alongside all your internal resources and third-party content. We’ll integrate with any course libraries to bring every resource to the end of a single search and make that knowledge available where people already work!
The answer is an emphatic and resounding yes! And we don’t even know what your business is yet.
Every company can benefit from having a tool that drives learning, a place where all your resources live and empowers people to find those on-demand. Whether you’re a small startup or working at a huge, global business, the principles and benefits of learning, developing, building skills and sharing knowledge are just as important.
The better question is whether you can find a platform that scales with your company and has a flexible pricing model built around the number of learners. Something we’ll get to later…
Common use cases for learning platforms
Why’s it important to know your various learning technology options before we talk about how you might use them? Because if we look at problems and solutions solely through the prism of the LMS, we’ll make the same mistake as those people who search for an LMS rather than for a tool to solve their problem.
For example, an LMS doesn’t really help you provide self-directed learning or drive knowledge sharing, so it would be wrong of us to discuss that before we establish the full range of options.
Probably the most common use case for the traditional LMS. It’s not just the one it’s most synonymous with, but the one that’s arguably contributed to its poor reputation. Compliance is important. There’s normally a legal reason behind it or a key cultural motivation for why it needs to be done.
The issue is when it’s the ONLY thing an LMS or learning platform is used for. That’s when people start to associate it with logging in once each year to do something they’re forced to, as opposed to a tool for learning, development and progressing towards goals.
New people join your team or company, and you want to give them access to relevant information and resources that get them to productivity quicker. Most people turn to learning tech in these instances because they want to offer on-demand content, consistent experiences and automate the process where possible.
Some of our best, useful and most relevant knowledge lives in the heads of our employees! People who’ve been in your company or industry for a while have built up relevant experience related to your product or customer – the goal should be to capture it and make it available to their colleagues.
Creating a learning culture
Without the right tool to drive learning, it’s hard to build a culture where people are developing independently, picking up new skills and sharing that knowledge. Finding it more easily can help facilitate that learning culture, where it happens organically and becomes something people do naturally at work.
Whether it’s big or small, every company has a gap between the skills they have today and those they’ll need to reach future goals. We call that your skill gap and learning platforms are where people often turn when they need to close it – this is where we really start to enter the world of personalised learning. Skill gaps can’t really be closed by general courses, you need to customise pathways based on what people know now and what they’ll need to know moving forward.
Enabling your teams
We’ve mentioned companies and businesses a lot so far, but the need and desire for a learning tool are often driven by a particular team within an organisation. A sales team might need to upskill its reps to close more deals or a customer support team may need a way to improve how their staff troubleshoot and solve client problems.
It’s one of those unwritten rules, but thriving teams are normally led by inspiring and effective leaders. And even those who are born to lead need coaching, advice and support to develop their managerial skills. There’s also the idea of needing an effective team leader in place to create effective learning and development among employees. That’s why many companies prioritise leadership development because they see it as the first piece in their L&D puzzle.
Am I ready for an LMS or learning platform?
Signs you’re ready for your first learning platform:
You’re outsourcing learning and training and want to bring it in house.
People are coming to you and asking for opportunities to learn.
You’re sending onboarding content manually each time someone joins.
Compliance management is also something you’re managing manually.
Learning is informal with no real structure in place.
There’s a need to report on your employee’s progress or development but you’re currently lacking data and insights.
Signs it’s time to upgrade from your current LMS:
People aren’t logging in or engaging with your current LMS.
You’ve got loads of content but nobody really knows where any of it is.
Your people learn on the go and need a learning tool that offers a dedicated mobile app.
It’s currently solely populated by your L&D team’s content but you’re ready to incorporate course libraries, third parties and internal knowledge.
People are coming to you and asking for MORE opportunities to learn or better ways of doing it.
The current LMS you’re using doesn’t integrate with tools like your HR system or employee management software.
Your current tool prevents people from finding resources on-demand or in the moments where they really need them.
LMS red flags: What to look for (and avoid)
LMS is a legacy term, which means you’ve got to be wary of legacy products! Popping your head into some of the old school learning management systems is like walking into a grandparent’s house that hasn’t changed since the 1970s. Sure, there’s a sprinkling of charm and you can spot things that might have been fresh and new once upon a time, but there’s very little there to please the modern eye.
The trouble is, you can’t just call in the decorators for your learning tech. Instead, use the below list like a colour chart for red flags and warning signs.
The interface feels dated: The modern learner wants and expect something as slick as the tools and tech they use on a regular basis, think social media platforms and polished apps.
It limits how much you can create: Does it simply let you attach documents or create PowerPoint-style presentations? Modern problems require more modern content formats, like podcasts or YouTube videos, and the ability to order, re-order and build learning journeys from them.
You need to buy add-on products: if it doesn’t work without you spending extra cash on additional products or tools, it might not be the simple or all-in-one solution you need.
Support is limited: You’re best off checking recent reviews to get a clear understanding of the support available to you.
It doesn’t let you incorporate external content: We’ll get to the power of curating content later, but if it doesn’t let you embed and integrate with external sources, you’ll struggle to populate your learning space.
You need an obscene amount of technical knowhow: If it’s overly technical and built around a select few having that technical knowledge, very few will be able to benefit from using it.
Reporting isn’t customisable or particularly detailed: Limited reporting means limited insights and that means you’re limited on how you’re able to demonstrate impact. For example, if you can only show completion or engagement rates, you don’t know the influence on skills progression or employee development.
It doesn’t integrate with your other technology: People are most motivated to learn at the point of need, so if you can’t integrate your learning tool where they already work, they can’t learn in the flow of work.
You deserve better than red flags, which is why we’ll give you a gold star learning experience! HowNow is as intuitive as modern consumer-grade products, meaning it’s far easier for learners and leaders to get up to speed.
We’ll empower you to create and curate content, integrate it with your other tools and measure skills proficiency so that you can really understand learning’s impact. That all adds up to easy collaboration, self-directed learning, detailed reporting, productive learners and happy leaders.
Book a demo today and one of our friendly experts will be in touch to show you the hows and whys of HowNow.
Why are learning platforms so hot right now?
Three fascinating trends that are changing workplace learning
Trend one: The global pandemic and the rise of hybrid/remote work
If we look at Google search trends for the past five years, there’s one key date to keep an eye out for – March 2020. COVID forced businesses to reckon with how they were conducting learning, development, collaboration and skilling. And without the ability to learn from colleagues in person or tap on shoulders to find resources, many companies were desperate for a solution to these problems.
And, like most of us, they headed to Google. Searches for LMS and learning platform shot up immediately.
If we look at remote collaboration, for example, we see a huge spike in interest around March 2020. Almost any trend graph you look at for terms containing virtual, remote or working from home follows the same pattern and highlights this global shift in mindset that is continuing to transform how we work today – whether that’s at home, in the office or with a mix of the two.
Trend two: Changing content consumption and learning behaviours
Something else that was utterly revolutionised by the pandemic was how we consumed content or interacted with technology. It had been bubbling away for a while but shot up almost as rapidly as those graphs above; we consumed more on-demand content than ever before, expected more personalisation from platforms like Netflix and really had the time to indulge ourselves by using apps like Deliveroo from the palm of our hands.
And from a learner or employee perspective, you can imagine people having these kinds of thoughts. If Netflix can recommend the right content that enriches me, why can’t I find the same experience when it comes to learning at work. Or, if Deliveroo can let me jump in, grab what I need and have it in minutes, why is all the information I need to do my job better not available in the same way?
Luckily for those learners, the comfort blanket of training courses and in-person events was pulled away from a lot of companies. Which seemed to be the turning point or crystallising moment for realising that they needed to offer better ways of learning and developing at work.
Trend three: What’s possible with technology
Of course, transformation is normally only possible if you’ve got the technology to do it. You can’t imagine anyone with the idea for a bike got very far before the wheel was invented – physically or metaphorically. And it was at this moment (COVID not the wheel’s invention) that many realised their traditional LMS or learning tech wouldn’t have the capabilities or features to support development in a fast-changing world.
We’re managing teams all over the world who want to learn in their time and on their terms. In their distributed state, people are craving better ways of sharing knowledge and learning from colleagues. People also want to learn things that make them better at their job and not simply study for the sake of it, which means more personalised and on the job learning.
Sadly for the LMS, it’s not built to do those things, and that’s why we’re entering the LXP era.
Analysing the data behind the rising importance of learning tech
Search trends can only tell us half of the story (if that), so we better look at some hard data. LinkedIn’s 2021 Workplace Learning Report backed some of these mindset shifts caused by the pandemic and where we’ll be working in a hybrid world.
59% of L&D pros named upskilling and reskilling as their top priority (up 15% on 2020), while virtual onboarding came in third place with 33%. Along similar lines, more than half (51%) of L&D pros also stated that internal mobility is now a greater priority than it was pre-pandemic.
Then you’ve got the money aspect. 33% of L&D pros expected their budgets to increase in March 2021, slightly down on the 37% a year earlier, but impressive given it plummeted to 22% in June 2020 and companies have been going through a lot of turmoil since.
Employees are driving this in their own right too. ClearCompany research revealed that 76% of people are looking for career development opportunities, while 68% believe training and development is a company’s most important policy.
According to Gallup, 59% of millennials say learning and development opportunities are important in applying for jobs. But just 29% of employees are “very satisfied” with their current growth opportunities, meaning those offering progression are more appealing than their current employers.
When that investment happens, employees are more productive, you can develop leaders, save money on hiring by upskilling and retaining employees and keep ahead of industry trends – as you can read about here:
Stand still, and you’ll probably get left behind! Whether we’re talking about a single person or a global business, that old adage always rings true – just spare a thought for every 90s kid that had to wave goodbye to Nokia, Blockbuster and Kodak in their heyday form.
Fear not, there’s a tool that can stop your people and organisation from becoming the metaphorical VHS, roll of film or phone with a week-long battery life – it’s employee development!
In a world where work is changing at breakneck speed, the fastest learner wins, and those agile companies who innovate are the ones who come out on top. Developing employees can arm them with the skills needed to drive you all forward, and there are plenty of other benefits en route.
The better questions are what is it? How can I do it? And what’ll happen if I don’t… Let’s answer those now!
It isn’t packing people off for a training course once per year! Technically, yes, you are helping that person develop in a sense, but employee growth is far more helpful if it happens over time, continuously and where people already work. Why? Because people can respond to business-specific scenarios, gaining the required knowledge where they can implement it – which also happens to be when they’re most motivated to learn!
The key benefits of employee development and why it matters
So far, we’ve been a little preoccupied with the business and how much they’ll benefit, but employee development is a great way of putting smiles on your people’s faces and encouraging them to stick around.
Get your strategy right, and everyone should be strolling around the office with big beaming grins on their faces, safe in the knowledge that people are growing and your business is going from strength to strength.
Retain top talent by offering a path to progress
According to ClearCompany, 68% of employees believe that training and development is a company’s most important policy. The same research was even more eye-opening when it revealed that 76% of people are openly looking for career development opportunities.
Give the people what they want! 59% of people even stated that they’d had no workplace training or that their skills were self-taught, so think about how happy your people will be and what it’ll do for your employer brand if you’re offering opportunities to progress.
TINYpulse’s research found that “employees who feel they’re progressing in their careers are 20% more likely to still be working at their companies in one year’s time.”
Attract future talent through a reputation for prioritising people’s development
People talk! Maybe it’s bigging up your employer on LinkedIn or letting out anonymous anger in a Glassdoor takedown after a particularly terrible stint at a company, but prospects do seek out independent views on a potential employer.
Now, when someone punches your name into Google or Glassdoor, wouldn’t you prefer if it was accompanied by something like “amazing employer, really invested in my development and helped me progress to a new level.”
Gallup research shows that 59% of millennials say learning and development opportunities are important for them when applying for a job. Meanwhile, only 29% of employees are “very satisfied” with their career growth opportunities available at their current employer. Hopefully, these two statistics hammer home just how important a reputation for providing growth opportunities can be in attracting top-level talent.
Save money on replacing talent and hiring externally
This is a two-part benefit. The first being that if you’re retaining talent, you’re not counting the cost of replacing it! According to Accounts and Legal, SMEs spend around £12,000 replacing each employee on average. If you’re reading this from the US, Employee Benefit News reported that on average it’s around $15,000 or 33% of an employee’s salary. However much it works out, losing good people is always going to hit you in the pocket.
Secondly, we’ve got the idea of promoting from within as opposed to hiring from without. Obviously, the latter comes with what can be eye-wateringly high hiring costs, but what most people overlook is the time to productivity. When someone new comes into the business, it takes them a while to get their head around the product and culture. But when you promote internal talent or upskill them into a role, they’ve already got a wealth of knowledge about the business and their colleagues.
If you haven’t read our HR trends for 2022, we discussed this in a lot more detail. But the gist is that internal mobility has become a very hot topic, 51% of learning and development pros stated that it’s a greater priority in 2021 than it was pre-COVID. The same LinkedIn report revealed that employees at high internal mobility companies stay for twice as long (5.4 years) as their low mobility counterparts (2.4 years).
Develop your next batch of leaders
Great leaders aren’t born, they’re made! Or something like that, because the truth is you will often see people rising through the ranks at companies to enter leadership positions. The trouble is that doesn’t happen at every company, and even those that do might be overlooking potential within their teams.
A greater focus on employee and leadership development will give the mindset needed to assess people’s skills, understand their potential and have the right conversations to recognise who wants to step into management shoes. The next step would be creating pathways that help people progress into their future role.
