LMS and Business Impact: Connecting the Dots (Q&A)


Our webinar, LMSand Business Impact: Connecting the Dots conducted last week, was asinsightful for us as it was for our packed audience. Why? Because oftentimes uncoveringthe ground reality gives you a well-rounded view of the subject. The Q&Athat followed the 40-minute webinar by Anil Nair, COE and Lead for OrganizationalLearning and Leadership Development at the Zydus Group, and Amit Gautam, Directorand Founder of UpsideLMS, did justthat for us.

Here’s a snippet of the conversationthat saw L&D and HR practitioners tune in from all parts of the world.

Questions& Answers

Q1. Do you believe that online learning ismore effective than classroom training?

Anil:<transcript> Well, I must say that they're actually incomparable. Thepurpose for which we use classroom training and the purpose for which online trainingneeds to be used are two different things. We made a mention, both me and Amit,that things have changed and how online learning has probably been a better wayto reach at a mass scale and possibly address and create some kind of awarenessabout concepts, it is more about information dissemination. If you want that tobe the purpose of your learning program, it could be an Induction or a concept-drivenprogram, then online learning is enough for you. But then imagine some kind ofinterventions where you need to bring about a perspective change in the behaviorof an individual; imagine if you're addressing some kind of leadership issues,imagine if you want to link some kind of a learning with the business outcomesand accordingly try to relate it to a classroom attendance, your onlinelearning will not suffice. So perhaps you need to have a feel and touchapproach. A little bit of deep-diving would be important to understand thatbehavior and put your answers in context. And even you can choose to have ahybrid approach by putting up a part of the program online and thensubstantiate it in a class.

Q2. Apart from record keeping how can we makean LMS more attractive to the user?

Amit: <transcript> I think a few simple thingswhich can be done are, of course, first of all, the tool has to align with thelearning objectives of that group of users. So instead of looking at ways ofmaking it attractive, the focus has to be on making it relevant and important forthe users, which means the LMS and learning itself have to be a part of theworkflow of the employees. And this could be made better by the LMS becoming smarter. So understanding the employees’workflow, their learning needs and their skill profile can personalize thelearning for the users to a large extent. Which means when learners log intothe system they can actually see things that are relevant for them and thingswhich are going to help them positively in their workflow and in their desired ordefined role. And they can focus on those activities which can help them moveforward on the right path. So it has to be all about what the learner can takeaway and how that will impact the learners’ performance and help them moveforward in their career path.

Q3. How can we measure the ROI after thetraining? Most of the times it is very subjective. What are your views on that?

Anil:<transcript> Very interesting. You know usually we end up measuring thelevel one, level two or at the most reach up to the level three (ofKirkpatrick’s training evaluation model) and seek the manager's feedback andunderstand whether the individual is able to demonstrate or not. Now for eachorganization what kind of business outcomes are they trying to predict and for whatthe learning is mapped is different. A lot of work has to be done along withthe stakeholders to identify what kind of learning would they like to have. I'msure they know that training doesn't happen by a mere agenda setting or whatthe Learning Department is trying to float in the organization, but it is akind of a desire, the need of which is coming out of a business (objective). Andif it’s mapped to a business need, then it has to be a joint proposition. Andwhen it becomes a joint proposition, ‘what is it that you intend to measure’becomes refined. So it is very important that when you say ROI, it's likemeasuring something. If you haven’t defined anything you cannot measureanything. So I would say that before you begin with any kind of an agenda,decide on ‘what is it’ that you want to measure.

ROI has gotmultiple definitions. In some of the organizations or some interventions, youwould want to measure whether the cost has come down, in some you would want tomeasure if the productivity been increased. If you are doing some kind of asession for a new product launch you would want to find out whether it wasestablished from a certain point of time. I would like to say it's more likeammunition in the bullet, keep shooting. Even if the ROI comes post training wecan’t say that that is completely attributed to their training, can we? None ofthe organizations believe in it. BUT without the training can it happen? Iwould say NO. It becomes an important facilitator. So ROI has got multipleparameters. You need to rate training as a one off the important tools. If yourecall my conversation, I did make a mention about writing on a drawing boardabout what are the various things which would improve ROI and then if you feelthat there is a necessity of training in that checklist, you must includetraining and if not, then it doesn't make sense. So then it becomes relativelyeasier when you want to measure an ROI.

