25/08/2015

By Liam Butler, Sales and Business Development, EMEA, SumTotal

Online learning resources provide multiple advantages over classroom sessions and written manuals. First and foremost, online resources can be easily updated and standardised to ensure that all learners are working from the same instructions. Secondly, the nature of digital archiving and advanced search operations make it easy for learners to locate the content that they require.

Perhaps the greatest advantage to online and intranet based resources however, is that workers can access materials such as ‘how to’ instructions, video sessions and background information, physically at the point of need, without having to leave their computer. They can reference the materials and then directly apply newly acquired knowledge to their work. It also considerably reduces the time spent researching support topics and facilitates more efficient problem solving. Although the path to using learning management systems (LMS) is straightforward enough, does this mean that employees will actually utilise its materials to help them in their working life?

According to Software Advice’s 2015 report on LMS, one of the biggest concerns for users continues to be integration with other workflow programs and systems. The research found that the most popular use for LMS was for training administration and assessment purposes and that in 99 per cent of cases it offered immediate improvements to the efficiency of the workflow. However, despite these extremely positive results, 32 per cent of the survey participants indicated that a lack of system integration with existing programs negatively impacted their user experience. This finding is particularly significant, suggesting that even in the case of an effective and popular LMS, users can still be discouraged if its features do not complement their existing work environment, providing easy access to materials that are relevant to their work.

This represents a significant obstacle for LMS, as system integration directly affects usability, which in turn carries a heavy influence over learner engagement. If the system is easy to use, workers remain engaged in finding a solution to their need and are more likely to achieve a successful learning experience. On the other hand, LMS systems which are not fully integrated, lack the intuitive operations necessary to drive positive engagement, increasing the likelihood that the learner will abandon the search for the solution to their problem.

So what can HR professionals do to ensure that their workforce remains on good terms with their LMS solution?

Implementing an LMS can be a complicated process, without the necessary, tools, knowledge and support. With this in mind, the HR team should be at the centre of the activity, ensuring that all the necessary considerations are accounted for in the final product. Whilst the implementation itself will be managed by a business leader and executed by a team of IT experts, HR is fundamental to the process of designing the structure of the program, to best appeal to the learners who will be utilising the service.

During the planning stages, HR is responsible for considering and advising on the following:

• Usability — The training platform should be easily accessible and available at the point of need via toolbar icons or hyperlinks embedded in the workflow program. The interface should also be as simple as possible to operate, so that training doesn’t interfere with the workflow itself.• Flexibility — Use of the materials should be as flexible as possible, with learners able to quickly dip into content for immediate fixes as well as completing full training modules. This ensures greater engagement and speeds up the process of finding a solution and returning to productive work.• Visibility — Another significant factor in the success of LMS solutions is employee awareness. Following implementation, HR can assist in internally marketing the solution via multiple channels including email, posters, road shows and company events.• Feedback — As the HR professional represents the needs of the workforce, liaising regularly with those who will use the systems is extremely important. Constructive feedback from the user can directly assist in shaping the LMS implementation to better fit the workflow and increase adoption by the workforce.

LMS systems are designed and built to provide workers with all the tools necessary to completely their daily tasks. However, in order to motivate workers to utilise these platforms, the systems must be implemented in a way that complements the workflow and does not impede the immediate task at hand. HR stands as the bridge between the solution and those who will inevitably utilise it and it is important that HR professionals take an active role in steering the implementation in the direction that offers greatest immediate and long term benefit to the workforce.