Better performance and productivity in people’s everyday work
If your company spends an average of $1,500 on employee training each year, you’ll average 24% higher profit margins! That’s according to the American Society for Training and Development, who also found that those offering comprehensive training also enjoy 218% higher income per employee than those who don’t.
If we think back to our development definition, this isn’t just a case of picking a $1,500 course and sending somebody off for three days. It’s about investing budget into building skills that make people better at their role (we’ll get to how you can do this shortly), enabling them to become more productive in their daily workflow.
Given that employees are motivated by ongoing progress and learning opportunities, Gallup’s figure that engaged people are 27% more likely to report excellent performance should come as no surprise. And according to GoRemotely “engaged employees are more productive, resulting in a 21% increase in profits.”
Keep employee skills up to date with industry trends
It’s a harsh truth to hear, but your skills don’t last forever! They don’t last anywhere near that long…
So, if you’re not developing new skills and keeping up with the in-demand traits as your role or industry evolves, you might slip behind the pack.
There’s no one categorial timeframe, but our skills can become outdated within 18 short months! Skills generally tend to have a half-life of five years, while with more technical skills you’re looking at half that period.
That’s why you’ll hear so many variations of terms like lifelong, continuous and ongoing learning when you talk to L&D pros with a passion for upskilling. This leads us nicely to…
Close skill gaps and upskill people towards company goals
It’s not as cut and dried as this though, you’ve also got to factor in the industry trends and in-demand traits. If you spot the competition are all recruiting people with a certain skill, and it’s something missing in your team, they’re likely to nip ahead in that area.
Once you understand the skills needed for progress, those required to keep pace with change and any your employee is keen to develop, you can build out personalised development pathways that help people build proficiency efficiently.
Learn fast in a world where the fastest learner wins
Be honest, what’s the plan if your competitor is learning faster than you? Most companies don’t have a plan, even though the consequences can be dire – we’re talking client churn, failure to attract new customers and a sorry looking bottom line.
We often find the challenge is that our landscapes are changing fast but our companies are growing faster, meaning it’s hard to find the time for learning. On average, each employee only slows down to learn for 23 minutes each week. The solution is to stop trying to slow them down and help people learn and apply the skills they need in the shortest time, in the flow of work.
Luckily for you, that’s our specialist subject! Our all-in-one learning platform helps fast-growing companies onboard, upskill and nurture their employees faster, everywhere they already work. And we’ll show how we can do that for your company if you complete this short demo form!
Building your employee development plan: four tips for success
Of EVERYTHING that’s relevant! Measure as much as you can before you plan, that’s a secret to success. Audit all the existing skills in your company, where are there glaring weaknesses that you need to tighten up? That might mean comparing talent to industry trends or your competition, but it will almost certainly mean taking another look at your goals.
What current processes and technology do you have in place? Ask honest questions like do people use them, are they effective, in which ways are they effective, and where do people find them difficult or counterproductive?
It’s worth taking a look at people in a more general and soft skill sense too! Those can be equally important when it comes to upskilling, whether that’s finding future leaders or people with the right traits to lead projects or become buddies – this will also become part of your development plan.
Think about the future of your people and company
If your goals are the destination, developing skills is the journey that takes you there! If your company’s goal is to launch five new products over the next five years, you better believe that it’s only possible if you’ve got the right skills. The same applies to people’s personal goals and how they’ll arrive at those while they’re at your company.
The simple solution is to speak with people, about both points! Asking them for input on the direction of the business not only engages them and shows you value their opinion, but it also opens the door to discussions on their role in reaching those goals. Speaking with employees about their personal development shows you’re interested in helping them progress and plants the seed that your organisation is a place where they can reach their goals.
Create custom development pathways
People might have been burnt before, where they’ve had those conversations only for words to speak a lot louder than any actions. A personalised development plan is your way of showing you mean business! People are different, so are their personal goals and how they’ll contribute to the company’s success.
So why would a one-size approach help? It wouldn’t! A great learning pathway has a set of specific and actionable steps, resources and courses that apply to each person, taking them from where they are today to where they need to be tomorrow, in a month or a year from now.
Measure and adjust
Almost every journey takes a little tweaking, no matter how well you’ve planned the route! You might find that a certain person’s pathway requires some course correction, maybe the company goals shift slightly, and learning also needs to, or you might discover that certain tech or types of content just don’t click.
But the honest truth is that you won’t find any of this unless you’re engaging in ongoing measurement. Review what works, understand where progress slows, speak to people about their development and decide which changes you need to make if you’re going to reach collective goals.
Tools and techniques for employee development
What works for some doesn’t work for others, which is why it’s important to have plenty of employee development weapons in your arsenal. Here’s a quick rundown of the ones that might help your people thrive and grow.
Mentoring and coaching
If someone wants to learn a skill or build experience in one area, and someone else has already ticked all those boxes, it makes sense to pair them together, right? Mentoring and peer learning are particularly helpful when colleagues can share relevant on the job experience that directly relates to your business – harness the power of mentoring and coaching and watch your people go!
A little like the above, but it’s more a case of watching others as they complete tasks rather than them simply sharing the wisdom of how they did it! Shadowing someone as they work allows you to understand the methodology better and ask questions in real time, it’ll also enable you to build relationships with influential colleagues.
Practice projects and simulations
Some people crack under pressure, while others thrive. It’s important that you’re catering to both! Deep-end thrivers will love on the job experience, others can really benefit from practice scenarios and simulations that mimic the real thing. If they’re client-facing, set up mock customer calls or pitches within your learning platform – record those and review them together to help people hone their skills.
Social learning and knowledge sharing
Some of our tips have hinted at it but not from a cultural perspective. By fostering an environment where everyone is encouraged to and is openly sharing their knowledge and experiences, you’re breaking their talents out of silos. After all, how is someone going to learn from a colleague if you’re not even sure who’s skilled and knowledgeable in which areas?
At HowNow, we created the Nugget – a way for anyone to share knowledge and resources at any time! Those Nuggets are then stored in one central location at the end of a single search, meaning people can learn from each other independently and in a self-directed sense, outside of your formal plan.
Group learning workshops
Ok, so we’ll need to go back on something we said earlier, and that’s around people not always needing to learn the same things – sometimes they do! Perhaps you recognise the entire sales team need training on a certain methodology, or the customer service gang require a certain soft skill in order to reach a satisfaction goal, this is where group learning can be a huge asset.
If people are working on the same project, they can share experiences, offer feedback and improve their critical thinking. They’ll gain a better understanding of their teammates while building communication skills, all while helping understand and foster a culture for collaboration.
Some people like structure, others are free spirits, but no matter what, it’s likely that they’ll follow their own curiosity on their employee development pathway. Let’s face it, you can add some really comprehensive content on a topic but once they’ve read it, their thirst for knowledge might not have been quenched. And so they’ll head to the fountains of knowledge that are search engines, blogs, content libraries and social media.
The biggest benefit you can offer is bringing all of this into one place, so that they can discover third-party content in the same place as all your internal resources. In HowNow, we make all your internal knowledge, content libraries and third-party content available at the end of a single search. We’re driving employee development and cutting down the time spent searching for information, and we’d love to show you how! Just complete this short demo form, it’ll only take a minute (if that).
Common (and not so common) features for learning platforms - finding what ticks your boxes
We’ve already covered a lot of the basics in our typical use cases. It’s pretty much a given that it’ll offer centralised resources in some capacity and help you connect people with resources for tasks like onboarding and compliance, but what about the key and common features you need to consider?
Analytics and reporting
A must-have! Your LMS’ reporting tools are your way of tracking whether people are compliant and completing training. Typically, you’ll be able to run and export these kinds of reports, which are useful if you need to share numbers with stakeholders. However, those statistics don’t tell you whether the training people are completing is having any impact on the business or its goals – too many LMS offerings only tell you if that box has been ticked.
Look out for platforms that enable you to measure skills proficiency instead. They’ll help you understand whether L&D efforts are helping people progress and become better at their role.
Also consider whether your potential learning tech lets you report in real-time to provide in-the-moment snapshots or view detailed dashboards at the drop of a hat.
Assessments and certifications
One way to test knowledge and growth is, unsurprisingly, with tests! Whether they’re simple quizzes or more complex practice scenarios, it’s worth considering the types of assessment that best fit your learners and working out which learning platforms offer those capabilities.
For example, if you’ve got a majority of customer-facing employees, a platform without practice scenarios won’t help them test their chops in a pressure-free environment!
Content creation and authoring tools
Today, you might only need to upload existing or third-party resources, but tomorrow you’ll probably need to create content in your learning platform. However, some traditional learning management systems lack that creation or authoring capability.
Don’t fall into the trap of picking something that requires you to pay for a separate authoring tool or waste time creating resources in a different platform.
No man is an island, and neither is a good learning platform! However, you’ll typically find the LMS is more limited than other tools when it comes to integrating. How well it plays with others affects how easy it is for us to automate tasks and how easy people find it to learn in the flow of work.
For example, an integration with a sales or customer support tool helps people search for knowledge where they work, in the context of how they work. And if your LMS doesn’t connect with your HR tool, it prevents you from automating tasks based on when people reach particular milestones.
Consider which tools it’s vital your learning platform integrates with before you begin looking at or trialling available options.
Something that looks dull and impersonal isn’t going to inspire people to learn! But if your brand’s personality and values are shining through, it’ll help foster a greater sense of connection to the learning tool. That might be as simple as adding your logo or brand colours and as complex as a completely custom interface to wow people from the first login.
People learn in different ways, especially if your employees are out on the road and working on the go! It’s not a feature you’ll find in every learning platform, but mobile apps are becoming more and more common. Picture estate agents or event staff needing to access key information on site, these are the situations when a mobile app is worth its weight in gold.
Track offline learning
Small but important! Not all learning is going to take place within your platform but it’s important that you can still account for and measure it in one tool. That’s how you’ll create a true, 360-degree picture of someone’s learning journey.
Data security and privacy
There’s going to be a lot of sensitive data in your learning tool, so it’s absolutely vital it remains safe and secure. From people’s details to sensitive company data, you need to consider how it’s protected, where it’s stored, and the security credentials of any potential platform.
Course and learning path management
If you’re going to personalise learning and make it more effective for individual employees, you’ll need the capability to build out custom pathways and courses in your learning tool.
It’s an old L&D trope, but one-size fits nobody. When you’re building out onboarding courses, for example, think about the things everyone needs to know and the information that’s just not relevant to that individual.
Now, this isn’t something you can expect to find in your really traditional LMS, but more modern solutions recognise just how much we learn from our colleagues. Whether that’s by allowing everyone to upload to the platform or adding collaborative features like forums or Q&As on content.
How you can put this into practice: Advice from Cognism's People Team
It’s all well and good understanding how to do this in theory, but what about in practice? To gain insight into how the process works in real life, we asked Cognism’s Katie Harrison, People Operations, to explain how they arrived at the idea of needing learning technology and recognised their key use cases or features.
“As a rapidly expanding company, we recognised the importance of having a centralised information/learning hub to create a shared learning culture and enable personal growth. Our priorities included allowing everyone to be able to share knowledge but primarily be able to find and access it too, so HowNow’s approach of ‘bringing scattered learning together’ really resonated with us and our objectives.
“With increasing numbers of people joining us remotely, the onboarding piece also started to feel critical as we needed all new starters to have a consistent and thorough onboarding that could be automated, regardless of location or role. We are a small HR team so being able to automate as many processes as possible while at the same time minimising questions was also really important when considering an LMS.”
As you can see, awareness of Cognism‘s size and trajectory was crucial to their decision. They understood where they were today and where they’d likely be moving forward, recognised how learning could support the changing ways they’re working as well as their smaller HR team, and used that to inform the solution they choose – HowNow.
13 questions to ask before choosing or buying an LMS
What are the biggest pain points and problems for your employees? This should be one of the biggest considerations for your thought process.
Who are your learners? What do they do, where do they work and which teams are they in?
What’s your current strategy? Which parts of it work and which don’t work? This is a chance to create a blank canvas and bring over only the effective methods.
Where are people naturally learning? If your current strategy doesn’t work, it’s time to look at people’s natural behaviours. Where do they go when they need to learn something new?
Are our employee numbers growing? If so, congratulations, but remember to factor this into your search. You need a platform that can scale with your company.
How big is your L&D, HR or people team? Small teams need learning solutions that do a lot of the heavy lifting. If a tool is very manual, a limited team is going to struggle.
Where are we getting content from? Similar to the above, small teams can become a bottleneck for creating learning content. Consider whether a learning platform offers content or curates it for you – that way, people aren’t running out of resources.
Who’s creating content? You might choose to allow internal subject matter experts to share knowledge through your platform, so make sure you’re looking at tools with that capability.
What’s our budget? Seems obvious, but it’s important to establish a budget before you fall in love with something that’s out of your price range.
How quickly do we need to get up and running? If the answer is pretty sharpish, then you’ll need to consider which options are easy to set up and ready out of the box.
Does it integrate with our important tech? Which tools are people using every day, and how important is it for your learning platform to integrate with those?
Which learning styles are most important for us? There might be more than one, but it’s worth thinking about whether self-directed learning is a priority? Or perhaps it’s the collaborative style that best fits your culture? This will influence your technical decisions.
How often do we need to report, and on which metrics? No point having a platform that doesn’t allow you to prove its worth through numbers and data…
You’re either taking the plunge into your first learning platform, or your current system feels like the set of armbands you need to ditch now you’re ready for the development deep end. Either way, there’s a pool of questions you’ll need to ask before you can understand which learning platform will help you do more than just float.
