Understanding the LMS

What’s Up Next & Why You Might Need It

Join VP of Product Development, Chris Lennon, to learn all about learning management systems. This webinar will include useful information and practical tips if you’ve ever asked any of these questions:

  • What exactly is an LMS?
  • What should an LMS do for my company?
  • What should I look for while shopping for an LMS?
  • Is an LMS the future of learning management?
  • How do I set up the curriculum that best fits my company?


ANN TORRY: Welcome to today’s webinar titled “Understanding the LMS: What’s Up Next & Why You Might Need It.” We’re really glad that you’ve chosen to join us today. My name is Ann Torry and I’m from BirdDogHR and I’ll be operating as your moderator for today’s session. I would like to quickly cover some event housekeeping items at this time, while we’re waiting for some more folks to join us. You may have noticed that you entered this online session in an audio silent mode. Therefore, if you have questions throughout the presentation, please use your Q&A box to submit those and I will ask those questions to our presenter at the end of the session. Also, just for your information, today’s session will be recorded and available to all attendees after the webinar. In addition, we’re very excited to offer this webinar for a 1-hour HRCI CEU credit. For those of you interested in taking advantage of the CEU, make sure you stay on the webinar for the entire duration and we’ll email you the activity code tomorrow.

So, as we’re still waiting for a few more people to join, here’s a little bit more information about BirdDogHR. In 2017, we’re celebrating our 20th year in business and we were just named to the Inc. 5000 ‘Fastest Growing Companies’ list for the third year in a row. We started with roots in recruiting software and job boards, but have evolved into a full talent management suite. Chris Lennon, your presenter, and I have been working with online learning products for over a decade, so we have quite a few stories to share about LMS successes and positive ROI. As the economy’s growth continues, employee engagement is very competitive right now as companies scramble to train and retain top talent. BirdDogHR offers a complete talent management suite, so that will help your organization manage the entire employee lifecycle if that’s something that you’re interested in. We are here to talk about online learning today, though, but it’s easy to see from this slide how learning connects to onboarding, performance management and succession planning, too. On the next slide, we have a screenshot of our software, but we won’t actually be showing our software today. We do have an integrated interface that is responsive and mobile friendly and covers all of the modules that you saw in the previous slide. It’s full-featured, so you can configure it to your needs.

Now, it’s my pleasure to introduce today’s webinar presenter. Chris Lennon is a Talent Management Strategist and Vice President of Product Management at BirdDogHR. He is responsible for ensuring that the BirdDogHR Talent Management System meets and exceeds the expectations of our customers. Chris is also an active participant in the talent management community, bringing over eighteen years of experience to BirdDogHR. He has presented at numerous industry events and has been quoted as an industry expert in leading publications like Talent Management Magazine, CLO Magazine, The New Talent, Times, TLNT, and HR Bartender. So, with that introduction, I know Chris has a great presentation for you today, so I’ll turn it over to him.

CHRIS LENNON: Thank you so much, Ann. Thank you everybody for joining. I’m excited to be here. It’s not very often I get to stretch my presentation skills, so you’ll have to excuse me if I’m a little bit rusty throughout the presentation. I tend to stumble and babble and go on and on like I am right now! So, today’s topics we have on the docket: What is an LMS? What an LMS can do for your company. The future of learning management. What to look for in an LMS. Setting the curriculum. Hopefully none of that’s a surprise. It’s basically some LMS 101 with some strategic crystal ball insight thrown in for fun.

But first, before we dig into that, I have a story. So, years ago, at the start of my career, I worked for Gateway Computers. It was, at that time, the fourth largest computer manufacturer in the world. And, in case you don’t remember, Gateway was known for shipping their computers in those cow-spotted boxes. At one point it was in the top five recognized brands because of those cow spots. And I started out in Customer Service. As a matter of fact, when I got the job, I came home, told my wife that I was working for a company with this massive cow spotted building in North Sioux City, South Dakota — and you can see the picture right now — that’s the actual building that I was working in. My wife and I — who had lived in Sioux City for a while — she hadn’t even seen the building. She didn’t believe me that there was a huge cow — it took me — I’m not lying to you — it took me about three months to convince her that I was not lying, so I had to drive her out there and show her this building was probably close to a mile long. So, I started out in Customer Service, then I moved into the Training department. We had 280 locations that were ’Country Stores’ strewn throughout the United States, and in those Country Stores, we had classroom training, and we offered that classroom training to customers. My last role at Gateway was to actually build an LMS for their customer training. We didn’t call it an LMS at the time because they were so new. We actually called it a “Centralized Enrollment System,” but that’s not what my story is about.