Q4.How to implement the same in the healthcare setup with wide range of employees,where communication itself is a challenge?

Amit: <transcript> Healthcare setup is notreally a very unique set up when it comes to implementing the LMS. So it is asimilar environment to, let's say, a large company which has fifty thousandworkforce - half of that in the field, scattered across various offices eitherin the same country or different countries. I think, it starts from theobjectives. So the technical part is actually easier in terms of implementingbut the one point I want to definitely add is to use and look at the mobile application part of the tool as a big factor in implementation in a setuplike a healthcare setup where the employees are not just in different officesbut also have different learning needs. Anil has done this at his company so Iam sure he has few practical tips which he can share.

Anil:<transcript> You made a very important mention about Healthcare setupwith a wide range of employees. Yeah, it is easier to tame a dog at house thanto tame an elephant. And you know I represent the healthcare setup with abouttwenty four thousand people globally. And I know the kind of a challenge itpresents. My first reaction to this would be what is learning in anorganization? Is it a big task that L&D feels is important for them tofinish off because it's a part of their KPIs and because they have beenappointed to something they ought to be doing. Is it something which a businessneeds at a point in time when things are not going well? Okay fine, let’s tryto engage our people and training could be one of the means to do it.

I would saylearning is a culture. And even for that matter whatever tools that we've triedto make use of, it is a culture. If L&D is not something which has beeninternalized and been an intrinsic part of the organizational culture, youwould find all these challenges.

So that meanswhen communication is a challenge with reference to learning then peoplefundamentally are asking the question ‘what's in it for me?’. How do you makepeople more attracted to the learning not necessarily only from Gamification,or the features in the LMS or the kind of program you have for them. Weneed to make people understand the relevance of it in their own lives and theirown careers. So communication is a challenge is a myth. That's where theseinteresting tools are there. You need to have your stakeholders who are thebest people to reach out to the people. They extend to the HR community who areall there to have hands on communication with all those people in theorganization. And then, preferably, if learning becomes a part of anorganization culture that you know these kinds of challenges can be overcome.

Q5.Given the flurry of systems like YouTube, Wikipedia and other channelsavailable today for the learner to access content. How do you see LMS stayingrelevant?

Amit: <transcript> I'd like to give you a verysimple analogy for that. You know, I personally use the Amazon Fire stick TVbut through that I have access to almost every streaming service. So, I think,LMS in the very least organizes all of these into a single window access to theusers. Because, you know, if I leave it to the employees to go and look atthese channels on their on - one there are multiple channels, which is ofcourse difficult to track for themselves and the LMS, as I said, in the veryleast will help you organize variety of learning media; not just these channelsbut a variety of other learning media into one single place for not just easyaccess but also it can then be used further to profile a learner - what arethey doing, how are they doing and what else can be done for them. For acompany it is impossible to track all of these channels and then the amount ofdata from these channels to have some kind of a correlation between them for asingle employee is going to be a mammoth task. So LMS in the very least willhelp you organize that data and also help the employee access all of theseinformation channels quickly and easily without losing a track of what theywere doing and also kind of, you know, not forces but kind of encourages themto link it to their learning work flow.

Q6.We have difficulty having employees spare time to learn and implement at work.How can an LMS bring in that continuous learning culture in an interesting way?