The questions you need to ask yourself can be broken down into two categories: the bigger picture (the questions you need to ask about your needs) and the finer details (defining the platform capabilities required to satisfy those needs).
The questions below apply to both. Our focus here is on your needs and working out what you need in the platform, not what that platform is.
The bigger picture: getting in touch with your learning needs
Which problems are you solving for people?
Your learning goals are directly linked to your business goals, because the ultimate idea is to develop skills that deliver a better customer experience. So, it makes sense to establish which problems you are aiming to solve and the people that are affected by this issue. That way, you can prioritise the problem in your learning strategy and the platform you choose.
Who are your learners?
The most important consideration should be your people! After all, a learning platform is only useful if people use it and it helps them progress.
Start with the job role or department your learners operate in. Is it the entire workforce or a particular team? Perhaps you’re working with customers, partners or resellers? Once you’ve established this, you can assess how those employees work and what they might need from a learning platform. If it’s a combination of teams and people, consider the differences between their needs too.
What are your learning goals and needs?
You can also think of this as what you’d like to achieve by using a learning platform. Are there compliance courses that you need to manage more efficiently? Are there skills lacking in your team that might be holding you back? Do you want your employees to have better access to resources in their daily workflow? It could be a combination of learning needs, so it’s important to recognise the most pressing and your overarching goals.
Where do your people want to learn and how do they do it best?
A combination of questions one and two, you’re really asking what methods of learning are best suited to your people and objectives.
If day or week-long courses have always been greeted by groans and struggles to stay awake by 4PM, you’re probably ready to try something new. Perhaps your learners are better suited to bite-sized content that they can access on-demand? Do you think all your night owls are going to be switched on for a 9AM session? They’ll probably learn best in the evening, at their own pace. Let’s not forget those early risers either, up hours before the workday starts and itching to be productive.
Devices and content types are just as important. If you’ve got plenty of commuters who enjoy literal learning journeys, you’ll need a platform with a mobile app. If they’re taking public transport, then guides and articles are great, but not so much if they’re driving to the office. Are there any podcasts or webinar recordings they could listen to on the way?
What’s your current strategy?
There must be something about it that’s led you here? Learn from it!
What’s working right now, and what do you need to improve? How much of that relates to your current learning platform or lack of one? There are bound to be things you’d do better or differently with another platform in place, so consider what those are. You don’t have to wait until you’ve found a new tool or system, there’ll be things you can act on now.
Are you growing?
We don’t mean to sound like the elderly relative you’ve not seen for a while, but have you grown? And how much bigger are you likely to get in the short and long term?
It’s all well and good picking a platform that fits your current learning needs, but you need to make sure it can scale with your company as it grows. Think about the number of employees, areas of the business that are likely to expand and how that might influence your learning strategy.
What’s your budget?
This is not the time for window shopping! We don’t want you to fall in love with a learning platform and then see the price tag. Set out your budget and search for options that fit within it.
The finer details: what are you looking for in a platform?
Of course, a lot of this depends on the learning resources you already have at your disposal and how much you’ll need to rely on the platform to provide content. Which leads us nicely onto…
What content is available on the platform?
Ideally, you’ll want to consider the quality of the curated content in a platform, how you’ll complement your own resources with it, and how easy it is for learners to find that content.
So, this is a big one. A lot of learning platforms find third-party content and make that available to your learners. Where are they getting it from, and how are they presenting it?
In HowNow, we surface free courses from the likes of Udemy and LinkedIn Learning, alongside insightful online resources from high-quality sites. They’re organised into channels by topic, which your learners can subscribe to, but they’ll also receive recommended content based on their skills and interests. The more they use the platforms, the more we use AI to understand their behaviour and their recommendations just keep getting better. And when they need to find something quickly, the search bar is always open!
Is it smart enough to drive self-directed learning?
Give someone a course and they’ll learn for a day, give someone a learning platform that recommends content and they’ll learn forever! If a platform has an intuitive user experience and taps into artificial intelligence to deliver relevant resources, your learners get a lot of value for minimal effort. What better way to encourage independent learning and limit change management than self-directed learning?
Does it integrate with your other systems?
When your platforms talk to each other, it creates a better learning experience, so consider which of your current tools it needs to work in tandem with.
Finding platforms that play well with others prevents knowledge and data silos because that information is more useful when it can be accessed everywhere. This is how you create a continuous learning culture and the ability to learn in the workflow. Imagine being able to find resources in the same places that you interact with customers! Or share knowledge directly in your messaging tools.
Will it create social learning?
By this, we mean whether it empowers your people to share their knowledge and the resources they find with their colleagues?
Social learning not only helps connect the people in your business, but it also ensures your experts are sharing knowledge with everyone else. If someone in your sales team is a heavy hitter when it comes to closing deals, they can share tips that directly relate to their experiences in the business. This form of contextual knowledge is priceless in terms of learning and development.
It doesn’t have to be as complicated as this, it can be as simple as adding a helpful article to the learning platform for everyone else to enjoy. We don’t mean to brag, but we’ve got a browser extension that lets you do that directly in the resource in just a few clicks. Social made simple!
How detailed are the platform’s reporting and analytics?
This is key to understanding the platform’s impact on employee learning, skills developed and if you’ve achieved your goals.
It’s time to revisit your goals and determine what reporting capabilities you need to understand them. If it’s a case of developing skills, do you need a platform that enables both employer and employee to provide an assessment of proficiency? If compliance is a key goal, you might benefit from a dashboard that can be filtered by status. It’s important to consider how easy it is to create reports and whether the insights can be shared with your other platforms and people.
Will it make your life easier?
We’re ending on what’s probably the most obvious and important question!
Will this platform save you time, automate admin tasks that eat into your resources, and make your people more productive? If the answer’s no, it might not be the tool for you! But it’s key to understand how much time you have to invest in the platform and where it will help you free up valuable hours.
The big content question: curation, creation or a combination
Avoid the temptation to create every piece of content! If you’re a young or fairly small company right now, you might not have a lot of existing content to upload, and if your L&D team is quite small too, they’ll struggle to create enough content to keep people logging in and engaging regularly.
Two things can happen in these situations; people run out of content to explore on your platform, which ultimately harms your chances of building a learning culture, and L&D teams become a bottleneck for distributing content to people. That’s why more people lean towards curating content, bringing existing third-party resources into your learning space.
But, that means avoiding the temptation to lean too far into curation. If everything is created by a third party, when and how are people going to find the information that’s specific to your organisation?
And that’s the backstory behind why a mixture of content creation and curation is such a popular approach – it’s also why you need to consider these two capabilities when finding a learning platform.
If you can cover the standard and general knowledge using third-party resources, that will allow you to dedicate time to creating high-quality and specific content related to your business’ goals and challenges.
We spoke to Guy Wallace, President at EPPIC around the role of content and how we should approach it in L&D:
“A lot of content is based on topics not on tasks and outputs. When people are focussed on a topic, they don’t know where to end.
“If you’re focused on the knowledge, skills and tasks that enable people to perform outputs and we’re focused on performance, it’s clear whether people need to know about this, that and the other thing. We need to skinny down the information we give people before giving them application exercises with feedback.
“Too often, we’re asking people to memorise things that the performance context doesn’t demand a memorised response from. Maybe it should allow for a referenced response like job aids or performance support to get the job done. Ultimately, we should be looking to impact performance.”
What do you need? Getting successful with learning platforms is about more than just tech
Understanding and setting goals and objectives
Chances are you’re looking at goals on multiple levels, and you need to consider all of those before going to market and looking for a learning platform.
Firstly, you’ve got the overall company goals. Are you hoping to sell 1,000 more units of your product, improve your customer service rating by 20%, add 10 new features or something else altogether? That will influence the criteria you’re looking for in a platform.
Secondly, what are the specific use cases you’re aiming to tackle by introducing or upgrading your learning tech? Think back to our use cases, whether it’s onboarding, upskilling, or knowledge sharing, this will be another influence on what you’re looking for.
Next, how about your L&D or learning culture goals? Are people telling you they want more self-directed learning? Is mentorship the best fit for your company? Would knowledge sharing drive you towards productivity?
But why is it so important that THIS is your first step for success? Because people often fall into a trap of searching for particular tools or features as they go to market instead of considering the problems they need to solve.
You can’t measure success unless you define it, and your learning platform is unlikely to be a success if you’re not establishing what you want to achieve with it or which goals it should help you reach.
Here’s an example. You see that one platform has a forum feature and decide that’s must-have criteria for your new tech. However, what if a tool has a built-in discussion feature on each piece of content rather than a standalone forum? Both help you achieve social learning in their own way, but you might not be aware of the second option if you think function-first.
It’s also worth considering your goals around when you’re planning to launch, establishing your budget and speaking to others, which we’ll get to now…
Expert advice from Guy Wallace, Performance Analyst & Instructional Architect for Enterprise Learning & Instructional Development.
According to Guy, setting the right objectives comes back to alignment with the rest of your business and flexibility to change as their goals evolve:
“L&D strategies and operational plans need to directly reflect the strategies and tactics of the enterprise or function that they serve. Maybe they’re an L&D function that serves only sales, they’d need to take their cues and directions from the plans of the enterprise. If they’re not directly aligned, then they’re misaligned!
“These things aren’t set in stone, they change throughout the year. So there’s a need to be continually aligned and realigned so that you don’t get misaligned with your customers or stakeholders.
“If you’re a multinational company with many different divisions and doing different kinds of work, you’re going to need a more formal process. So, the larger an organisation is, the more formal an alignment mechanism needs to be. If you’re a small organisation and can meet with key stakeholders… then you can find out what’s new and different, what’s changed since the last time you articulated a plan of action. The critical business issues are going to change more than once per year, so there’s a need for a continuous, updating process so that you can stay aligned.
“It can be formal or informal, but it needs to reflect the culture of the organisation. A lot of organisations have formal meetings, annual reviews and quarterly updates, and L&D needs to be part of that and invited to the table.”
Your learner and stakeholder requirements
None of us ever really want to hear this, but it’s not all about you. It’s crucial that when you start this process, you think about and speak with the end user of your learning platform. After all, if they don’t use it, you won’t be able to make it a success or prove the return on your investment.
As a manager, you might be tempted to think in terms of where you’ll save time in managing learning and how you’ll become more productive. However, that’ll only help you in the short term because if learners and stakeholders don’t buy into your strategy and platform, that’ll just cause you more pain in the long run. So, rather than writing out a list of your problems, create a wishlist that ticks more boxes for more people.
Stakeholder considerations and key steps to take
Collect and listen to learner feedback. When you send out engagement surveys or conduct employee reviews, what are they flagging to you from a learner perspective? Are they plainly asking for more opportunities to learn? Are they flagging challenges your current strategy or tools don’t help them overcome?
Speak with stakeholders. Department managers and leaders will have their own set of goals and challenges, understanding them at this early stage will help you find a learning solution that solves those.
Engage C-suite and senior leaders. Obviously, this is the group that’s likely to give you the thumbs up or thumbs down, but they also hold the power to lead by example. Understand their pain points and reservations early on and use that insight to pitch the learning platform in terms of how it will tackle those.
Start conversations early and keep them going. All these tips get people on board at the ground level, ensuring they feel heard and involved – something you can’t overlook the importance of. As you move through the process, keep them involved where you can. That might mean using them as a sounding board when a platform feature tackles their pain point or just keeping them in the loop.
Expert advice from the Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC) and Guy Wallace
“For us, it was finding resources; stuff was in 20 different places and really not searchable” and they used that pain point to guide their search for a learning solution. They also explained how their focus on driving great onboarding experiences helped them establish what they needed. But it was more than that, as they explained, they thought about the specific onboarding experience in the company.
“Onboarding was a big priority initially. We had the benefit of an onboarding and induction program that all our staff need to go through and that was a great starting point, most of our people have been around for some time, they’ve been through that program, they have access to content they need in other ways at the moment.
“So what is it for a brand new person starting? What do they need up front? How can we front foot it for them so that a new person only has to familiarise themselves with the platform rather than 20 different places to go.
“That was the big driver for us, for someone who’s brand new in LIC, what do they need and let’s get that up first.”
We also asked Guy Wallace how L&D can engage with the right stakeholders.
“Have some sort of routine or agreement that you’re going to check in with key stakeholders. Maybe you’re going to buy them lunch, you meet with them and get to the point around what’s changed in your business situation and what are the new challenges .
“You can say, here’s what we’re working on to support you, are these the right things? You can’t do everything, you don’t have the resources, money or people. You need to prioritise and check in to see if you’re aligned, working on the right things and allow those leaders the opportunity to redirect you.
“You’re a support function, you support them, and either you’re absolutely working on the right list of things or you’re not. That needs to be addressed… you can say this is what I need from you in order to serve you better.”
Auditing your current tech, tools and strategy
Wait, shouldn’t this be one of the first things you look at? You might think so, but auditing what currently does and doesn’t work as your first step might simply send you down a path of finding something that tackles your current limitations. Rather than finding something that progresses you and your people toward goals and tackles the biggest pain points in your business.
However, doing it after your goal analysis and stakeholder conversations can paint a better picture of what people want to achieve and why your current approach might be preventing that.
Look at the numbers. It’s spreadsheet and report time! While people’s feedback tells you one side of the story, digging into the data can help you add valuable context. For example, you can look at how long people are spending in your current learning platform, or perhaps you look at that on a departmental level to see if any group within the business is particularly engaged or disengaged. The statistics should also help you work out whether specific content types work best and other similar learner preferences.