My story is about a training initiative — a massive training initiative — that happened when I was a classroom trainer at Gateway. That massive training was around something called “export compliance.” Obviously, we shipped a lot of computers around the country and around the world and we had to adhere to export compliance, which was an annual training program that happened — as you would agree — every year for Gateway. It was classroom-based, so all of the employees for manufacturing, sales, support staff — they all had to go sit in a classroom and listen to me as an instructor, or some other instructor, talk and blab to them for about an hour, and then they took attendance by spreadsheet and all the employees had to take a paper-based exam that was created by the Legal Department, which in and of itself posed a slew of issues, because imagine you’ve got a bunch of lawyers trying to create instructional materials and for some reason these lawyers thought it would be fun to throw in trick questions — and I don’t know if you know anything about instructional design, but trick questions are kind of a no-no. You shouldn’t try to fool your audience. And so, there were quite a few failed tests because of those trick questions and because of those failed tests we had to schedule a lot of retakes and makeup classes, and once the tests were finally completed — once all the classes where everybody sat in a classroom and took attendance — we had to have hard copies for all the attendees; for all of the tests that were passed all had to be kept on file for audit purposes. We would have auditors from the federal government come in and we had to make sure that they were all legit. All of that was an approximate cost of about a quarter million dollars ($250,000) every single year for this one training program. And of course, the kicker: We didn’t have an LMS. They were not very prevalent at the time, so remember this story. I’m not done with it. I will circle back around to it later.

Getting back to our agenda, let’s talk about: What is an LMS? We’re going to start basic. So, this is a bare-bones definition of what an LMS is from Wikipedia. My guess is you already know this. Otherwise, you probably wouldn’t be on a webinar about LMSes — but the root of this definition is important. It lays the foundation for most of what we’re going to discuss today. The bare bones of an LMS is a system that’s going to help you become more efficient at running your training programs. But I want to talk a little bit about the evolution of an LMS. Where did it come from? How did it start? Learning Management Systems initially focused on a dispersed training audience. So, imagine you were a very large company that had offices all over the world. It was a logistics nightmare to get everyone at the same level in terms of training, so LMS gave trainers the ability to train more learners faster and at less cost. That expense of sending instructors to various locations to deliver basic training was incredibly expensive, wasteful and inefficient. The lack of reporting and feedback, similar to what I just described about Gateway, meant that the training programs were often neglected due to the lack of visibility on the progress or their return on investment. And, soon, smaller companies realized that they, too, could see similar benefits like the large multinational companies. So, the LMS has continued to evolve and has become a critical component for even smaller companies that are centrally located. The training of dispersed audiences remains significant regardless of the size of your company and it’s a significant reason to use the LMS. The improvements in technology systems have allowed for better learning experience for the end user. It has allowed for better efficiency and increased engagement. Not only can you train more people more regularly, but the quality of the training’s also been improved over time. Whether you are training your department, an organization or even the general public, you can create and deploy courses better, faster and with more reach than you ever could before. If we’re going to talk about LMSes, we have to talk about some of the feature set components that you will find within an LMS. So, I’ve got this broken down into two different components.

First, we’ll talk about online training. So, the online training component. A basic LMS should have a course catalog. That course catalog is going to allow your learners and, potentially, managers access to curriculum that they can access and take and develop themselves. “Course catalog,” in a stretch of the term, allows a manager to be able to assign those courses from the course catalog, but that might be a different component of the LMS. But, regardless it is a set of courses available to your employees and managers. Online training, in and of its definition, delivers course content over the web. That’s pretty basic. Upload and manage curriculum content: so, you, as a training administrator, has the ability to get that content into the system. Finally, you should have methods for assessment, such as multiple-choice questions and quizzes and true and false and things like that. We’ll circle back on that a little bit later as well.

From the instructor-led side: An LMS should have basic components such as being able to create class rosters, control registration and create waiting lists, and it’s implied in those last two pieces: Allow students to self-enroll or self-register into those classes. And, as a result, you should be able to create and publish course calendars so they can see when classes are available. And you should be able to interact with students via functionalities like emails and forums.

So, those are the common pieces. After that, LMSes start to vary widely based on the maturity and/or the product’s market focus. So, what you have here is a smattering of features that you should consider if you’re looking for an LMS solution. Some of these you would think are fundamental, but you’d actually be surprised, if you start looking at the marketplace, how many of these are not fundamental. For example: Catalog segmentation. Not very many LMSes out there have that. Certification management: how is that different than online course management or learning plan management? Are they different? Yes, they are different. The ability for employees or managers to be able to upload their own certifications and keep those maintained as a system of record. Ad-hoc reporting, single sign-on, integration capability. All of these start defining the difference between a basic LMS and a more advanced corporate LMS.

I told you I ramble and blab on for a little bit, so you’ll have to excuse me — I’m going to do that again. Here’s a long metaphor for you: Recently, I went to three different Verizon stores in one week. Two of them in Iowa — though one was in Sioux City, Iowa; one was here in Des Moines, Iowa. One was in Denver, Colorado. For those of you that are married, you know how it is: you divide tasks, right? You divide and conquer. So, in addition to cooking our dinners and doing the dishes, I’m also responsible for our family’s cell service. Plus, I recently added my mom to our plan, so I have, now, my own family, plus my mother, that I’m responsible for making sure all have their latest and greatest technology ready to go. So, I had to get my mom a new phone because she joined my plan. Then my oldest daughter, who is the one in Colorado, her phone stopped working, so when I was out there visiting her we happened to go to a Verizon store. two of my kids needed new phones. Then my youngest daughter, who is going to college, she, of course, needed a new phone, because she didn’t have enough storage and it was full and she needed, apparently, more space for more selfies. So, all of that... long story short: I had a lot of time in various Verizon stores to peruse their inventory, and did you know that they still make flip phones? That was a big surprise to me when I was looking around the stores. Yeah, they still have flip phones and not all phones are made equal. So, the flip phone, as compared to a smart phone: obviously they’re very different. There are LMSes that are very different, as I was talking about, between the advanced and basic functionality.

