Do You Know How to Use Your LMS for the Most Impact?

$1.9 billion was spent globally on learning management systems in 2013–an increase of almost 10% over the previous year. In 2014 the market went well over $2.5 billion. That is huge growth, and the market is still red hot, but why the boom? And, more importantly, how do you know if that investment is working for your business’s needs? While the numbers are in on increased LMS spend, we have to ask if these translate to a more valuable understanding of learning content. With bigger spends comes a greater responsibility to discover where LMSes fall short and work in solutions that actually multiply value, engage learners, and provide trackable data and customization. Here’s how.


First, let’s dig into this crazy new growth in Learning Management System investments. The training industry as a whole grew by 15% in 2014, the highest growth rate in over fifteen years, and corporate HR and talent managers are heavily focused on corporate training. As the economy improves, companies are struggling to re-skill technical teams, sales teams, managers, and professionals at all levels to deal with accelerating changes in technology and market demands, leading to more need for ongoing training than ever before.

The learning market itself is radically changing. Instructional content is everywhere online, and for the first time in nearly 15 years there is a huge array of new instructional content companies. So HR departments and talent managers are looking for modernized platforms which are easier to use, offer built-in mobile solutions, and tightly integrate with talent and collaboration systems. Indeed, many LMS systems developed for the educational market are now reaching into the corporate space.

It’s time for an upgrade. Most LMS systems are 4-7 years old — which in the technology field, might as well be dog years — and 61% of companies planned on replacing their learning platforms in 2015. LMS systems today are quite different from platforms only a few years ago, and companies with older products are anxious to upgrade. But what if the upgrade isn’t enough?

Where does the modern LMS still fail?

In human resources, the old 70-20-10 rule is often used to define the ideal balance for how to provide corporate learning and staff development opportunities. According to the formula, 70% of a person’s learning at work is internal and experience-based, 20% comes from interacting with fellow employees and 10% is the result of formal training and reading.

This learning model has been around for years, but most of learning and development teams’ resources have been focused on the 10% piece: classroom training and methods that mimic the classroom environment, like eLearning and slide-based solutions.

Is your LMS hitting the 70 in the 70-20-10 learning model?

Even though many learning and development professionals have wanted to go beyond classroom-style training, they didn’t have an easy way to do so. Instead, the limited job aids they could produce tended to live in cumbersome binders and manuals, on laminated sheets, or as PDFs attached to emails or buried in systems like Sharepoint or Dropbox. Even the newer LMS systems tend to facilitate only one-way conversations with a lack of customizability, limited measurement and reporting, and lack of convenience.

Is my LMS succeeding?

Understanding whether or not your LMS is in a rut may not be an easy yes or no. Some content may be working. Some may be failing you (and your staff) big time. Here are a few simple assessments to help you better understand where you’re jumping off from:

Learner engagement: Ask your learners if they believe they are getting value out of the system and content. Do they have the tools to increase their skill-set and further their careers?

Manager satisfaction: Poll your managers to see if they believe the content is making their employees more effective at their jobs. If not, why not? If there is a problem, find out if it is a lack of the right content, too much of the wrong content, or both.

Organizational efficiency: Productivity can be hard to quantify and measure, but simple metrics like revenue per employee, retention, and attendance are important indicators that show how well your team is operating, and they can all be linked to training efficacy.

How to achieve LMS success

Now that you have asked the right questions and have a better understanding of your LMS content and how employees are engaging with it (or not), think about how to redesign the content for different contexts, both in the LMS and outside of it.

Make the information “chunkable” and easily discovered. Serve up content in bite-sized chunks to promote greater memorization. This can mean turning instructor notes into detailed graphics and diagrams, creating clickable sidebars for additional context, or breaking up presentations with video or audio snippets to enrich the reader’s experience. From there, set certain performance metrics as a prerequisite before unlocking new content, so as to not overwhelm your learners or allow them to move on from a subject they haven’t yet mastered.  

Focus in on specific, high priority, critical areas of need first. Put a system in place that provides the data you need to improve, and then pay attention to it. Iterate, improve, and repeat. Understanding how learners use your training content–beyond course completions and user satisfaction surveys–is critical to the future success of your program. Observe their behaviors as a whole to discover most-visited pages and search terms, and embed surveys to get direct feedback.

Always consider the context in which they are learning. Are they in the field or at their desk? What device are they using? Field learning requires particularly well organized and accessible content. Hone in on how you are implementing just-in-time learning to enable your sales team and others in the field to access the information they need when they need it and deliver value messages. Given our digital landscape, the complexity of today’s jobs, and our ability to access information at any time, just-in-time learning is a critical part of any effective learning program.

Does your LMS consider learning context? Does it enable your sales team when they are in the field?

A successful learning strategy unlocks the 70% of the 70-20-10 model. It considers the learners’ contexts and delivers “chunkable”, digestible content while ensuring that employees are accessing the information you want them to, enriching their learning and positioning them for greater success. Sometimes, this will be achieved through an LMS. And sometimes, you’ll need additional tools and platforms to take you from 10% to 100%.

The takeaway

As individuals, we have embraced the digital boom, but as businesses, we are slow to adapt old systems for the new learner. While investments in corporate learning are skyrocketing, opportunities to fully engage with the best training tools available are still being missed. Newer learning models work toward more individualized, on-the-go training for today’s mobile learners, multiplying the value of corporate training investments.

Just-in-time learning is extremely relevant to the modern workforce not only because mobile devices unlock the potential of this model but also because so many jobs require robust information, skills, and processes to do the work successfully. It’s time to develop strategies to update your LMS with new kinds of learning tools to unlock the 70% of the 70-20-10 model by getting outside of the training binders and the seminars to cater to the context and the abilities of its learners.