Does it support your current and future goals? Here’s why it’s so important to work out your goals before auditing the current approach. This allows you to think in terms of ‘why doesn’t this approach or platform help us achieve what we’re trying to do today’ or ‘what limitations do we have that would prevent us from reaching where we want to be tomorrow?’
Does it support the way your learners learn? You’ll also know what learners are looking for in their user experience by this point, meaning an audit can help you figure out why your current offering might not meet that expectation.
Establish admin pain points. Another numbers game, but studying the data should also help you figure out where admins are wasting time and which tasks prevent them from being productive elsewhere.
Determine your current return on investment. If your current platform doesn’t offer good value, try to figure out why and avoid making the same mistakes as you start searching for a replacement.
Where are the delays happening? It’s a common theme for a lot of companies, but they’ll often find that some part of the process or set-up is causing bottlenecks or delaying people from learning. Whether that’s creating content or finding information, you need to consider timings and timeframes.
Are you falling into the old habits trap? How much of what you’re doing is because it’s the way we’ve always done it? Legacy designs, processes and tools might be preventing you from doing things in ways that are effective today.
Why do YOU think the process doesn’t work currently? It’s important that you sit down and have an honest conversation about the less tangible things. In your opinion, why aren’t you firing on all cylinders?
First-time vs. platform switching - which approach do I take?
We’ll be honest, whichever boat you’re in, an open mind will be your best asset on the open seas of workplace learning. If it’s your first platform, you might be feeling a bit overwhelmed about whether you’ve got the right expertise in the team or if you’ll be able to prove return on your investment. The good news is that you’ve got a blank canvas to work with! So there’s no reason you can’t set yourself up for success.
If you’re coming from an old learning platform or LMS, ditching that ’our last platform did this’ mindset will be incredibly helpful. Keep that open mind, think of this as a fresh start and use all the steps we’ve offered so far to ensure you’re now ticking the right boxes.
We’ve also written a guide to how you can switch seamlessly between learning platforms!
Ever heard of the saying ‘when you fail to plan, you plan to fail’? Some phrases sound good and that’s it, but there’s a lot of truth to this one. And no more so than when you’re finally upgrading from an LMS to something better or moving learning platforms.
A successful migration is a lot like a brilliant holiday, it starts way before launch day! You wouldn’t leave packing, researching activities, transfers and booking your flights until travel day, but forward-planning is often overlooked when it comes to learning.
Well, those overlookers often arrive at learning launch day and their content’s all over the place, they haven’t promoted the move to users, they’ve failed to set their goals, and they’ll find themselves playing catch up in the first few months.
Luckily, this is your guide to all the things you can do to prepare yourself properly. It’s how you can build a good foundation and kick off the era of your new platform in style.
The kick-off: Goal and objective setting
If there’s two things you really need to establish off the bat, it’s what your goals are for launching this new learning platform and the benefits of doing so. Yes, they’re great for your L&D team to know, but their biggest power lies in convincing your two most important stakeholders: business leaders and the learners themselves.
You should be able to say ‘here are the benefits you’ll get from using our new platform’ and ‘these are the objectives it will help us all achieve together’. Putting it bluntly, why should they care otherwise? Business leaders will be interested in how it drives the company goals, and individual learners will be won over if they understand the impact on their personal objectives.
Of course, this doesn’t mean stopping with just two questions. But we’ll cover some of the other ways you can work out where you are and where you want to be in the rest of this, which might guide your goal-setting.
Are you aiming for culture change?
Now, this could be part of your overall benefits, but it really does deserve its own section. Why? Because the limitations of an earlier platform often shape the learning culture, which drives many people to new pastures.
For example, your old LMS might live completely separately from all the other tools people use, so there’s no way for them to learn in the flow of work. Or perhaps your old platform is the typical top-down structure, where only a select few create and assign content. Well, that puts an end to social learning and knowledge sharing because internal experts can’t communicate independently.
Establish what that cultural change is and work out how you’ll empower and encourage people to adopt these new behaviours. Taking a step back, you’d be wise to audit your current culture, learning habits and all those limitations.
It’s a theme of this entire guide, but you really need to audit what you’re currently doing and map that against where you want to be.
Start by asking yourself these questions:
How and where does learning already take place?
What are the pain points and where is there room for improvement in that flow?
Is learning available in the moments people need it?
Auditing and migrating your current content
If you moved house, you wouldn’t just dump all your furniture in the same place, would you? You’ve got a fresh start and a clean slate to lay it all out as you’ve always wanted. Sadly, a lot of people miss that opportunity when they move between learning solutions. What’s the point of coming in with the new if you’re not going out with some of the old?
Resist the urge to cut corners at this stage and just move everything over. Think of this as a blank canvas and ask yourself:
What do we need?
What do we currently have?
What does a good version of our new content hub look like?
What learning content do people currently engage with?
Data is a great place to start, especially for that last question. Which content formats people are currently engaging with most? Which topics and themes do they commonly learn about? This is a good chance to understand them and cater to their habits.
If there’s a course nobody has ever looked at, ditch it! If the completion rate on 20-hour courses is about as good as you might expect, don’t just copy and paste that format into your new platform. Think about how you can repurpose and reformat useful information in the mould of your new learning vision.
Communications and a clear timeline
Start with the end in mind and work backwards. What’s your go-live date? Take that and work backwards to determine just how long you need to get everything in place.
We’ve covered some of the technical challenges, but a big hurdle is working out how long you’ll need to create enough awareness, excitement and buy-in from your end users. And then you’ve got the small task of figuring out just how you’ll do it.
By now, you should have established the benefits to people, so focus on selling those and not just the fancy features and specifications. If you can personalise that to different groups or individuals, even better. People care about what’s in it for them! So help them understand that in advance and generate pre-launch excitement – that’ll help drive adoption of the platform.
Creating a learning brand is one way to pull this off, and we’ve discussed that in a lot of detail here, but a great tip would be to work out where your people are already engaged and connect with them there. When you’re figuring that out, see if there’s any specific language they use when they talk about learning or pain points they address – there’s another couple of strings for your messaging bow.
It might mean that you need to host Q&A sessions or demos before launch or give enough guidance around using the platform to prevent people diving in at the deep end on launch day. A simple to use, intelligent learning platform might help you pull that off much easier though…
If you’re moving from a traditional LMS, where integrations are far less common, there’s one big question you’ll need to ask: which tools are our people using every day? Whether it’s Slack for messages or something like Salesforce for managing leads, if you can integrate learning into these tools at a company level, they won’t have to lift a finger.
Just like any typical day, they’ll log in to these apps and find that learning now meets them at their point of need. When something’s convenient or easy for us, there’s less resistance to using it – so a successful migration means working out where people already work and how you can make learning available there.
If you’re using a learning solution that does already integrate with some of your tools, plan out how you’ll switch those off at the same time as your launch for that seamless learner experience.
Yes, we mentioned clean slates but not in every aspect. There’s data from your previous platform that will either help guide your new strategy or understand how much progress has been made. For example, it’s important to know which courses and training have been completed before your new platform, while metrics around how often people logged in or engaged with content will give you insights into how effective your new platform is.
Understanding roles and responsibilities
In every sense of the word. From a technical perspective, it’s likely that your permission or access levels from the previous platform might not match up entirely to the new tool. For example, a lot of solutions might just have manager and learner level permission.
In HowNow, we’ve got Admin, Manager, User and Read Only, so pre-migration you’d have to understand where people sit in this new permissions system. And that’s another thing you’ll need to communicate clearly too.
More generally, there’s roles to consider – who will be responsible for creating and updating content? How are you going to group employees within the platform to ensure they receive the right resources and it’s easy from your end? Whose role is it to report on a regular basis? The list goes on, and planning this out should go on way before launch day.
Day one: Planning for lift off
What does the ideal launch day look like? What do you want employees to see when they log in for the first time? And what actions do you want them to take? It’s important to establish this and then create a plan for how you’ll deliver it.
On a top level, keep it top level – don’t overwhelm people on launch day, think about what’s really important and remember that people care what’s in it for them. So, either get them doing things that make their life easier through the learning platform or simply incentivise them to use the platform by running a fun competition, event or giveaway.
In honesty, this shouldn’t be limited to day one – you should have an idea of how your first weeks and months play out. Have milestones in mind for employee use and action, because it should be front of mind to make sure learning becomes a habit.
And there’s plenty for you to consider too – when are you going to update the platform with new content? Some people think they need to get content ready for launch, and that’s it – but your platform could become stale if that’s where it ends. Well, that’s unless you’ve plumped for an intelligent learning platform that lets everyone create content while curating high-quality third-party content…
If that sounds like the solution you’ve been looking for, HowNow could be the answer to all your learning problems.
Check out our other learning management system (LMS) resources
How much are you planning to spend on your learning platform? This is something you’ve got to work out before heading out into the workplace tech world and searching for a solution! Why? Because there’s no point trialling platforms that don’t fit the scope of what you’re willing to spend or have available.
The global average, according to Statista, exceeded $1,000 USD in every year between 2008 and 2018. While we have reports that explain whether people planned to spend more or less in the years since, this is the most recent set of available data that really digs into the monetary values.
The way businesses typically arrive at these amounts is to take their total learning and development budget and divide it by the number of employees. That is unless they choose to invest the full amount into a single course or content library for everyone to log in and use (which might not be the best option).
Typical pricing structures and models
Thankfully, the pricing for many learning platforms is close to that more common approach; you’ll find most priced by user numbers on a monthly or annual basis. At HowNow, for example, our prices are structured in per user per month terms, based on the size of your company.
You might see others working in brackets, offering prices for up to 50 users or setting the costs by user brackets (0-50, 50-200, 200-250 and so on), but typically there’s a familiar feel which helps you make fair price comparisons.
The problem is that, unlike HowNow, many providers aren’t as open about costs and it means you’ll have to complete a form to find out if they fit your budget.
There’s a chance you might come across per user, per use models too, where costs vary depending on the features and functions of the platform you want access to.
Other costing considerations you need to be aware of are:
Whether there’s a fee for implementation and set up.
If it costs extra for support once you’re up and running.
Whether content is included and if there are regular payments associated with that.
If any form of in-person support is included as you set up and launch the platform.
If discounts are available when signing up for long-term contracts.
The buying process for an LMS or LXP
Going to market and adopting the right mindset
At this point, you’ll have a pretty good handle on what you need and that means it’s time to go on the hunt for a solution. You might put a request for information (RFI) or request for proposal (RFP) out there and see what comes to you, or you might turn to your network and search for suggestions. It might even be a case of searching through Google, but whatever you do, it’s important that you’re using the right mindset, wording and approach.
We’ve alluded to the popular acronym phenomenon already, but people really do decide they need an LMS or start looking for one because it’s the term they know. Or maybe they’ve heard a feature name a bunch of times and decide that’s the term that will lead their exploration of Google’s search results.
But remember that what you put out there is what you’ll get back. If you ask for an LMS, that’s what you’ll get, but if you articulate the problems you need to solve well, you’ll cast a much wider net when it comes to solutions.
That’ll give you a wider pool of candidates based around solving your problems and help you create a shortlist of platforms or tools to trial and demo.
Trials and demos: dos and dont’s, how to maximise that period and what to do next
We’ve all taken a free trial at some point. Maybe it was signing up for a streaming service to binge a new show or trying out a different gym, and most of us have probably broken the golden trial rules. These typically involve waiting until the last few days to use it or not thinking about what we want out of it before it begins. Normally that ends only one way – we’re no wiser about whether it is a good fit or something we want to continue using.
A learning platform is a far bigger decision than gym steaming or show streaming, so you definitely do want to be in either of those positions when your company’s L&D efforts are depending on it.
You’ll be testing out a few learning tech options, so you’ll want to make sure you’re approaching each one consistently. There’ll be findings to present to stakeholders, so you’ll need to think about that systematically, and ultimately, you need to set limits on what you can achieve in that limited time.
Here are some tips to help you make the most of your demo or trial period:
Be clear on what you want to see in the demo: What are the main use cases you’d like to solve with a learning platform? Trying to see all the bells and whistles might seem like a nice idea, but you’re better off knowing whether it’s going to solve the right pain points than seeing every single feature.
Explain that criteria to the sales rep: A good rep should ask you what you want to see or which problems you’re trying to solve ahead of your technology tour. At HowNow, our sales team host discovery calls to understand what’s important to you and then send over a pre-demo summary of what they think you’d like to see. However, you might not get that five-star service with every provider, so it’s worth communicating this if you’re not dealing with a proactive sales rep.
Establish and explain what you’re aiming to get out of a trial: If any of your shortlist makes it past the demo stage, you’ll need to carry out similar exercises to establish what you want to achieve in a trial period. Remember to set realistic expectations because if you spread yourself too thin, you won’t get much from your trial.
Dedicate time to testing it out: If you wait until day 13 of your two-week trial, you won’t get anywhere near knowing if it ticks your boxes. Set a structure or plan and be intentional about how you’re going to use it.
Ask questions during your trial period: If something comes to mind or you can’t figure a feature out during your trial, don’t wait until it ends to flag it. Ask the rep for some advice when that issue arises and ensure you get the most value from your trial window.
Document your findings and be consistent as you do it! If you were test driving a car, you wouldn’t take one around the block for five minutes and the other on a motorway for an hour, you’d use them in similar ways and make fair comparisons. A good idea would be to set up a template to document your findings in the same way, or to set up a scoring system of must-have and nice-to-have features.