There are over a thousand LMS systems on the market today. Smart phones: they’re awesome, they’re powerful, but they’re expensive and they’re not always necessary. Sometimes a flip phone is going to serve the purpose. Figure out what you need and, obviously, plan for the future, but be realistic. Do I need a smart phone or will a flip phone fit the bill? So, when you’re thinking about LMSes and thinking about the future of an LMS and what it can do for your company, really dig in and try to figure out what’s more important to you. Like I said, there’s a thousand systems and they span the entire spectrum of functionality. So, what can an LMS do for your company? I like this quote and I selected it for the presentation because Josh Bersin, in addition to being a good guy — I don’t know if any of you have ever heard anything from him or read any of his stuff. He’s actually been in the industry and he’s one of the more respected analysts that have been out there for a really long time. When he first started, he was solely focused on the LMS space. I was working with him prior to him actually having his own company. He was the learning division of another organization. He not only branched out but he’s obviously joined Deloitte so it’s now Bersin by Deloitte. He focuses on large enterprise companies, but his research is still very fascinating. So, even if you’re not a large company, you can still sometimes read his research. This quote summarizes some of his findings, which is: In a high-performing organization, they invest more in their training programs. It’s not necessarily a direct result but it’s an indicator of high performing organizations. They tend to spend more money.

And, just for the record, even though this one has Bersin’s name at the bottom, I don’t think he had anything to do with the movie “The Incredible Shrinking Woman.” And I was just telling Ann yesterday that I think this is one of the first movies that my mom took me to when we were kids, and there’s a scene in the movie where she’s — Lily Tomlin, who’s really small — almost went down a garbage disposal. And that — I don’t remember how old I was — but it gave me nightmares for weeks. But here’s some more insight from Josh Bersin. Training is always under the gun, especially when the purse starts getting tighter. So, an LMS might prevent you from having your own... I’m sorry, an LMS can help you as your training staff starts to decline, and hopefully you can get yourself out of your own, personal garbage disposal situation. Wow, that one sounded so much better in my head when I was putting this together. :) Ann, I need some back-and-forth banter. I’m starting to drown.

ANN: Okay, I’m with you, Chris. I’m with ya’!

CHRIS: Thanks. That gave me an opportunity to take a drink. Okay, top five learning challenges. If you’ve seen my desk, you’ll see that it’s full of sticky notes, and so I definitely related to this lady and decided to put her in here — only, as Ann will attest, I have significantly less hair than she does. I was on a — this was in a recent survey that I was a part of. The top five learning challenges that were identified by HR practitioners. The first one: Ineffective tracking of training completion and success rates. Cost of delivering instructor-led training. Lack of central management and automation of training programs. Reporting gaps allow a lapse in compliance. Difficulty building, reusing and updating course content. So, I don’t know if you’re looking at that list and if you can relate to any of those, but one, three and four specifically called out to me. They all kind of circle around the same thing, which is risk — or compliance risk, which I’ll talk about on the next slide. In that same survey, the poll was: Of your compliance training, how much of it is automated? And the result is, honestly, quite shocking to me. I can’t believe that, in this day and age, the majority of compliance training is still being managed manually. 59% of compliance training is being managed by spreadsheets, by paper tests, and things like that that I was doing almost twenty years ago at Gateway Computers. So, the... ...the liability that comes along with compliance training, in and of itself, I think warrants that 60% of the companies out there need to, potentially, open their eyes a little bit and see what’s available to them. Employees and managers have to know about upcoming training milestones. Talent management professionals need to be able to generate reports easily for auditors. They need to be able to manually assign compliance training. It requires more intervention when you manually assign from learning professionals and managers and carries the risk of employees falling out of compliance, so you want to automatically assign that training. The lack of automation in assigning compliance training can result in not only inefficiencies, but it can result in duplication of effort, inaccuracies of reported data and, particularly for companies that are dispersed. According to Business News Daily, there are some other advantages to using an LMS.

First: Manage learning more effectively. So, if you have an LMS, it helps you manage your learning. It allows you to have all your learning activities housed in one location. It allows you to create greater visibility for learning opportunities, and it helps you reduce costs. It also allows you to — case in point — improve compliance reporting. When you have an LMS, it allows you to better track your learner transcripts for courses and scores. It allows management to better focus on the training and not necessarily the administration of the training. It also allows you to identify certification needs. So, it’s a lot easier, when you have a system in place, to see who — and who does not — have their certifications in place to be operating that machinery that they’re out there driving. The forklift or big rig or some other type of equipment.

Some other advantages: It helps you combine social and formal learning for increased overall value. So, learning and retention is accelerated through an integration of online methods of study that allows employees to go at their own pace. It empowers administration. Management becomes more informed of the learning that employees are participating in and what topics need greater focus to create more well-rounded employees. It also helps improve content delivery, so instructors can more easily prepare and present quality courses that will act as positive learning opportunities for the course participants.

Okay, finally.

