Learn from the experts: How to choose the right LMS for your organization

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Learnster's customer ICA Gruppen is an organization with many different businesses. The Group includes the grocery retailer ICA Sweden and Rimi Baltic, ICA Real Estate, ICA Bank and Apotek Hjärtat, which conducts pharmacy business. The organization has high learning ambitions and a focus on internal learning.

In 2021, ICA Gruppen reached a transformative phase. Learning was being transferred from the central L&D department out to the local businesses. These ambitions put high demands on learning technology and the internal infrastructure. ICA Gruppen therefore decided to look for a new LMS (Learning Management System) for internal training.

In this article, Malin Wretman, Head of HR Digital Solution, and Jenita Nilsson, Learning Digital Lead, share their experiences and tips on how to choose the right LMS for your organization.

Malin Wretman is Head of HR Digital Solutions at ICA Gruppen. She has spent the past 5 years working in parallel for the Learning and Talent Development department. Malin is passionate about L&D and digital transformation and has a background in fast-growing tech companies. 

Jenita Nilsson is Learning Digital Lead at ICA Gruppen's Learning and Talent Development team. She has nearly 20 years of experience in L&D and learning technologies, 5 of which she spent with ICA Gruppen. 

Step 1: Explore employees' needs first - technology second

Start by exploring the internal needs. Where are you today and where are you heading as an organization? This is not always an easy task. Especially not if you are working for a larger organization 

To get a clear picture, you need to communicate with employees in the local businesses. Try to get an understanding of their day-to-day work and needs. Ask broad, open questions and let the employees paint the picture. 

  • What skills and knowledge do you need to do your job?
  • When did you last learn something new?
  • What made that information stick?
  • How do you like to learn new things?

More technical questions such as "What do you wish to get out of a learning platform?" usually generate limited information. Once you get an idea of your employees' work situation, then you can start focussing on technology. 

"There are no shortcuts. Go out in the organization, talk to employees, and try to understand their needs. Let them paint the picture."

- Malin Wretman, Head of HR Digital Solutions, ICA Gruppen

Step 2: Summarize and condense the findings

Your research may generate large volumes of data. Especially if you work in a larger, or more complex, organization. If so, then try to summarize and condense the findings from your interviews. Are there any recurring themes or topics?

Step 3: Identify patterns and create user stories

Can you identify any patterns in the data gathered? Then use these to create user stories, or learning scenarios. The purpose is to understand when learning occurs and where technology is needed, from an employee perspective. 

A user story may look like the following:

  • Employees at department X prefer this specific learning style
  • This task or situation requires skills and knowledge
  • This is where learning technology is required 
"Have clear and specific objectives of what you want your digital learning ecosystem to achieve."

- Jenita Nilsson, Learning Digital Lead

Step 4: Match user stories with learning categories 

Cluster similar user stories, or learning scenarios, and match with different types of learning. You can use the following learning categories:

  • Step 1: Formal learning, core requirements
  • Step 2: Formal learning, better effect
  • Step 3: Informal and social learning, Learning in the flow of work

User stories and learning categories help you understand your organization's current situation and future priorities. One advice is to start focussing on the core, step 1 and step 2, before you move on to step 3. 

"Build a solid foundation and secure formal learning first. Without it, you may lose credibility and then step 3 will not really matter." 

- Malin Wretman, Head of HR Digital Solutions

Step 5: What does the LMS market look like?

Take tips and inspiration from industry peers and other LMS users

"Steal with pride", as the old saying goes. Perhaps your industry peers might be a valuable source of information? Exchange thought and experiences with other LMS users. Ask questions and try to understand how they went about choosing LMS. And are they still happy with their solution today? 

Evaluate LMS providers against your user stories and learning scenarios

Invite a number of LMS providers to showcase their solutions. Build an RFI (request for information) based on your user stories and learning scenarios. Then evaluate how well they live up to it. 

Step 6: Invite employees to a reference group

It can be difficult to stay objective throughout the process. As an LMS purchaser, you may get biased from all the information, conversations, and experiences. But at the end of the day, it is your employees who should be happy with the LMS. Not only the L&D department. 

It is therefore a good idea to involve the employees in the decision making process. Invite representatives from all departments and roles (learners, admins, subject matter experts, etc.) to a reference group.

"User-friendliness is vital to us. We wanted to see the workflow in the platform to make a proper evaluation."

- Malin Wretman, Head of HR Digital Solutions

Show them recordings of scenarios and workflows from within the platforms, from an end-user perspective. You may even invite them to trial the platform. Let your test pilots complete courses and execute tasks independently, without support or supervision. 

Make sure to take careful feedback. To evaluate the user-friendliness, ask the following questions:

  • How intuitive is the platform? Is it obvious how to navigate and where to click?
  • How easy is it to work within the LMS?
  • Was it a fun experience?
  • Did the employees continue exploring features and functionalities?

This exercise can help you towards defining your LMS must-haves and non-negotiables. 

Step 7: Make a shortlist of LMS providers and define your must-haves

It is time to deliver a sharp RFP (request for proposal). As well as your user stories and learning scenarios, it should also include your must-haves. What functionalities or enablers are you not willing to compromise on?

Look for a match made in heaven and make sure you and your LMS provider have similar ambitions for the future.

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