Avoid recency bias: Documenting thoughts and findings in the same way will allow you to compare objectively. You should also try and trial them within a close time period to ensure you’re not forgetting one you tried first and leaning towards the recent option because you remember it well.
Involve the right people at the right moment: Consider when certain stakeholders need to be brought in or when the best time is to give them an update on how the demo and trial period is going.
What do you do after each demo? It’s worth considering the timelines after trial. Do you need to speak to stakeholders and then set up a check-in with the provider? When are you planning to make your decision or move certain platforms into the next stage of your purchase process?
It’s highly unlikely you’ll experience love at first learning platform (unless you’re checking out an all-in-one tool that helps you do it all), so it’s important to demo a few options and compare them. Partly because seeing a few in action or at least digging into what they do provides context, it might open your eyes to features you never thought about or even change your mind on others.
What support is available from those platforms?
There are certain things it’s hard to quantify on a spreadsheet, it might seem deep but there are some aspects you just have to feel. Or at least sit down and discuss in a less point-scoring kind of way. One of which is the amount of support on offer from that platform and the feeling you get from the people during the trial and demo process.
The truth is that successfully launching a new platform isn’t something you can do on your own, you need to rely on the provider and their customer success team. In fact, as you progress through the process and whittle it down to your final few, think about speaking with someone in their CS department. Why not ask them what a typical implementation process looks like or the current methods they’ve got for supporting customers?
At HowNow, for example, our customer success team have weekly check-ins and treat those as two-way conversations to help improve a customer’s learning space. They’ll take any questions but also enter the conversation with prepared tips and advice based on how the platform is currently being used. The idea is that, instead of overwhelming customers, marginal tweaks are made over time, and that adds up to ongoing and significant improvements.
It also helps if a support team are hands on ahead of and during launch, something we’ll come to later (we were lucky enough to pick our CS expert brains on how to successfully implement a new learning platform!)
References and customer stories
Another great resource as you consider your options is the customer stories and case studies available on a potential provider’s website. Look out for companies in similar industries and of similar sizes, search for use cases that relate to yours and have a good old read of what that customer had to say. Of course, take it with a pinch of salt because companies are highly unlikely to post anything but glowing recommendations and inspirational success stories.
To balance that out, head over to somewhere like Capterra or G2 in order to get a better understanding of what customers think. As you get close to deciding on a platform, ask for a customer reference or to speak with an existing customer in order to gain a different perspective and speak to a fellow end user of the platform.
[fs-toc-omit]Building a business case for a learning platform
You’ve established your own needs, done your research and tested the options that caught your eye – it’s time to pull it all together in one document that presents your findings and preferred next steps.
A business case presents the scope of the project you’re undertaking, the benefits of carrying it out alongside the risks of not doing so, the costs in relation to those benefits and a whole host of other things. And it frames all of that, unsurprisingly, in terms of the overall business – not just the benefit to individual people or departments but the risks, costs and rewards associated with the business reaching its goals.
If you’re putting together a business case for a learning management system or learning platform, then your business is literally our business! Or at least it will be if we pull off a compelling argument that conveys learning platforms as vital to the development of people and progress towards company success.
Firstly, remember that the purpose is to convince a decision-maker that your proposition is worthwhile. Keep it brief, convey the essential information in an interesting way, talk positively about the future and hammer home the benefits. Here are a few of the key points your business case should include and address.
Justify why you need a learning platform
Present the costs and ROI
Discuss the risks and benefit of using and not using a learning management system or platform
Present a number of options and your recommendation
Support your argument with numbers
These key points and the structure for your business case apply regardless of whether you’re choosing a learning management system (LMS) or learning experience platform (LXP). If you’re unsure which might be best, we’ve explained the differences here. If you’ve already got a good idea, it’s time to focus on how you make a compelling argument for why you need it.
Justifying your need for a learning platform and including it in your business case – jump to:
Justify your need for a learning platform with these statistics
Drive productivity by cutting back on time spent searching for information
Many learning platforms enable people to find information and resources in the flow of work, it’s one of their key benefits. When we talk about the LMS vs LXP debate, the words making up those acronyms tell us all we need to know. The LXP is all about the learner experience, while the learning management system makes life easier for managers, and the below explains some of that – these numbers will help you justify just how much time you’ll gain back by using one.
In 2012, it was reported that employees spent 1.8 hours searching for information each day, by 2015 it had risen to 2.5 hours. For most people, that’s a third of the working day. We have become slightly more productive since then, but a 2019 survey still placed the figure at around 25% of their day.
With your learning platform acting as a knowledge base for all your resources, you’ll drastically reduce this time. It’s estimated that an internal knowledge base reduces research time by up to 35%, but if you pick the right platform you might be able to surpass that average. These kind of numbers will be really useful in supporting your business case.
Developing, engaging and retaining employees
It’s not all about the flow of work though, learning platforms help you create pathways to development for employees – giving them the tools to build new skills and move into new positions. The wonderful bi-product of that is that you’ll see a rise in employee engagement and retention, which will definitely help your LXP or LMS business case.
Here’s the quick rundown by numbers:
68% of employees say training and development is the company’s most important policy. That’s according to ClearCompany, who also reported that 76% of employees value career growth opportunities.
However, only 29% of employees are “very satisfied” with the current career advancement opportunities available to them at work.
So, training and development are important to employees, but the majority of organisations are neglecting this area. By investing in employee development, you can drive engagement, retention and your appeal to potential candidates. Here are a few more reasons why:
e-learning increases retention rates by 25-60%.
Employees who feel highly engaged are 87% less likely to leave their companies.
According to Oxford Economics, the cost of replacing employees sits at around £30,000, when you consider the loss of productivity and hiring costs.
Companies with highly engaged workforces are also 21% more profitable, which leads us nicely onto…
Using learning platforms to drive profitability
If we told you that the time wasted searching for information could equate to more than £6,000 in lost hours and productivity per employee, per year, would you be shocked?
We already mentioned that the average employee spends 25% of their working day searching for information, but we’ve not calculated the monetary costs. If the average employee works a 40-hour week then they’d spend 10 hours of that searching for knowledge, and with average hourly pay in the UK reported to be £14.80 in 2019, that equates to £148 per week. If we look at the generous end of the annual leave spectrum and say an employee works 42 weeks of the year, that would work out to be £6,216 annually.
Some less meaty maths also points to the fact that a learning platform reduces the time and money spent on face-to-face and formal training. Studies show that e-learning reduces training time by between 40% and 60%, while simultaneously reducing expenses for travel, instructors, venues and time spent out of work.
Structuring your business case for a learning platform
The executive summary
This is the greatest hits of your business case: following the same structure, picking out the key points and selling them in a compelling fashion that convinces the decision-makers. For some, this is the only section they’ll read or the influential factor in whether they continue beyond the summary. It’s recommended that you write this last, or at least finalise it as your final act.
Why do you need a learning platform? Address the problem or opportunity
The important thing is to establish the context that led you to this point. Have you reached the limit of the system(s) that you’re already using? Are you operating without a platform and that’s created a different ceiling to learning and development? These are two of the likely reasons you started looking into learning systems and platforms.
Two strings to your bow here are your ability to link it back to the company’s goal or vision and the inclusion of any data that supports why this issue needs to be addressed. If it is a case of replacing the current platforms, you should provide details on why they’re no longer fit for purpose or providing a return on your investment. Ideally, you should be impartial and factual at this point.
Dive into the specific L&D goals
Setting the general scene is absolutely vital, but so is explaining the more specific goals a platform will help you achieve. You can also think of these as the smaller problems or opportunities through which you highlight who will benefit and to what extent. Ultimately, this helps your cause as it shows how you plan to use the learning platform in practical and relevant scenarios.
Will it help you create a more efficient onboarding process that enables joiners to contribute sooner?
Is knowledge currently being buried in silos where it should be shared?
Are you facing an upskill battle when it comes to developing the traits and competencies your team’s need?
Could it be the key to addressing poor levels of staff engagement and retention?
Think of the specific instances and pain points that drove your search for a learning platform.
Discuss the competition
If there’s one guaranteed way to get attention, it’s bringing up how your competitors are using and benefitting from learning platforms, especially if you can draw on some data. If you can’t get the scoop on your rivals, support your argument through insights on a similar company from a related industry. As we’ve alluded to throughout this, hard data will trump anecdotal evidence in your business case, so make sure you crunch a few numbers.
Assess the available platforms and options
You will have drawn up a shortlist of learning platforms, and this is the time to present the risks and benefits, costs and implementation timelines for each. Remember, doing nothing is also an option, so it’s important to address the risk and cost of no action.
Your recommended learning platform
You’ve been factual and diplomatic up until now, so it’s high-time you unleashed your passion for driving a better L&D future through your desired platform. There are a few ways that you can do this: you may choose to further explain the risks and benefits of adopting this platform, you might outline the project timeline in detail to highlight when the decision would pay dividends or discuss who will be involved in its delivery.
The important idea is to show that you’ve considered the resources required and the scale of moving to that platform.
Sell what the platform will help you achieve – ‘Features tell, benefits sell’
Possibly the best way to present your argument is to forget about the features and focus solely on the benefits and value your preferred tool offers. This is more powerful because you can talk about how it will positively impact return on investment, which is arguably far easier when talking about an LXP or ILP.
You could focus on how they cut down the time it takes to search for knowledge, which increases employee productivity and helps create a culture of learning at the point of need. In turn, that reduces the training costs associated with the traditional methods of learning and development. Learning platforms also cut down the ramp up time for new starters, by connecting them to useful knowledge and people in one searchable platform. Combine all of these points and you’re more likely to engage and retain your employees, meaning the cost of staff churn is reduced.
Keep this short and sweet. Simply summarise why it’s important to address this problem and reinforce why the plan you’ve proposed is the most effective way of solving it.
Click the image below for your PDF version
Your PDF version of building a learning platform business case/LMS business case
Need help with your learning platform business case?
Putting together a business case can be daunting, right? Especially if you’re not familiar with learning platforms!
Start with an executive summary: Chances are your business case is going to be read by multiple different people and audiences, some with less time and investment in the project. For those, they may only read a few paragraphs, so make sure everything they might want or need to know is front loaded in an easy to read way.
Outline why you need a learning platform and your L&D goals: Try to incorporate different data points and context here, as it will help you make a stronger argument. Start with what you’ve learnt internally (such as employee feedback or data on performance limited by a lack of learning) but support that through industry data and comparisons with competitors or similar companies. Nobody likes a negative nelly, so make sure you frame your needs in terms of both problems and opportunities presented by learning technology.
Explain who’s going to be involved: Budgets aren’t just about the finances, it’s about the people and how much of their time will be needed to get it up, running and a roaring success.
Present multiple options and frame them in terms of how they solve those problems. Remember that doing nothing is an option too and explaining the downsides of that will help you make your case. Discussing harmful effects on productivity, progress or retention will demonstrate why standing still is your worst option.
Highlight which is your preferred option and why: Including multiple options will provide stakeholders with context, but it’s crucial that you explain why a particular option is the preferred one.
How to build a business case that doesn’t bore people
What you include in the business case is important, but how you present it might determine whether people actually engage with or understand the information. Follow these tips and make a compelling argument.
Keep it brief where possible: Nobody wants to sift through 40 pages, so ensure you’re using an appropriate amount of detail. Devote more page space to the important stuff and keep some of the contextual parts a little lighter.
Talk positively about the future and relate it back to the company goals: Scaremongering will only get you so far, but it won’t get people enthusiastic about your new learning platform. Focus on all the positive things this project will achieve instead.
Think about the format: What’s going to connect with your audience? Would a short video summary go down better with your stakeholders? Is a mixture of formats the best option?
Talk about the benefits, not the features: You might be wowed by all the technical parts of how the platform works, but most people will be won over by the benefits. Especially as they’ll be lacking the context of the trials and demos you’ve undertaken.
Write your executive summary last: That way, you can pick out all the interesting parts of your business case and create the true greatest hits.
Selling the learning platform internally
Not everyone you need to win over is going to require such a formal approach! They might just need a little snippet at the right time or to feel like they’re being included and, hey presto, they’re on board with what you’re offering. But a lack of stakeholder engagement can pretty much spell the end of your preferred learning platform before you’ve even got started.
Five tips for selling your platform internally:
Understand the biggest pain points and objectives for your key stakeholders: What are they trying to achieve and which barriers are they facing as they try to get there? If you understand those two things, you can pitch your learning solution in terms of how it will support their mission.
Align your business case with the business objectives: It’s goal déjà vu time, but in a similar way, if you’re presenting your learning platform in terms of how it supports the overall company goals, you’ll probably find more people are on your side.
Discuss, don’t present: You’ll have a better chance of winning people over if they feel like you’re talking with them and not at them. If you treat it as a pitch or presentation, you won’t be able to have an honest and feedback-driven conversation with people. The earlier you address any questions or concerns, the less time they’re lingering around.
Support your case with real-life examples: Never underestimate the power of great storytelling! If you can show people situations where your suggested platform has supported companies in achieving their goals and really hone in on the human aspect, it’s likely you’ll create a better connection with it.
Have your plan and next steps in place: Momentum could make or break whether people get on board. An amazing pitch followed by radio silence is a surefire way to kill it, so be ready to pounce after you’ve sold your learning platform to key stakeholders.
Who and when: your two-word approach for success
Timing is everything, especially if you’re hoping to get the right people on your side. For example, if someone’s responsible for data governance, there’s no point bringing them in at the last minute – you should be checking in with them to see if the options you’re looking at meet internal criteria.