Anil:<transcript> Things that you are trying to implement in an organizationfrom the corporate view standpoint and all these tools we are talking about aresomething that specific departments sitting at the head office are trying tolaunch for their employees. The purpose is ‘why’. Is it because it's a newthing that I want to put as an addition to whatever I have done across the yearand say that this is one new thing which we have launched? Or is it somethingthat the business finds as a necessity simply because every organization isdoing it? Or it could also be ‘let's understand the kind of the relevance tothe employees’. Today we are dealing with the multi generation workforce andthat's a topic that you hear in all forums. The people have changed and thereare all four set of generations that you are dealing with. I mean, ranging fromthe baby boomers to now the gen Z people. Each of them has a different way tolearn. Now if you want to have a learning culture in the organization you needto give them a context as to why it is important for them and, you know, youcannot say that one size fits for all. So even in your LMS there has to be acustomization in which way that it addresses people and what does it matter tothem? Believe me tough times are there ahead in the next 10 years as you evenmight have to try to customize it for individuals to individuals in thisspecific age group. So if a continuous learning culture has to be built in aninteresting way the answer to that is ‘what is in it for me’. It is an answerthat organizations might be prepared to give to each and every employee. It isnot only related to the businesses, which is only from the corporatestandpoint. P&L is for the business what does it matter to the employees?And some of it, as we just had a dialogue that Youtube or Wikipedia and otherchannels, is readily available today. The learning is open for them now. Bybringing in an LMS you are training them on something that you want them to be trainedon; they have not asked for it. At the most, you have a catalogue and they canpick and choose but that is also a fixed repository of the things. We are notgiving them anything that they ask for. So it's a two sided sword. You aregiving them what you want them to learn. They are picking up what is availablefor them to learn but not necessarily lots of questions related to ‘what’s init for me’ are getting answered. So if an LMS has to bring a continuouslearning culture there has to be a continuous dialogue. I know you cannot reachout to the masses for that matter. There has to be in some way addressing theuniqueness in what the audience seeks. Ultimately find out what each age groupof employees are looking forward for and try to customize it for theirrequirement.

Q7.What are some of the ways in which an LMS can enhance the reach of training fora particular audience? Are there some rules that people can follow?

Amit: <transcript> I think Anil has answeredthis in different words but if all roads lead to Rome, then I think all roadslead here to a learning culture and also ‘what is in it for a learner’ in theend. And every organization will have a different answer to this question intheir own context. If they can answer that question and define that questionvery elaborately then using that they can define the key success parameters ofwhat does the reach of training for the audience actually mean. Is it just givingthem access to the training? Is it giving them access to a tool which helpsthem do their job better now or in future? Is it giving them access tocollaborative environment where they can learn from others but it has to bedefined and how does it really help the learner because there may maybe adifferent point of view from a business standpoint and from a learnerstandpoint what it really means for them. So as Anil has been mentioning invarious forms now, it has to start with from the learner’s perspective that ‘whatis in it for them’. Answering that question would lead to a lot of answers notjust for the LMS but also for the entire L&D process per se.

Q8.I am the L&D manager of company with workforce that has both white and bluecollar employees. How do I lay down the objectives for measuring businessimpact?

Irrespective of your company size,employee makeup or industry you operate in, the first step is to analyze yourcompany-level, overarching business objectives. Breaking down the companyvision into granular, quantifiable objectives is also a good starting point. Nextis to map these objectives to L&D goals. This essentially means finding outwhich objectives can be achieved with the LMS (or other learn-tech tool). Thenit’s a matter of converting them into metrics and measurable KPIs.

Classifying objectives into tacticaland strategic buckets is a good way to ensure you are able to meet both yourlong term and short term goals.

Q9.How can I measure the real impact of LMS for my organization?

Paying attention to success metrics isas critical as the LMS selection process itself. First and foremost, you shouldlay down the objective(s) you wish to achieve through the LMS (refer toprevious answer). This will be your indicator of the metrics you need tomeasure so as to evaluate the effectiveness of your LMS. The earlier you factorthis in your process, better are the chances of LMS success.

Q10.Our current LMS has primitive reporting and analytics capabilities. How do Iuse it for business impact measurement?

As we reported in the webinar,learn-tech unavailability is one of the key barriers to business impactachievement. This includes learning platforms with limited capabilities too.While switching to a new LMS that has advanced reporting and business intelligencealong with everything you need now and later from a futureproofing POV is thebest solution, integrating with third party BI tools can help too. However ifyour LMS doesn’t support integration, it’s best to overhaul your L&D andinvest in a new-age learning platform like UpsideLMS.

Q11.IMO ROI is an elusive L&D goal. How can I make it tangible and measurable?