So, I told you I’d come back to the Gateway example. Had we had the LMS, we could have, instead of doing all of that in classroom training, delivered the content online. There are some major benefits in having all those courses as online courses. A big one is going to be wrapped around standardization of the training. So, imagine: there were probably close to 20 trainers throughout the U.S. training all of our employees. Every trainer has a different style, as you know. Every trainer has to go through their script. They deliver it differently. Sometimes, as much as you want to think otherwise, they skip content unintentionally. So, at the end of the day, having an online course ensures consistent delivery every single time, and all the information is delivered. Self-service enrollment. So, the employees can go out there and enroll in the — if it’s an online course, that’s great. Even if it was an instructor-led course, they could have done that as well — put the class schedule online and let them enroll themselves, and then you just have to run a report to see who has not yet enrolled.

Which takes us to reports: your attendance and your completion reports. Ideally, they’re automated — but even if they’re not automated, if you have the ability to go in and run those reports on a regular basis as that program is happening, and ensuring that all the teams and all the managers are updated. And, like I said, ideally you have a system that can automatically generate a report and even send it to managers and say “Here are the people that have not taken the training.” And here’s the biggest one: When you have a paper-based test, if you guys are doing that, you understand how painful it can be — and if you’re at a small company it’s painful; if you’re at a big company, it’s exponentially more painful. Having those exams built into the online content makes that grading automatic, and you don’t have to do it. The system will tell them whether or not they pass. Zero paper storage. I love trees. Trees and paper are renewable, but at the end of the day, no one really wants to store a bunch of papers anymore. It’s clutter, it’s unnecessary, and when it comes time to do the auditing, it’s a pain. So, trying to get through all of those reports for all of those employees when an auditor comes in can be incredibly exasperating. There are, like I mentioned before, over a thousand LMSes on the market. I don’t know if that saturation can be maintained. I’m assuming many of those systems will go away over time and I’m sure other LMS systems will pop up, but this chart says one thing: that the market is there and the need for LMSes won’t go away. If you go out there on the “interwebs” and you do a search about LMSes, there is a lot of conversation around “what is the life or the purpose of an LMS in this day and age?” The technology has changed — so many different things happening — but the core component of the LMS absolutely still has value, especially for companies that are concerned about compliance training. So, in 2016: $5.22 billion market for the LMS, and they are anticipating — this is from Market and Markets Research Firm — that it’s $15.72 billion in 2021. That’s 24.7% annual growth. That’s pretty amazing. I actually took this number over a number from Josh Bersin, who’s one of my favorites, but his number was significantly higher on both sides, so I went the more conservative route for this presentation for you guys. Regardless, it’s very much necessary.

So, the market’s there. There is going to be a future. What does that future look like? Cloud and multi-tenant LMS solutions. Cloud-based LMSes have been in the market for over a decade. I thought the debate was over. I thought that — game over. Cloud won. Well, kind of. The vast majority of new buyers out there are investing in cloud. So, it is the future, but there are still many installed solutions out there that have yet to see the light. And, IT departments: so, if you are in the market for an LMS, your IT department   — a lot of them still fight the fight around having premise-based solutions versus a cloud-based solution. But, rest assured, cloud is the future when you look into the crystal ball.

Next: Data and Analytics Customers that have LMSes: the biggest frustration is often the lack of access to their data. A lot of LMSes, they have canned reports. Those are great for about a month and then you need to add stuff to it. You’re like, “Hey, this canned report’s awesome, but what I really need is a report that’s just like this, but has my custom field in it.” And whether or not your LMS has the ability to do custom fields is a whole other conversation.

So, that’s where ad-hoc reporting comes in. So, canned reports get you through, usually, the first month or so. Ad-hoc reports give you the ability to create your own reports. So, if I were to build an LMS today, it would absolutely have to have an easy-to-use ad-hoc reporting capability. Oh wait, I am creating an LMS today and it does have that, so that’s pretty exciting. But, you should be able to see more than just the data, though. The way I see it, our job as the vendor is to translate data into useful, actionable information. For example, here at BirdDogHR, not only do we have the ad-hoc reporting capability, we started building more widgets and charts on dashboards to proactively guide the administrators on things like compliance tasks. So, data and analytics — absolutely number two on the list.

Number three on the list: a MOOC. What is a MOOC? First off, it’s very fun to say. You can say it over and over again... But a MOOC stands for a “Massive Open Online Course.” MOOCs are — I think — always free. I could be wrong on that but I believe they are free and they’re open to the public. A lot of times they’re offered by universities, which means that anybody can go and get knowledgeable about particular topics that are being presented. They’ve become very popular over the course of the last five years. Your employees are probably going to MOOCs whether or not you know it. So, if you have a learning management system, you need to be able to make sure that your learning management system is open and able to accept their attendance at those MOOCs so they can add it to their transcripts so you can track it within your LMS. In one of my earlier slides with Josh Bersin, I said “we are no longer the place for learning but instead we have to become facilitators of learning.” So, we’re not the location necessarily anymore but, rather, we are the aggregator. We are the facilitator. We need to help our employees. So, you can do that through accepting MOOCs but you can also do that through the shift to performance support. So, you not only need to be able to track outside events like MOOCs, but you need to make sure that your LMS is integrated with your performance system and helps drive your employee performance through the employee performance management system. I’ll come back to that later, too.