It’s a similar scenario when it comes to your learners, why not use them as a sounding board once you’ve tried out your different options? Send a survey asking them which features or benefits most appeal to them or they’d be least likely to use. What if you commit to a platform that’s all about live classes and it turns out all your people prefer on-demand learning?
IT will have technical aspects they can either approve or reject while finance might be holding the purse strings, so it is really a case of picking the perfect moment to loop them in.
When and how are you bringing decision makers into the conversation?
The person who ultimately says yes or no will very rarely join you for demo calls or trial set ups, so you’ve got to consider when you’ll bring them in and how you’ll communicate findings relating to each platform.
The same applies to the people who might be involved in conversations with that final decision maker or will have some kind of influence.
You’ve also got to think ahead, are you winning over the people you’ll need for it to be a success once it does launch? Department leaders, HR pros and C-suite executives will all be crucial in one way or another and bringing them in at a stage when they feel listened to and part of the project can only help.
The more you do things like this, the easier it is to spot potential advocates for learning and your platform, which could be invaluable further down the line.
Who’s doing the selling?
Be honest with yourself, are you going to do the platform justice if you’re pitching upwards to all the company’s top brass? It’s fine if the answer is no, that might be when it’s worth bringing in the sales rep from the company to give a short introduction. Remember our advice from earlier, think about what that audience would want to see and gain from this process.
If you choose to go down this route, why not record the session and keep it in your back pocket to show others if that platform becomes the preferred choice and eventually the learning space for your company.
Benefits of learning technology
We’ve talked a fair bit about the benefits of learning technology in this section, it makes sense to list them in one place. Knowing the top level benefits of a platform will allow you to quickly convince others of the value.
Here are some of the key benefits of HowNow, which might help you understand how learning platforms can drive organisational growth and productivity.
Bring your scattered knowledge into one central location.
Create access to uniform resources and ensure the same level of consistency across onboarding experiences.
Empower people to find knowledge on their terms and in self-driven ways.
Allow employees to learn socially and share knowledge with each other.
Tap into artificial intelligence to recommend relevant content to each individual.
Measure more than just tick boxes and start to understand which skills people are developing and to what extent.
Build personalised learning pathways that empower people to perform better in their roles.
Integrate with the tools you use every day to drive learning in the flow of work.
The cost of delaying
Whether you’re searching for your first platform or you’ve got something that doesn’t work in place, there will be a number of inefficiencies costing your company in a number of different ways.
For example, if all your resources are currently scattered across different places, people will be wasting time looking for the information they need. According to research, the average employee spends around 25% of their day searching for information, while another recent study revealed that 55% believe finding and sharing organisational knowledge is a challenge.
That brings two other problems to your door, the time people waste switching between platforms and the impact this all has on their ability to be productive.
And what about the impact on people’s development? Without a learning strategy and the right platform in place, they’re not developing the skills needed to keep up with industry trends and progress your business towards its goals.
The longer these problems continue, the more problems they pose to your business – hence the cost of delaying…
Common objections and how to overcome them
Treat this like you would an interview and ask yourself which tricky questions you’re likely to get and what any push back might look like. We’ve listed some of the typical objections we encounter below with some advice on how to win those people over.
Objection: We have other projects we need to complete first, like getting benefits in place.
Overcome it by: Explaining that there will always be another project or reason to put it off! However, learning platforms will help drive your other projects forward and adapt as your company evolves. The sooner you invest, the sooner you can maximise the impact of all projects.
Objection: We don’t have the bandwidth to roll out a learning platform right now.
Overcome it by: Determining how much actually needs to be done by your L&D, HR or people team. From curating content and finding prepopulated platforms to choosing a platform that’ll help you get up, running and managing your platform, there are many options out there that streamline your process and lower your burden.
Objection: We don’t have enough content to launch a learning platform.
Overcome it by: Explaining that you don’t need to shoulder all of the content responsibility yourself! You can curate relevant content from third parties and focus the limited time you have on creating business-specific content.
Objection: We’ve got a lot of important workshops and training on the horizon
Overcome it by: Welcoming that and asking where people are going to find the resources from those workshops after? Better yet, how are we going to support them in applying that information in their role when challenges arise? If you have a learning platform in place, you can do both effectively.
Objection: We’re not ready for a learning platform yet.
Overcome it by: Using a little bit from each of our first three answers. Ask when you will be ready? Why aren’t we ready? And what our bandwidth problems are? A learning platform can solve challenges we’re facing right now and amplify some of our key activities, so why wouldn’t you be ready? Especially when there’s so much support available to you.
Objection: We don’t have the budget for it right now?
Overcome it by: Presenting the potential gains in performance, productivity and employee engagement or retention. If you can highlight how investment in learning will provide impressive returns, you’re more likely to loosen the purse strings.
Objection: We think it would be best to get a content library in place.
Overcome it by: Remembering that learning works best when it’s personalised and that just because someone has access to a content library, they’re not necessarily going to use it or find something that makes them better at their job if they do. That’s the point you need to get across.
Objection: It’ll be too much work to migrate everything from our current system.
Overcome it by: Finding a platform that lets you automate parts of this process or helps you manage it through their support team.
Objection: We’ve used learning tools before and they haven’t worked for us.
Overcome it by: Understanding what went wrong before and reassuring them that this time you’ve understood all stakeholder requirements before bringing these options to the table.
Objection: We don’t need a learning platform we need…
Overcome it by: Understanding why someone is so wedded to that idea or piece of technology. Remember, it’s our job to act as consultants and understand the problems people want to solve before deciding on a solution. That’s the conversation you need to have.
Your data and reporting requirements
It’s something you’ll end up thinking about indirectly as you build your business case, but we do need to think explicitly about how we report on learning and prove our return on investment. Adopting a reporting mindset and taking the steps we’re about to cover will also help find the right platform.
And why exactly is the data so important? Well, according to the Learning Performance Institute, 63% of leaders said they have no reliable way to measure people performance in their business. While 81% said they track course attendance and 66% course completion, only 19% had found a way to measure behavioural change. And that’s the key point, you need to prove you’re driving both changes to how people work and learn alongside progress towards the business goals.
So, not only will you be performing better than most other L&D departments, you’ll be taking ownership of the numbers and communicating them clearly to the people who need to hear it most. Two words to remember at this point are visibility and credibility, strong reporting achieves both.
Who are you reporting to and how often?
Both of these influence the reporting capabilities you’ll need from a learning platform! If you’re communicating L&D impact directly to the CEO, they might be more interested in the influence on your bottom line or the wider business goals. Whereas reporting into a head of HR or people development might mean a greater focus on employee development, satisfaction and happiness.
But when it comes to reporting, not all learning platforms are created equally. How do we know? Because we’re one of the only tools to allow you to measure skills proficiency and the improvements driven by learning. That gives you a greater insight into the employee development impact of your learning strategy.
By the same token, if you want to prove impact on company goals and the bottom line, you’ll need reporting capabilities that integrate with the tools you use to measure business performance – or at least speak openly with them.
And you also need to think about when and how you’ll be asked to report on learning. If people are often dropping by unannounced to ask for insights, real-time dashboards are a must! If there are multiple reports you need to produce on a regular basis, customisable dashboards are crucial. And perhaps your leaders simply want to receive top-level insights in their inbox periodically, automated reporting is a saviour in situations like these!
Reporting insights from Laura Overton, Founder of Towards Maturity and Co-creator of Emerging Stronger
We asked Laura about how L&D can keep its seat at the C-Suite table and the role of reporting in driving its reputation in the business. She explained that the pandemic allowed L&D to pivot when it came to their role.
“The pandemic provided many L&D professionals the opportunity to roll up our sleeves and get involved in equipping organisations to respond rapidly to change. We were invited to make a difference, fast, when it counted and where it counted.
“How we responded and how quickly we responded created the opportunity to get noticed and build credibility. We were working with the business on the issues (and metrics) that mattered most. What we do next and what we report on next will either strengthen or dilute our credibility.
“So what’s important to your business ? How can you work with them to tackle the next challenge or opportunity? When it comes to reporting, what do you need to track together to ensure you are making a difference where it counts?”
We also picked Guy Wallace’s brain on how data can be used effectively by L&D and people teams.
“We need to gather data about learning activity but shouldn’t necessarily report it out. We need to report out business impact results! We improved the efficiency and effectiveness of your performances and the processes and workflows where they’re performing.
“Those are the business metrics, and we need to understand which business measures we’re going after. We ought to be reporting out how we took it from X to Y, here’s what it was before and here’s what it’s doing now – since the learning or performance support was put out there.
“Too often we don’t get credit for performance support, but if we show that we didn’t do any learning program but we used performance support and it improved performance measurably and using the business metrics, then we win.
“We should track learning activity, the things that are jokingly referred to as butts in seats and butts on site, and whether people felt engaged. Because if we’re not getting transfer back to the job for what we taught people and it’s not having an impact, we need to figure out why. Maybe what we taught was great but it didn’t transfer for whatever reason, perhaps because it didn’t get support or people said `let’s do it the old way’.”
Which metrics are you reporting?
What if it’s your first learning platform? Sifting through your L&D data can feel like looking for a needle in a haystack or searching for a lighthouse in thick fog – it’s a mix of not knowing what you’re looking for and not being able to find it. Which is why we’ve put together this list of tips and top metrics to consider when choosing and using a learning platform.
Consider your main use cases for finding a learning platform: If it’s employee onboarding, in which ways do your potential platforms help you track levels of knowledge or time to productivity? If it’s to enable your sales or customer success team, will it allow you to make correlations between their performance and time spent learning?
Participation and completion rates: Although we mentioned the importance of impact over simply completing training, the amount of time people spend learning and the rates of people who do are key for context.
Pass and success rates: Does your potential platform allow you to set up assessments and effectively measure those?
Skill assessments: We mentioned it already, but it’s important to understand if people are building the skills they and your business need to progress? It’s all well and good knowing how many people have completed training but the impact of it is your best tool in proving L&D’s effectiveness and return on investment.
Content creation: If your learning platform empowers people to upload content, measuring the rate and engagement with user-generated resources will help you understand engagement with both the technology and the idea of social learning.
Budget and cost per employee: This is another valuable one for context, especially if you’re comparing against a previous LMS. However, even if you’ve used no learning tech in the past, you can compare to general training spend and industry averages.
Employee satisfaction: You might not be able to do this in your learning platform, but you can use other tools to understand the impact of L&D on employee happiness. Ensure you are asking the right questions before and after launch and assessing the change in responses.
Integrating with your current tools and systems
Technology works best when it works together! There are a lot of different tools we need to use at work, so when they integrate with each other, it saves us switching apps as often, allows us to import data, automate tasks and much more – which ultimately helps us become more productive!
According to Asana’s Anatomy of Work Index 2021, “amid the race to stay connected across tools, workers switch between 10 apps 25 times per day—fragmenting communication and reducing efficiency.” and psychologist Gerald Weinberg explains that every extra task or piece of context we switch between can suck up anywhere from 20% to 80% of productivity.
It’s quite ironic that one of the biggest aims of using learning technology is to make employees more productive and, yet unless it integrates where they already work, it’s actually likely to have the opposite effect.
Which apps is it important for your learning platform to integrate with?
This is a big one! Your HR system is home to all of the information about your employees, and when people join the company, it’s helpful if you can send that data directly to your learning platform. Why? Because that allows you to automatically enrol people in onboarding courses or send them resources based on their start date. In HowNow, we allow you to set rules for assigning content to people, whether that’s based on a milestone date or completion of another piece of content.
This empowers you to onboard faster and in a scalable way, where teams receive consistent onboarding, and you lose the headache of doing it manually.
Shared storage apps
Sure, your content might live in multiple places, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be accessed in one single platform. Finding a learning solution that integrates with the likes of SharePoint, Google Drive, or something similar stops people having to hunt around in different places for resources.
According to Beezy’s 2021 Digital Workplace Report, which asked IT and non-IT professionals for their challenges in completing workplace tasks, 81% of IT staff flagged locating specific files or people with specific expertise as a difficulty – as did 57% of non-IT respondents.
By integrating your learning tech and storage solution, you’re preventing that issue from occurring in your workplace.
Slack and Microsoft Teams have replaced so many of the interactions we used to have in the flesh, but we’re not sure people quite realise the scale! More than 12 million people use Slack on a daily basis, and the average user is signed in for nine hours, while Microsoft Teams is home to more than 75 million users!
The question is, what happens to all the brilliant knowledge that gets sent in those millions of messages each day?
Sadly, a lot of it gets lost. But not at HowNow, where we use empower people to save knowledge in the here and now. Our platform integrates with Slack and Teams, allowing us to save messages as Nuggets that can be shared with everyone else. That means insights from experts become available to everyone, repeat questions have consistent answers, and there’s no app switching to do any of it. You can even share resources from your learning space directly within Slack and Teams.
Content and course libraries
If you’re using the likes of Coursera, Udemy or LinkedIn Learning, you want that content to be available in the same place as all your other resources. Creating one single search results page can help on that mission to reduce the time spent looking for information.
Tools for customer-facing employees
49% of employees prefer to learn at the point of need, and when is knowledge needed more than in dealing with customers? By integrating learning with the tools that sales reps and customer success staff use when dealing with clients, they can find the knowledge needed to conquer challenges quicker and as they happen.
Implementing your LMS or LXP
Imagine you’ve spent all that time finding, testing and convincing others your learning platform is a winner… and then you launch it only for it to become your company’s biggest software tumbleweed. Not on our watch! Most LMS buyers’ guides would stop before the launch process, but HowNow isn’t a wild west cowboy when it comes to this kind of thing.