ROI measurement is the singular dichotomousmetric that’s both - most wished for and most difficult to measure. WRTKirkpatrick’s Model, based on four levels – Reaction, Learning, Behavior andResults, it’s clear that there are certain projects in which not all levels ofevaluation are required. POSH training, for example, is often necessaryregardless of ROI. On the other hand, Compliance Training, for companiesoperating in a litigated business environment, is critical not just fromemployee awareness and compliance perspective but also from a cost savingviewpoint as it helps in avoiding heavy fines.

Please refer answer 3 to know you can make it tangible andmeasurable.

Q12.Organization culture is key to our functioning at <name of company hidden for privacy>. Can an LMS be used forachieving an impact of that nature?

Organization culture is the softwarethat keeps everything running while the people, the processes, the proceduresare the hardware. This software is an outcome of the shared mindset and valuesystem of the people that work in it – across all levels and functions. Andpeople can be influenced/ trained using learn-tech tools like an LMS thatsupport a variety of training formats like eLearning, classroom training/ ILT, virtualtraining, sociallearning and mobilelearning. Today’s AI-poweredlearning platforms take this to the next level by relevantrecommendations and user behavior insights.

Q13.Is there a correlation between the L&D investment and its impact?

We have been conditioned to believethat pricier is better. While premium pricing is a factor of the product’s (orservice’s) innovativeness, it’s not always so. Even in the LMS space there area number of small-to-medium sized players with competitivepricing that have a great, future-looking product (sometimes even betterthan the legacy players, owing to their agility and innovation mindset they aredriven by). If you ought to correlate, it’s best reserved for L&D planningand impact; better the planning, more the impact.

Q14.What metrics should I be focusing on?

Each company, rather each L&D unitwithin a company, has its own, unique metrics for success. For some it might bea relatively tactical KPI like training standardization while for others it maybe as strategic and business-oriented as employee retention.

It’s important to remember thattraining metrics are no good unless they can actually be measured, eitherthrough KPIs or sub-metrics. For example, to “improve sales staff performance”is not a metric by itself. It’s a mere business goal. “Improve sales staff callrates by 25%” is far more quantifiable, and hence measurable.

Another thing to keep in mind is thatevery level of Kirkpatrick’s model involves some form of metrics. The“reaction” level measures emotional response. The “learning” level measureslearning retention. The “behavior” level measures how new knowledge transfersto everyday work habits. And of course, the fourth level measures ROI. Amongthese four levels, for any project, there may be hundreds of possible metricsto use. It can be overwhelming to determine which metrics are actually usefulto evaluate and will help you draw accurate conclusions.

Pleaserefer answer 1 to understand how YOU can derive the right metrics for yourL&D interventions. 

Q15.Our LMS objective has been to boost productivity. However we have been largelyunsuccessful in this endeavor. What can we do?

Behavior change can be difficult tomeasure quantitatively, but sometimes specific performance changes can bemeasured. For example, in the case of sales staff who were trained on a newdatabase system, the percentage increase in the number of daily customer callscan easily be measured. The LMS can churn out a lot of data to help with themaths here, but you need to have the parameter defined correctly and clearly toget the answer you are seeking.

Q16.I head the training of a medium sized company which by definition itselfdoesn’t endow us with deep pockets. We have managed to convince our managementfor investing in a learning platform however I am worried that it may meancompromising on our ability to do what we intend to and hence not get the impacttoo.

The good news is some of the bestLMSes out there don’t cost the earth. The bad news, however, is you need to fine-tuneyour LMS selection process to sieve the saturated marketplace. As mentionedearlier, lesser known brand names, at competitive prices, do the job as goodas, sometimes even better than, their big-branded counterparts. As long as youhave chosen a learning platform that has all features you need today andtomorrow, is easy to use, has a solid support – achieving business impact is nota challenge.

Q17.I think it’s the lack of learn-tech availability more than anything else thatstops us from achieving the desired impact. What is the solution in such cases?

Oftentimes it’s not the lack ofsoftware or tools, but the inability of the existing tools to give us theexpected results. Example: Almost all LMSes have a built-in Reportingmodule. But data dumping alone is not sufficient for businessintelligence as it lacks both learner- and business-specific insights. Not tomention the cumbersome and time-intensive process one has to endure to extract thedesired information.

Fullrecording of LMSand Business Impact: Connecting the Dots is now available for (Free)viewing.