Social. Social was a massive trend in LMSes for years and if you go and listen to anybody talk about it, you might hear some people say it here and there but it’s really died down quite a bit. Because, what companies have realized is that employees don’t natively go to their LMS to collaborate. It’s not an intuitive thing for an employee to say “Hey, I need to collaborate with another employee. Hey, I know — I’m going to go to my learning management system and open up whatever that is and whatever tool that does and try to get them to join and try to get them to collaborate through the LMS.” It didn’t happen.

Instead, what they did was they went to other tools like Skype, Slack, Google, possibly even Facebook for Business. The point is, with social, you can’t reign it in. You can’t force it and there are absolutely generational differences in the way people learn. And I don’t mean Millennials, necessarily. I think we put too much emphasis on the term “Millennial.” When it comes to learning, it’s really experience-based — and yes, younger people generally have more experience with social tools and so you have to expect them to want to get their information through similar channels, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google, their neighbors, Skype, Slack. And, again, it just goes to having an open LMS that allows you to tie in those preferences with whatever your company tends to be using.

Alright, so now I’m really going to put on my crystal ball goggles and look way in the future. BYOD: Bring Your Own Device. Raise your hand if you’ve heard that term. I can’t see you raising your hand, so I’m just going to continue. Actually, the BYOD piece of this slide? That’s here today. At least for a lot of us. Our employees are coming to work with their own devices. Your company might restrict it and that’s fine — I’m not saying one way is better than the other — but for some of you, they’re already doing that, especially when they’re working from home on their phone, on their laptop — their personal devices — trying to access company information. Again, not trying to lay judgments. Some companies think that’s great. Some companies don’t. Some companies are more open. Whatever the case is, it’s here for a lot of us. We have to be able to make sure that our systems, including the LMS are accessible on the devices that they’re trying to use. At least, if you do that, it helps them be more productive.

But here’s the future one: Wearable technology. Wearables. I think they’re still out in the future. I haven’t seen or heard much in terms of learning management systems integrating with wearable technology yet, so we’re just kind of hanging out and seeing where things go with it. But — like Google Glass, for example. That was a pretty big bust, wasn’t it? Do you guys remember at all the hype that went around Google Glass? And then it all of a sudden just — *pthhhb!* — fizzled? Nothing happened with it.

Or did it?

I actually just saw an article in Wired Magazine just the other week about Google Glass 2, so apparently, Google Glass is making a comeback. Seems Google has found a new home for the devices and it’s not in the consumer world. It’s in manufacturing and other similar environments where getting real-time information has helped create efficiencies and save costs. So, again, this is still future thinking, but imagine: wouldn’t it be awesome to get real-time training in the same manner for those types of organizations? So, I guess we’ll have to stay tuned and see where wearable technology takes us in the future.

Alright, so now we’ve talked a little bit about the LMS and what it can do for your company. We’ve talked about the future and where that might go. Now the question is: you’re thinking about getting an LMS or you already have one or you’re thinking about getting a different one. What do you think you should look for in an LMS? We’re going to kick this portion off with a poll, because by now I’ve been blabbing for about 35 minutes. You’ve probably fallen asleep. So, Ann, if you could do me a favor: kick off the poll, which I think you’ve already done.

ANN TORRY: Yes, I have, so —

CHRIS LENNON: Excellent.

ANN TORRY: — please go ahead and give us some feedback about your experience in purchasing an LMS. One of the things that I think is really cool about people that are looking at LMSes these days is that I had somewhat of a warped expectation that a lot of organizations already had some type of either online software or capacity for delivering online training. And it seems that there are actually a lot of companies, and we’re seeing that in the poll — Chris can talk about the results — but folks that have never implemented an LMS and that’s a really cool thing right now because technology and cloud-based technology have driven the prices down —


ANN TORRY: — on LMSs and there’s so much functionality available today via a cloud LMS that wasn’t available years, five years, ten years ago. You may feel like you’re behind but you’re really sitting in quite a good spot, I think. So, we’ll give —

CHRIS LENNON: The catbird seat.

ANN TORRY: Yeah, absolutely. So, we have had a majority of folks vote, so I’m going to go ahead and close the poll here and share the results.

CHRIS LENNON: Awesome. Okay, so... yeah, Ann’s absolutely right. When you’re looking at the results, 55% of our audience has never had an LMS and they’re trying to build the case. That’s awesome. Congratulations, guys, that’s exciting! I don’t necessarily envy you, depending on what that case looks like or what your confrontation or obstacles look like, but still, like Ann said, you’re in an exciting spot. It’s a great time to buy one.

Five percent are actively looking for their first LMS. 41% said this will be their second LMS. That’s also exciting. And zero percent are “seasoned veterans with multiple LMSs under my belt.” So, that’s pretty cool.

So, it sounds like the vast majority of you are trying to build the case or you’re working on your second LMS. So, congratulations, that’s great!

Okay, next: What to look for when you’re looking for your next LMS, or in 55% of the case, your first LMS. First and foremost, my advice to you: Don’t look for software. Look for a partner. I can’t stress this enough. And, yes, I’m a vendor. I represent BirdDogHR, obviously. But, seriously, from the core of my heart — my years and years and years of being in this space — I can only tell you that the benefit that you have when you are aligned with your vendor and truly make them a partner, versus a vendor relationship. You want to make sure they’re not only aligned when you are making your purchasing decision, but you want to continually work with your provider to ensure that they hear your needs on an ongoing basis. It’s been so many examples in my career where my happiest customers have been my most engaged customers. And they’re also, usually, the customers that make me the happiest. So, don’t kid yourself that if you work as a partner with your vendor that they’re going to give you everything that you want, because that’s never the case. The vendor has restrictions just like you have resource restrictions, but when you’re working with the vendor and you’re explaining the problems that you are trying to solve, oftentimes the vendor can translate that and infer that with the rest of their customer base. And it helps design and build better software, not only for you but for the rest of their customers, so it’s truly a win-win situation.