Like a pair of swinging saloon doors, a successful learning platform launch goes in two directions – everything you do before day one and what you do in the first three months afterwards.
Our Customer Success Team break it down into three sections containing activities you need to do before and after launch:
You can also think of it in terms of what you need to do before launch and what you need to do from day one onwards.
Planning pre-launch activities for successful learning platform implementation
Like a plane soaring seamlessly into the sky or a ship pulling off a smooth exit from port, it’s planning that makes for a successful learning launch. From creating awareness to populating the platform, there’s so much you need to get right ahead of day one. We’ve covered all the big ones in detail here, but we’ll go through some of the top level stuff here and now.
Understand how it works for yourself
It seems like the most logical starting point, but you’ll be surprised by how many people skip it. The enthusiasm and excitement are just too much sometimes, but a lot hinges on whether you’re au fait with how the tech works.
How are you going to communicate the benefits to people before launch effectively? Can you really plan the content you’ll be uploading if you don’t know how it functions? Are your demos to employees going to go down well if you don’t know it well?
The answer to all these questions is a no or probably not. You don’t need to be the expert, that’s what your support team are for, but you need to be knowledgeable!
Build the team behind the platform
Every great learning platform implementation has a great team behind it! Think of all the roles and responsibilities, build out your team around those and ensure people understand what they’re in charge of.
If you overlook a key part of the launch process, let’s say collecting feedback for example, that will not only impact how well the implementation goes but the long-term success.
Tap into other departments where you can! Marketing teams will be great for communications advice, the IT department can advise on technical aspects and project managers – you guessed it – are useful for managing the project.
We spoke to LIC, the agritech and herd improvement co-operative, about how they built the team behind launching HowNow in the company. Their approach was to recognise the relevant experience and transferable skills within the team:
“We looked at who had the skills, we’re a small team. We recognised that Jason was critical from his technology background and learning experience as an ex-teacher. Joss was the next longest-standing member of the team with the broadest knowledge of what our sales team needed – that’s how it came together.”
Audit your existing content and populate the learning space
There’ll probably be some existing content you’re happy to upload, the question is whether it’s enough to keep people engaged? Launch is all about momentum, and if there’s not enough content on the platform, you might find it running out of steam as people have nothing left to explore.
This brings us back to our curate and create debate. Chances are you won’t have the resources to create it all, so it’s about finding third-party content. Or, if you were using HowNow, switching on preferred content providers, allowing you to fill your learning space with more of the content people like.
Build a learning brand people love
A creative product name, great logos, values and messages we love – people become attached to brands for all sorts of reasons! But a nameless, faceless and personality-lacking learning space is going to be like Teflon for most of your employees.
Instead, create a distinct look and feel that fits with your company branding, something that excites people to head in and use it, a place that aligns with the company culture.
You’re standing in a supermarket with a shelf of similar-looking soft drinks in front of you, you can’t base your decision on taste, so you go by the best packaging. The branding acts as a shortcut to decision-making. That’s where most people think a brand’s influence ends, and they’re wrong!
Imagine the branding or slogan connects with you so much that you share it on your social media stories after, and then the taste or experience is so good that you commit to a full post to shout them out. The more you scroll through their feed, the more you realise that brand has the same values as you, and engaging with them adds a net positive to your life. Suddenly, you’re engaging with all their content and telling your friends and followers about it.
Now replace that soft drink with your learning platform or strategy and picture how sweet that would taste.
Your learning brand would be flying off the metaphorical shelves! People would connect to its message and values, use it more often, and become brand advocates who get more people to buy-in. By creating a strong learning brand, you can replicate the same loyalty, communities, and connections at work!
Why does a learning brand matter?
Aside from that connection and giving people a positive experience that they’re willing to share? Brands make people feel something, and that keeps them engaged! Or another way to put it is that they create long-lasting relationships. Almost 50% of food and beverage brands that were so popular in the US in 1923 were in the top five in 1997, more than 70 years later (source).
And with hopefully our last reference to food or drink, think about all those blind taste tests where people can’t identify their favourite brands from the rest. That brand has created a perceived quality that’s hugely powerful to how people interact with it.
We can’t always rationalise our connection to a brand, but it quite often gets passed down by our parents or a friend gets us hooked onto it. That’s a real tangible benefit of creating a strong learning brand! If you become an advocate, then you might encourage disengaged colleagues to buy in or share your good experience with friends outside the business.
As we’ll discuss later, that can make your company a far more attractive place to work. Even to the point where an employee who’s moved onto pastures new remains and an advocate in their new position!
Sometimes, a strong brand is used by companies to make noise and let you know that their product exists, especially in crowded markets or where one big player dominates. Sound familiar?
A big barrier to L&D is often a lack of awareness, whether that’s of the solutions altogether or what they can be used for. Or even worse, it’s a case of apathy! Well, a strong learning brand is something people can buy into far more easily, helping you tackle those two dreaded A’s.
Building your learning brand from scratch
One of the key things to keep in mind is that your brand can be crucial in making learning part of the higher conversations and help normalise development as a key part of the business. And it’s going to be much more successful at that if you involve the company’s wider goals and values, plus the key people.
Sit down and create a mission and vision statement for your brand, one that helps you understand your people and purpose. Ask yourself who your learners are, which problems they need us to solve, which goals you can help them achieve and so on. Define clear goals, objectives and an approach with your people at its heart. Your vision statement is much simpler, it’s where you want the brand achievements to take you further down the line.
Once you start to create the brand, make sure you’re involving people from the off! When people are more connected and have more influence over a project, they’re more likely to be engaged, invested, and an advocate once it’s live.
You might start by testing the water over what they’d like to see in your learning brand or strategy. When it comes to naming, logos, the colours, and all those other visual elements, ask away! Not only are you ticking that involvement box, you’re creating more awareness and familiarity with the learning brand. When brands offer an aspect of community, 37% of people stick with them because of that social appeal (source: the Content Marketing Association).
If you’ve already got a learning platform, brand or strategy, use that to guide you. If you were to rip it all up right now, which parts would you keep? Ask the same questions to the people using it, if there’s an aspect that really turns them off then that’s best left behind too.
Curiosity might have killed the cat, but it could be the lifeblood of your learning brand! The more you speak with people, the more you’ll spot those with genuine intrigue about L&D in your business. Harness that curiosity to convert them into genuine brand advocates, because their passion will help get others on board and your brand’s suddenly snowballing nicely.
Pitching and selling the brand
This section’s more about buy-in, we’ll come to more specific marketing tips shortly. So, how do you achieve that buy-in from all the right people? You’ve got to sell your brand effectively, and that means pitching the benefits effectively, while also considering that different departments will benefit in different ways.
For example, it’ll be an easier sell to your HR team if they understand the role it can play in talent acquisition. 50% of employees view employer branding as a key part of their HR approach, while those with a strong employer brand see hiring costs fall by 43%. Your learning brand offers a tangible way for them to demonstrate this to candidates and demonstrate the importance of development in your business. Not to mention the word of mouth difference that your people can make to talent acquisition when they shout about how good things are.
Apply the same thinking in the early discussions with stakeholders and other departments, which problems could your learning brand help them overcome? Pitch that in your messaging, and it’s much easier to see what’s in it for them. Don’t stop there either, as your brand evolves over time, ensure you continue to consult them and collect feedback. If they feel like they’re shaping the brand over time, you’ll create those longer-lasting relationships.
Everybody hates those ‘do as I say, not as I do’ people, so don’t be one of those when it comes to your learning brand. If you’re not using it consistently, why should anyone else? When you deliver onboarding and when you send out communications, incorporate your brand logo, messaging, values and voice.
One final thought on pitching your brand, never underestimate the power of rewarding people for their time and engagement. We’ve all seen those social media competitions where the prize is something pretty basic, and yet there’s hundreds or even thousands of engagements on the post.
A giveaway could be the gateway to buying into your brand, so think about the actions you want people to take and which rewards would encourage them to adopt those behaviours. They don’t have to be five-star holidays or a sports car, sometimes a badge or certificate will do the trick.
Marketing your learning brand
If your organisation has a marketing department, that’s the first door you should be knocking on! Not only do they have the skills needed to sell your learning brand effectively, they’re also the custodians of the company brand and should have a strong understanding of the business values. Essentially, this means they’ll help you position your brand as aligning with the wider strategy and identity.
If you don’t have a marketing team to lean on, you can still create an amazing promotional strategy and message. There’s a great phrase that features tell and benefits sell, which loosely translates to people only care about what they stand to gain from what you’re offering. Try to resist telling them technical things the brand or learning platform offers and create simple messaging about the benefits of buying in.
Another tip is to think about storytelling and making people feel like the ‘hero’ in your messaging. Help them understand how they’re personally going to engage with learning. Tap into the emotional aspects over pain points and frustrations they’re experiencing, possibly around growth or accessibility of resources and knowledge.
Creating a clear communications plan is another step you should take. Think about the timeline for release and how far ahead of that you’ll need to create a buzz. Also, consider how easy it is for people to share your communications and become advocates, that will determine the channels and messaging you use. For example, a 10,000-word internal press release is much harder to share than one visual infographic that covers a few key ideas or benefits.
We already hinted at the idea of a name, slogan, identity and tone of voice for your learning brand, and their power in marketing can’t be overlooked. We all have those brands that we have an irrational adoration for just because we love the way they talk or their imagery strikes a chord with us.
If you’ve understood your audience’s needs and interests well, you should be able to tap into that. For example, is there an informal term people already use internally that you could transform into a slogan or brand name. Do you know that people detest boring course names and having a little fun in them would catch their eye?
That ties in nicely with our final tip, think about where your audience is already engaged and tap into that. If the current intranet gets terrible response rates but the internal newsletter is everybody’s must-read each week, where are you going to have more luck?
Want to see how you can create a learning brand?
Of course you do! The good news is that we’ll happily show your around HowNow and have a chat about how you could create the right learning brand for your business. Just complete this product demo form and we’ll take care of the rest…
Check out our other learning and development resources
Running test sessions or soft launches with small groups
The canaries in your learning coal mine, it’s helpful to find small groups of people who can test it out ahead of launch. The feedback these people can offer is invaluable to making tweaks that make it work! It should also influence the messaging in your pre and post-launch communications.
Look out for advocates! If people are showing enthusiasm in these sessions, tap into it and make them your learning champions. They can be powerhouses when it comes to getting others on board.
Create a communications plan for launch and beyond
Awareness, excitement, anticipation, that’s what you want in the build up to launch. Sadly, without a strong message and communications plan, you probably won’t achieve any of those. If nobody knows it exists, nobody’s going to use it! So ensure you create a plan that takes you up to launch and beyond.
Find out where and how people already communicate and talk about learning. That will help you build something that resonates with them. For example, what existing language do they use and can that be woven into your messaging?
How do you know if your learning platform is worth the investment you’ve made in it? If people are using it and growing from it! The trouble is that unless you invest time and energy into something that attracts people and empowers them to benefit from it, you’re going to struggle.
Something people overlook is that how you build out your learning space and create the content that populates it has a huge bearing on the return on investment. It’s also worth recognising that this isn’t a short term thing, launching your learning platform is about far more than just one day where you cut the ribbon and welcome people in.
Well, here’s some advice on how you can ensure you’re building, creating and launching your learning platform in a way that leads to success! Whether that’s an LMS, LXP or all-in-one learning platform.
Creating and building out your learning space
First thing’s first, nobody is really asking you to build or create a learning platform – you won’t need to be a tech wizard to create a place that excites learners! It’s more a case of how you name and brand the space, what you choose to fill it with, who you’re involving and how you’re getting them involved. Here are some steps to steer you in the right direction.
Carry out a learning needs analysis
How can you cater to people’s learning needs if you don’t know what they need to learn to perform better in their role? In its simplest terms, a learning needs analysis helps you establish current skill levels, the skills needed to get where your people and company want to be, and determine the gap between the two.
It’s then your job to work out how you’ll close that through learning! The beauty is that you’ve built the foundation for relevant development pathways that benefit both the organisation and the individual.
Audit your existing content
Imagine you’re a film director, and you’re considering a follow up to your first movie – are you going full steam ahead, or will you take five minutes to look at viewing figures, reviews and revenue before making a call?
If you want to make a hit film, it’s almost certainly the latter, and the same principles apply when it comes to learning! If you’ve got any existing content or a previous learning platform, what can it teach you about how people engage with learning resources or tools?
Which types of content do people connect with? From which sources and in which formats? How long are they spending on your platform or using your resources? The answers may well be in the data…
Think about where people already work, learn and communicate
It’s a similar point to the above, but you should be considering existing behaviour at this stage! Where are people going when they want to learn something today, and what can you learn from that? If there’s an announcement to be made or an important update to communicate, where and how are people doing it?
In general, how are people communicating at work? Which tools do they head to, what terms are they using and could any of that shape how your space comes together? The point is that if the learning platform mirrors the way people already behave, you’re not asking them to make wholesale changes once your learning platform goes live.
Ensure there’s enough content for launch and beyond
Imagine your launch goes swimmingly, and within weeks people are splashing around in your learning content at a far higher level than you’d imagined. And then they run out of content…
It’s not uncommon for companies to launch their learning platform in style, only to realise that they’ve not thought about the long-term plan. It’s not simply a case of having enough content in place for the first few weeks of launch, you need to get enough resources so that you’re not running out of steam. Momentum is very difficult to build back up if it tails off after a few weeks, your job is to make sure you’re not in that position.
