Choosing LMS For Small Business: 5 Things To Consider
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5 Things To Consider When Choosing LMS For Small Business

If your small business has grown enough that you have dedicated a budget line for training, then it is probably time to consider finding a system to manage your learning and to choose the best LMS for your small business. Once you begin tracking budget dollars for learning and development, it won’t be long before you are asking yourself: am I getting a return on my training investment? ROI for training is notoriously difficult to measure. However, if you take the time to properly explore and choose a good Learning Management System that suits your unique small business needs, you will find it easy to align your training dollar investment with your desired business outcomes. The great news is that nowadays, with cloud-hosted LMS platforms and short-term (and even free) subscription trials, any small business can find a Learning Management System that suits their needs.

1. Find The Size That Fits You Best

Many of the traditional Learning Management Systems are built for large organizations and include features and elements that make them less suitable for the small-business world. To help you navigate which LMS features would suit your business it is essential to ask the right questions. One of the first of these questions is: What type of account management will suit your organization?

Your learners' accounts are more than just an access to training resource distribution. There are many aspects of account management that include things such as: how learners access their accounts, what information they use to sign in, where and how their personal information is stored, and who has authority for certain activities at accounts such as adding, deleting and organizing account information.

Here are some questions to help you explore your account management needs:

  • Do You Currently Have Company eMail Addresses?

    If the answer is “yes”, then using these learner email addresses within account management can lighten the load on your LMS feature requirement. If you answered “no” it might be time to consider adopting and distributing company email addresses. One of the many reasons this matters for account management is that it can make things like bulk learner account creation faster in some Learning Management Systems. Regardless of the LMS you choose for your small business, your learners will need to sign into their accounts. The simpler the sign in, the more likely your learners will adopt and use your LMS.

  • Should You Choose A Self Sign Up System For Your Learners?

    Whether learners are signing in for their training with a company email address or not, it is important to decide whether you would like your learners to create their own learning accounts or whether you would like your Training Director or HR Manager to do this. Learning Management Systems that are suited for larger businesses tend to concentrate more power on the account manager. However, nowadays there are more flexible LMS platforms that can be used by small businesses that do not have a dedicated person in charge of training. Features that allow learners to create their own learning accounts can be important to these types of businesses.

2. Be Mobile-Ready

Rather than listing a lot of statistics about the rapid growth of mobile, it is better to just look around and observe: how many of your team members own mobile devices? How quickly are you personally integrating mobile into your own life? This should convince you that mobile matters and that its role in learning and development will continue to grow.

Some of the newest LMSs are now built “mobile first”, meaning that their entire platform is built for learners who will mostly access training on a mobile device. This brings up one of the most important questions to explore before incorporating mobile into training at your small business.

  • Do You Have A Current Policy For The Use Of Personal Mobile Devices At Your Small Business?

    Called a BYOD (bring your own device) or BYOT (bring your own technology) policy, this is quickly becoming an essential workplace policy, and is not just necessary for training reasons. However, we will focus on how this policy can impact your choices for an LMS for your small business. A good BYOD policy can cover the use of learning apps on employee devices which also opens up the possibility of your choosing an app-distributed LMS that is designed for mobile first.

Depending on the types of activities and features an LMS provides for learners, your BYOD policy might need to cover areas such as: safe actions (content consumption), medium risk actions (content sharing, rating and feedback), and higher risk actions (messaging across systems and employee content upload and sharing). All of these considerations will have an impact on whether you should choose an LMS that allows for things like social interaction among learners, sharing of content and the various ways that your learners can access their training content.

3. Stay On Budget

Many small businesses do not have the extra budget dollars for trying out several potential LMS platforms. If this is the case for your business and you need to do all your LMS shopping for free, then you should consider LMS platforms that are offered in the software-as-a-service (SaaS) category. SaaS platforms are synonymous with cloud-hosting and are most often priced in tiers. Many of these cloud-hosted LMSs allow for free trials from a week to a month. With tiered pricing, you are able to choose features you require for your LMS as you grow, making it possible to avoid unnecessarily paying for features that you might not need (such as responsive authoring tools or specific reporting formats).

4. Create A TAG Team

Good training is essential to your business success and choosing an LMS for your small business is a big job. If this job can be shared by a group of three to five people, you are more likely to complete your search in a way that reflects your business' needs. Creating a “training advisory group” (TAG team) can help you successfully accomplish all the steps for choosing an LMS for your small business.

  • Why Have A Training Advisory Group?

    Groups help to distribute the workload, especially when it is extra work being done by people who are already very busy. Projects can be completed faster when work is shared, and the social aspect of groups helps add incentive to complete projects on time. It is highly recommended to add social components to the group (playing up on the theme of “TAG”) to increase likelihood of success. You can even gamify your LMS search by seeing who can find the least expensive mobile LMS, or challenge the group to each create a learning module using a trial version of an LMS.

  • Roles Of The Advisory Group

    When your small business has a training advisory group, they can help to guide the development and maintenance of your training programs, performing such roles as ensuring that your training content is accurate, relevant and timely. This group does not necessarily have to provide or create training, but rather it can work in an advisory capacity to your leadership team. Their most important first project will be choosing the best LMS to support your growing small business.

5. Grade Each LMS And Pick The “A” Student

Before you begin shopping for the best LMS for your small business, take some time to identify the criteria by which you will be making your decision. How will you measure which LMS is your best choice? The advantage of deciding this criteria early is that, if you decide to trial some potential LMSs, you can survey your team and receive feedback according to these areas. Here is a short sample of areas in which to grade a potential LMS for your small business:

  • How easy is it for learners to sign on and begin learning
  • How simple is it for the account manager to assign, manage and report on training
  • Does it fit your current budget
  • Are there additional features that you can choose later as your business grows
  • Is this LMS commonly used in your industry and does it have good recommendations

It is important to remember that you will not just be choosing an LMS for your small business today. The LMS that you choose will have to grow with your business and even grow with your industry and team. It is important to choose an LMS for your small business which will remain both “future-forward” as well as “future-proof”.

Technology is changing quickly and you will want to look for learning management solutions that are in a continuous improvement cycle. Buying and choosing an LMS is a big decision, even for a small company. Ask some questions of the LMS providers. Discover which features they plan to release in the next quarter, year and two years.

If you include members of your team in the exploration and decision process, and you determine the right criteria to measure and choose an LMS for your small business, you can find learning management that suits your business and team, and form a learning partnership that will support and strengthen your growth for years to come.

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