Next: When you are deciding on an LMS, first ask yourself what type of program do you have? What are your needs? Making sure you’re looking for solutions that satisfy and address those needs specifically. For example: Are you internal training only? You are only training employees. You have zero outside people you have to worry about. Or, are you the opposite where you have to train extended enterprise? So, if you don’t know, “extended enterprise” is actually a term in the learning industry — if you Google it, you’ll find some stuff — extended enterprise is really when you train people outside of your organization that are partners, resellers, vendors and sometimes even customers. That’s considered extended enterprise. Or, are you only worried about compliance? Is this truly a solution that you are putting into place to mitigate your risk that you have because you have a bunch of manual processes? If that’s all you care about, then that might influence the direction you head with your LMS decision.

You also need to ask yourself: Do I want a cloud-based solution or do I want premise? Well, again, I’m a little biased. I’ve only had cloud-based solutions my entire career, but I would highly encourage you to go cloud-based. It’s been proven time and time again to be a lower cost solution, especially over time, for you as the customer. Ann mentioned earlier, with cloud systems there’s constant improvement. So, if you buy a premise-based system, yeah, you can get the updates from the vendor, but you’re on the hook to install those updates. You’re on the hook to test those updates. You’re on the hook for everything about those updates. With a cloud based solution, it’s magic. It just happens magically and you come in the next day after they have a release, and you’ve got — ta-da! — brand new functionality. It’s pretty awesome. Most cloud-based vendors do updates at least twice a year. Here at BirdDogHR, we do them four times a year for major releases, and then sometimes we have minor releases where we’re able to throw out little tidbits that make customers happy.

What percentage of your workforce is going to be accessing on a tablet or even a smartphone? So, that BYOD: Bring Your Own Device. Or, maybe you’re an organization where you’ve got people out in the field and you equip them with tablets. Will they be expected to consume that training on tablet devices or mobile devices? A note about mobile devices: Make sure that the content that you provide in your LMS is mobile-enabled. Not all content is created equal. Some of the largest content vendors out there that sell off-the-shelf courseware, their content is not mobile-enabled. If you make your own content, make sure that you make it in a way that is mobile-enabled. A lot of the new — I’ll talk about authoring tools here in a little bit — but a lot of the tools make it easier to do that. I just wanted to put that out there, especially when it comes to Flash-based technology that does not work on iPhones or Apple devices.

And I absolutely understand: price is important. Price is always a factor, but is it more of a factor to your organization? Sometimes, some companies have even tighter budgets, especially when it comes to training, — as we all know — sometimes you’re the last people that get to dip your hand in the purse.

Is customer service important to you? “Well, yes, of course it is, Chris. I care about customer service.” Sure, but I can’t say it loud enough: In this day and age, read the reviews folks. You can’t go on the “interwebs” without finding reviews, whether it’s Amazon or whether it’s SoftwareAdvice.com Finding the right partner who is there for the long haul with you is the difference between years of living out an incredibly painful contract, or years of growing your training program with truly a partner. Here at BirdDogHR, we celebrate our customer service. As a matter of fact, just yesterday, Ann sent out a glowing review to our entire company from SoftwareAdvice.com where one of our customers put something out there about how awesome our customer service is. Yes, I’m tooting our own horn a little bit but you’re on a BirdDogHR webinar. You’re going to get that. Make sure you pay attention to customer service and not just the lip service that the salesperson gives you.

Ease of use. Yes! This is very important. Especially this day and age. We talked a little bit earlier about generational learning and I talked a little bit about Millennials. It’s all about consumerization of technology. Technology is at the point now where your employees aren’t as forgiving to go into a system that is kind of crappy and hard to use. They might have been forgiving about it a couple years ago, but it’s gotten to the point where they expect it to look and feel like Facebook. You’re not always going to get that, but having a system that is easy and intuitive to use means that you get less calls and less frustration from your end users. So, ease of use: another one of those items that is important to everybody, but as you look at older and more robust systems, ease of use often becomes a trade-off for the features that have been built over the years and, of course, features become a trade-off for cost.

But there’s always reliability. So, if you are going to cloud, and I hope you do, make sure you ask them about their uptime percentage. Make sure you ask them how quickly they can get you back up and running if there’s any blocking issues preventing you from moving forward. This is where reliability and customer service truly meet.

So, we already talked a little about performance support earlier. There is a massive, massive shift happening in performance management. And, I know, it’s a shocking concept: They’re actually talking about having ongoing conversations between managers and employees. I know! It’s crazy! You mean, as a manager I’m supposed to talk to these people? Yes, and you’re supposed to do it on a regular basis. Companies have kind of keyed in on the fact that that hasn’t been happening as much and having these annual performance reviews doesn’t help those conversations. It actually hinders them. So, they’re trying to move more toward ongoing performance management. I know this is an LMS call, but I wanted to set that up for you because as a training department, you can support that initiative by providing different ways for your learning programs to get into the hands of your employees and managers, so that your LMS can reinforce employee development and performance.