Decide how you’ll create and curate content
The reason people fall into that ‘running out of content’ trap is that they’re trying to create all the content for themselves. But the L&D team is only so big (really it’s often pretty small), and that’s an unnecessary burden that makes them a bottleneck. And that’s how we end up discussing the curating and creating topic.
Curating content is all about bringing relevant resources from third parties into your learning space. Why? Because it saves you money and buys you time that can be invested into creating highly specific content. If you can find resources that are relevant to your people while not being specific to your business, that gives you more time to create the specific content that’s related to your products, goals and culture.
Build the team who will run your platform
Behind every great learning platform, there’s a team of great people! So if your learning space is going to be a hit, you’ll need to spend some time structuring your team. Who is responsible for adding content? Who will monitor the analytics and see how it’s being used? And who will act as the mouthpiece and market the platform to people in your teams?
Integrate with your existing tools as much as possible
As we said, it’s all about going with people’s existing behaviour, rather than disrupting how they work each day! Any learning tech that takes people out of their flow isn’t likely to win them over.
If you can do that, you’ll start creating seamless experiences and encourage more people to use your learning platform.
Get people involved in the naming, logo and branding
We all saw how excited people got when Boaty McBoatface was leading the way in a poll for a research ship’s name, and you can channel that as you build out your learning space! Asking people for input into names, logos, branding, the opening ceremony or whatever comes to mind can really create a buzz before launch – you’re getting people in at the ground level, and that goes a long way.
Launching your learning platform and getting it right
Where most people go wrong is thinking that launch is a one-day activity. But it’s more than that, it’s about the things you do before launch, how you make that day a hit and use it as a platform for learning success.
As we mentioned earlier, building up to launch can help generate more excitement and offers a chance to create a sense of involvement among your people. If you do that right, people should hit the ground learning and boost everyone’s morale as they develop their skills. How you manage launch is also going to help you manage change, and if you flex your analytical muscles once it happens, you can use metrics to drive better learning results in the long run.
And if your new platform is replacing an existing one, it’s time to take stock. Well, you’ve probably already done that – but more in the sense of why people weren’t clicking with or using your previous offering. What mistakes did you make the last time around that you can improve on with this launch?
Get to know it yourself
Don’t even think about launch until you’ve got to grips with the product and figured out how it works! If you’re knowledgeable, you’ll naturally sell it better to others and won’t be blindsided by any questions.
It’s likely that launch will involve a number of sessions where you’re showing others around, and that’s your chance to woo them! It would be a shame if that first impression went down the drain because you were unprepared. So, test yourself and run a few practice demos until you’re at the point of being completely confident with your new learning platform.
Build a learning brand and communications plan
It might be time to knock on the marketing team’s door. A strong platform launch can be made or broken by the quality of your communications strategy. If nobody knows about it, there’s no chance of them logging in, and if they can’t see the value in the platform, you won’t stand a much better chance. That’s where the power of your communications strategy enters the picture.
Think of it in the same way you would a new product launch. In the months or weeks before release, you’re building excitement, awareness and communicating the value or features that solve people’s pain points. You mark launch day with a big celebration, allowing people to see it in the flesh and show them all the features you built hype around pre-launch. In the weeks that follow, you’re following up to encourage people to give it a go, test out features and carry on finding the value in it. The same principles apply to your learning platform marketing efforts!
You’ve also got the idea of building a learning brand, creating something more tangible that people can buy into and become advocates for, giving them a logo, image and set of values alongside a tool to improve how they learn.
Run test sessions or a soft launch
How are you going to create advocates if you’re not giving them something to advocate for!? In the run-up to launch day, you should be running test and demo sessions or choosing a select group for a soft launch.
Not only are these a great vehicle for collecting feedback about the product itself, but they offer the chance to spot people with a passion and immediate love for the platform! Once you see that, harness the enthusiasm and turn them into learning champions – people who will extol the benefits to others in the business. When a friend recommends something, we’re all ears and far more than when a company hits us with an advert – that’s the energy you should be channelling here.
Celebrate the launch
Everyone loves a party and a distraction from their everyday activities. Your learning platform launch could be that! Think of creative launch ideas that aren’t only a reflection of your brand and your people but showcase the fun aspects of the platform. You might stand a better case of piquing interest if someone’s doing a learning space treasure hunt on day one rather than watching a six-hour presentation.
Identify early adopters and top users
It’s time to repeat our learning advocate exercise. As more people use the platform, either the data or the people will let you know that they’re loving it and have a truly positive outlook on your platform. Convert them into champions and encourage them to create a snowball effect, where they’re turning more and more people into advocates. You might choose to gamify that process and offer rewards, again it’s a case of working out what fits your brand.
Launch surveys and collect feedback
How else are you going to create a true picture of your launch’s success? You need numbers on how often people are using it, what their sentiment is and any barriers they might be facing. And it matters when you collect these insights too. Companies often send a survey during launch week, and that’s it, or they’ll wait a few months until people have had a fair period with the platform.
What those companies overlook is that perceptions change over time, and so does people’s behaviour. Understanding how people felt on launch day, week two and at the end of the first month will paint a better picture of how the relationship with the platform is developing. It also helps you react to people’s feedback. Imagine if everyone is struggling with a particular issue during week one and you’ve sent your survey on week four, you’ve missed three weeks of course correction.
Check out our other learning experience platform (LXP) resources
Roll it out to small test groups before you try and do a mass launch.
Don’t assume people’s level of technological understanding.
Have individual meetings and make sure the functionality works for everyone before launch.
Keep track of who’s attending these pre-launch calls and meetings.
Find the person who’s most resistant to the tech and get them up to speed – half your problem will have been dealt with.
Don’t overwhelm people and overload them with information. Give them enough to get them interested and curious about how it works.
Implementation, launch day and a successful first few months
Your pre-launch checklist
There’s a lot to remember ahead of launch, so here’s a quick checklist that makes sure you’ve not missed the key requirements to get up and running.
Launch timelines, goals and processes
One of the best pieces of advice is to set realistic expectations during the implementation and launch period. Trying to do too much too soon is unlikely to lead to success, and at the same time, getting people engaged during the first few months is crucial to the long-term project. And that’s why you need to set achievable short-term goals that foster a sense of achievement while driving people to use the platform regularly.
Your ASAP goal: Activation
The sooner people have logged in and got a feel for the platform, the sooner you can start tackling your use cases and building learning habits. That’s why your first objective post-launch should be reaching an activation milestone – we’d recommend 90%.
Resend invites to people who’ve yet to login (and plan that email copy ahead of launch, so it’s ready to go) and look at the analytics to understand if it’s certain teams or departments that aren’t engaged.
30-60-90 day goal setting
We always work with our clients to understand what they’d like to achieve by certain milestone dates! We’ll ask them what success looks like after 30 days or which habits they’d like to have formed by day 60, and we do it in an ongoing capacity in order to tweak and develop goals over time.
The important thing is that they’re achievable, and the steps needed to get there aren’t going to overwhelm or scare off learners.
For example, once you’ve reached that activation goal, you might choose to set a target around user-generated content – as part of your efforts to drive social learning. Perhaps that means people sharing an average of five resources by a particular date, and then you can discuss with your support and L&D teams how you can encourage people to do so. Or perhaps if upskilling is your key use case, ensuring everyone has completed a skill review or proficiency assessment might be the next goal after activation.
The future of learning platforms
A lot has changed in recent years, and that means we need to turn to the most up-to-date research available, starting with LinkedIn’s Workplace Learning Report 2021. Published annually, the latest addition offers some fascinating insights that can help us understand where learning tech is and should be going.
Better capabilities for measuring and developing skills
LinkedIn’s report backs up our point that learning technology needs to become more adept at measuring skill levels and helping people build their proficiency. It revealed that upskilling is now the top priority for L&D pros globally, as 59% naming it their key focus – 15% higher than it had been as early as June 2020. At the same time, more than half (51%) of L&D pros stated that internal mobility is more important now than it was pre-Covid-19.
Udemy’s 2021 Workplace Learning Trends Report presents the same finding, with 62% of respondents naming closing the skills gap as the top goal of their L&D program in the previous year. But are we always clear on what upskilling means and how we should approach it?
“Does upskilling mean doing existing skills better (define better) or does it mean learning new skills (which skills? For which purposes?)? We must know what people need to be able to do.”
That’s the question Patti Shank, Founder of Learning Peaks, returned to us when we asked her about upskilling’s growing importance in the workplace.
“What skills do they need and how will they specifically be using them? What additional tasks do they need to be able to do? I highly recommend Guy Wallace’s book, The 3Ds of ThoughtFlow Analysis.
“If we are providing instruction, we MUST measure whether it delivers the desired outcomes (my new book, Write Better Multiple-Choice Questions to Assess Learning, should be very helpful). The right assessments measure needed results so we can assure that our efforts are worthwhile. Assessment can also help us continuously improve instruction and reduce waste.
“Sometimes we leave people on their own to maintain skills, upgrade existing skills, or learn new skills. Many workers can do this but if that’s the case, we need to define the specific skills needed so they are not trying to learn the wrong things. Most people have extremely busy lives so if we want people to upskill in these ways, we need to provide support.”
To better understand the skill measurement landscape, we also spoke with Laura Overton, Founder of Towards Maturity and Co-creator of Emerging Stronger. She explained that L&D needs to be clear in its role when it comes to driving skill development and understanding that has to be the first step.
“For L&D to add value to the skills agenda we need to look at more than reporting. Skill building – ensuring that individuals are genuinely equipped and ready – involves more than sharing new knowledge, it involves transfer of learning in the workplace, practice, building confidence and capability.
“If L&D wants to be known for our role in this, we need to define how and where we can add value back into that process. We then need to define with our stakeholders what success will look like and determine the leading and lagging indicators we need to track to monitor that.
“Probably then, and only then, will we be in a position to clarify what we need to report – to ourselves and to others. If we can get this right my expectation is that completions might not be high on the list!”
The rise of virtual and remote learning
Interestingly, the same LinkedIn report crowned virtual onboarding the third most important priority, with 33% of respondents naming it as their top challenge – highlighting that learning tech also needs to evolve to support hybrid working and remote learning.
But it’s more than that, in the hybrid working era, learning tech needs to offer learning opportunities to people working remotely more often. A Nespresso study revealed that “41% believe that ‘working from home means I miss out on learning and development opportunities’, and 34% agree that ‘working from home means I miss out on career development opportunities.”
And that could be the reason why 73% of L&D pros are planning to spend less on instructor-led training, and 79% expect to increase their investments
More social learning features and collaborative elements
We already spoke about the end of siloed working, and top-down learning and the numbers highlight this is a trend heading in just one direction! Learning technology must continue to provide collaborative and social ways of learning, especially given the numbers around its effectiveness. The same LinkedIn report revealed that “Learners who use social features — Q&A, course shares, and learning groups — watch 30x more hours of learning content than learners who don’t.”
That’s supported by the fact that 72% of US executives are planning to invest in tools that improve virtual collaboration, as part of their commitment to support hybrid working.
Making knowledge available at the point of need
A staggering 61% of respondents in Udemy’s survey named a lack of time as their biggest L&D obstacle, once again highlighting the need for integrations and microlearning content that’s available and understandable at the moment an employee needs it. In fact, almost 50% of employees prefer to learn at their point of need!
The growing need for personalised learning
Achieving all of the things we’ve mentioned so far is far easier when learning is personalised, helping people build relevant skills and tackle tasks they encounter in their role. Learning and development professionals agree too with 77% stating that personalised learning is vital to employee engagement and development.
For some more insight into the role of personalisation, we again spoke to Patti Shank, Founder of Learning Peaks, and asked for her advice on how companies can achieve it.
“Personalisation can mean any number of things, so it depends on what you mean. Some people think it means, for example, the need to fit an individual’s learning style, for example. But learning styles are a myth and have been copiously debunked.
“We know from research that people learn best when we employ learning methods proven to make a difference —such as adequate practice with appropriate feedback and spacing learning for better retention. We also know from research that what people think are the best learning methods for them are typically NOT the best learning method for them.
“In my view, REAL personalisation means tailoring instruction so it is relevant to individuals’ actual performance needs. And to do that we must know what people need to be able to do and how to design so people CAN do what is needed.
“Most workplace instruction starts with a bunch of topics rather than an analysis of what participants need to be able to do. A bunch of topics often includes irrelevant information and too little practice.”
Meet HowNow, the modern LXP for fast-growing and forward-thinking companies
We know what you’re thinking, how am I going to find a platform that ticks all of these boxes, has helpful sales reps to guide me through the process AND happy smiling faces in the support team.
You’ve already found it! HowNow is that learning platform 🤩 we’ll help you build a learning ecosystem around how your people work and develop today!
Firstly, we create one single search for all of your resources by helping you bring scattered knowledge, shared drives and content libraries into one central place!
We then integrate with all the tools your people use on a daily basis, like Slack and Teams, allowing them to find knowledge where and when they need it. Plus, we’ve even got a browser extension which means internal knowledge is served alongside Google search results!
And the more they use HowNow, the more relevant our content and knowledge recommendations become, helping you save time assigning and searching for it, and skyrocketing productivity levels.
Empowering everyone to create and share knowledge
Experts live at every level of your business, and we believe they should have a tool to share all their wisdom with teammates. Think about the amount we learn on the job, from colleagues who’ve built up valuable experiences on the job – unless we tap into that knowledge, it’ll leave the business when they do…
Enter the Nugget! An easy way for anyone in your business to create resources in HowNow in a matter of clicks and share it with relevant colleagues just as quick.
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