Your LMS should absolutely, in this day and age, be integrated with your performance management system. And I’ll actually take that one step further. As Ann pointed out, we do have an entire suite, and again, yep, I am biased, but I’d argue that your LMS should be part of the broader talent management suite beyond just performance management. Because, even if you’re not looking for an entire suite today, knowing that it’s there and available when you’re ready and pre-integrated so that you can pull the trigger — so it’s not only great peace of mind, but it also makes great business sense. So that, you know — some people say “only one throat to choke.” Something along those lines. Having one vendor to go to for all your needs is absolutely beneficial. There’s usually cost savings involved. If you are not the Recruiting department — which I assume you’re not; most of you that are in Learning aren’t also recruiting — you can talk hand-in-hand with the Recruiting and with the Onboarding and when they get onboarded, they come directly into the Learning and Performance system, for example. Because, usually, that happens with a system that’s integrated with core HR. So, I would say if you’re looking for an LMS solution, make sure you find one that is easy to integrate with a core HR system. Having a system that can integrate via automatic nightly feeds, or better yet through an API, is a dream.

Now, if you don’t know what an API is, it’s programming language for magic back and forth between our system and your system that somebody on your end hooks up. Stop manually trying to keep your systems up-to-date and in sync. In this day in age, it’s pretty crazy to have to do that. As a matter of fact, one of my favorite quotes that I stumbled upon recently from Jason Averbook, who is pretty heavy at HR Technology — if you’ve ever heard of the HR Technology conference — I saw a quote from him in an interview recently. “If you are typing employee names more than zero times, it’s too many.” Think about that for a second. You should not have to type your employee’s names. Period. In this day and age, it’s absolutely not necessary. You can have your employees enter their own information into your onboarding system which then, in turn, should feed to your HR system which then, in turn, should feed to your talent system which then, in turn should feed to your payroll system. Things like that. It’s 2017 folks. We might not have flying cars, but at least we should have software that talks to each other.

So, when looking for a solution, keep this in mind: We spend a lot of money on employee training. We should probably try to make that investment worthwhile. I told Ann I’d watch the clock and I totally have not been watching the clock. So, I’m going to go right to the poll. We’re going to try to do this quickly. What does the curriculum at your company look like? We’re starting the curriculum section of our presentation. Shouldn’t take too long. So, could take a couple seconds here... Ann, do you have any thoughts about curriculum while we’re sitting here waiting with the theme song of Jeopardy! in the background?

ANN TORRY: I do have some thoughts. As Chris moves into this curriculum conversation, one of the things that I guess I would just like to let you know is — as he’s talking about different ways to create curriculum, creating that custom content for your organization so that you can drive down your culture and your mission and your values, and create all those great onboarding programs and learning programs that you’d like to create — the systems that he’s going to talk about are very, very easy to use, even a marketing person like me can use them. I’m going to close and share the poll now, which is something else I’m very capable of.

CHRIS LENNON: [laughs] Alright, so, as we look at this, 21% of you are just starting to formalize your curriculum. 32% of you only have instructor-led training. That’s very common, like Ann pointed out earlier. 21% of you have some online training. And 26% say there’s no formal curriculum or plans to create content. That’s amazing.

Okay. So, when you’re thinking about creating content: You know you want an LMS; you might be on your second LMS; you know that you need content and a curriculum. The most important part of setting up the curriculum is knowing where to start. So, the first question you need to ask yourself: What is the business driver behind the decision? Is that business driver to reduce costs? Is that business driver to increase efficiencies? To educate customers? To improve product awareness? Those are all great reasons to implement an LMS, but those, in and of themselves, probably aren’t the best reasons to get an LMS. They’re almost byproducts of having the LMS.

You need to have true, definable goals for why you’re implementing it so that you can go back and say “Look, this was successful.” Probably the best example I’ve heard in my 20 years of being in the industry: have an urgent training program that you can use as the point of reference for it. Whether it be ethics training; maybe you’ve got the annual sexual harassment training and you want to prove out that doing it online is so much more effective and cost-effective and easy. Compliance training — or Gateway’s export compliance training that I was talking about earlier.

I once had a customer tell me that there’s no such thing as a training emergency. It was funny and I’ve remembered it for probably ten years, but I’m not sure that’s true. Or, even if it is true, I think there are times that training is very pressing and very urgent. Use that to your advantage when it comes time to set up your curriculum.

OLT versus ILT. I’m an old classroom training person at heart. I always gravitate toward ILT, but it’s not the most cost-effective nor is it always the best medium. You need to determine what’s the best medium for delivering content. So, here are some pros of each: Online content and instructor-led content. What’s funny is, if you look at those, a pro for one is oftentimes the con for the other. Both are valuable and possible in your learning management system.

Ann did talk about the authoring tools. I’m not going to spend a lot of time here. I went out to eLearning Industry website and I looked for what their top authoring tools are in this day and age. Several of those I’ve used. As a matter of fact, the top three on their list I’ve used in the past; they’re great, powerful tools. Some of them are a little bit more expensive than others but they do different things. So, here at BirdDogHR, we’re completely agnostic when it comes to authoring tools. We don’t care which tool you use as long as it publishes to SCORM, which they all do. So, we’re good. You can go to any one of those and leverage it. I will say this: If you’re getting an LMS, you should absolutely also invest in an authoring tool. It doesn’t have to be expensive. As a matter of fact, there are free authoring tool things out there that can convert PowerPoints into online courses. I can’t remember which one of these it is — it might be Gomo Learning, I think, or, maybe Elucidat? I can’t remember — that has a free version for doing just that.

So, take advantage of online training. Start moving the needle if you haven’t done so already. Alright, my last slide. If you’re considering the LMS, you should also consider some off-the-shelf content. There are many vendors out there. BirdDogHR even offers a library of off-the-shelf content. It’s a great way to bolster your catalog that provides managers and employees a place to go to self-develop themselves. Or, in the case of a manager, I can assign it to my employees. They oftentimes in these libraries, they have great, important supplemental courses to your training, like, for example, sexual harassment training. Sexual harassment training usually pays for the entire library itself, if you get that course.

So, with that, I’ll end my long-windedness. Thanks for taking the time to join us today. I hope you found it beneficial. I’m going to hand it back to Ann. She has some final thoughts and some Q&A.

ANN TORRY: Okay, sounds good. So, Chris, if you want to move to the next slide, I just want to share with the audience that we have many, many resources available at birddoghr.com. In the middle there, you’ll see that we have another webinar coming up on September 13. Our friend, Chris Lennon, your presenter today, will also be presenting that webinar —

CHRIS LENNON: “Oh no!” they say.

ANN TORRY: — so we’ll be excited to hear from him — yeah — on company culture and employee engagement and what the differences are between those two concepts. So, we have had just a few questions come in, so I’ll pose those to Chris very quickly. If you do have further questions, for those of you that want to stay on, we’ll continue with a few more of those, but the first question is: “I see the benefits of an LMS but how do I convince my boss that we need one?”

CHRIS LENNON: [laughs] Yeah, so 55% of you are trying to build the case, right? The consultant answer in me says “it depends.” And, the reason it depends is because it depends on who your boss is. Is your boss the head of the training department? That makes your life a little bit easier. Is your boss the CEO? That’s going to make your life harder. Regardless, the best way to approach it is financially. You have to build the case as to why it’s better for the company’s bottom dollar. It’s really hard to convince somebody, especially for the training department, as you guys know — I mentioned earlier — we get the short end of the stick when it comes to the budget. We are considered an expense, oftentimes. It’s hard to convince people that we are more than an expense, although most of us on the phone know that we contribute to more than just an expense.

But build the case. Again, start with that urgent training need, maybe just start with sexual harassment. Start with your export compliance. Start with something like that and get everybody in a classroom. What — can you even make that an online course? If you do, how much time and energy is that going to cost you? That quarter of a million dollars that Gateway spent on that training, at one point, when the math was done, it was going to be a reduction of almost $200,000 every year. To save that, in and of itself, pays for the LMS.

ANN TORRY: Alright, and then we’ll just use this as the last question: “What kind of social capabilities do you have in your LMS?”

CHRIS LENNON: Great! So, we did talk about social earlier. I mentioned that it, you know, depends on your organization. We have a social collaboration tool built into our system. It is not core to the LMS, meaning that you don’t have to use it if you don’t want to — just like all the other modules we have in our system, you can just turn them on and off — so if you don’t want to use it, that’s fine. But if you want to make it available and you want to incorporate it into part of your instructor-led training as supplemental, maybe blended learning capabilities, we absolutely have a collaboration tool built into our system as well.

ANN TORRY: Okay, very good. Chris, we did have one other question come in that I would like to go ahead and ask, just because I think it might be on a few people’s minds.


ANN TORRY: Zack is asking: “What is the pricing structure for the pre-made courses?" So, the off-the-shelf content.

CHRIS LENNON: Sure. So, I assume, Zack, that you’re asking about the online courses that we provide. It really depends on volume. The more employees you have, the lower the cost structure goes. It’s going to be priced out per employee, so it’s going to go hand in hand with the LMS license itself. I think if you want to go out to birddoghr.com, there’s some information on there on how to see what the library looks like; to see how to contact BirdDogHR to talk to somebody about pricing. But I will say this: It is incredibly inexpensive for what you get in the marketplace. If you price this out: for what we’re offering — because we’re not an online course company, we’re not trying to make money on the courses themselves, we’re trying to give our customers added value to the LMS, so what we can sell it for and what some of the other libraries out there go for — you’ll see that it’s incredibly cost-effective.

ANN TORRY: And I would just add to that that we have a few course bundles that are specifically integrated with the LMS, and then we also work really closely with a very big content aggregator called OpenSesame. They’re a partner of ours and so, really kind of the sky’s the limit if you want to offer your employees off-the-shelf courseware.


ANN TORRY: Alright. Okay everyone, we’re a few minutes past the top of the hour, so we’re going to let you get back to work. We really appreciate you spending some time with us this afternoon, and, Chris, thanks for a great presentation. It was fun.

CHRIS LENNON: Sure. Hopefully we see you guys on September 13th.

ANN TORRY: Alright, thanks everyone, have a great day.



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