What You Need to Know Before You Buy an LMS

Today, learning management system (LMS) software is the new normal. Students growing up today use an LMS to check their grades and access assignments; when they grow up, they’ll use an LMS to complete employee training at their first job. Corporations have increased their reliance on e-learning by 900 percent in the past 16 years, and the e-learning industry will be worth more than $19 billion by 2022, according to Zion Market Research.

Because the industry’s growth has been so explosive, it can be hard for HR professionals to keep up with best practices in adopting an LMS for their companies. And it’s the little things that make a difference in training employees. According to a study by IBM, teams that are well-trained perform 10 percent more work and save $70,000 per year, on average.

With all the e-learning platforms now available, businesses have more options than ever before to train employees quickly and effectively — but the LMS landscape is not one-size-fits-all.

Understand the Most Important LMS Features

An HR manager recently asked me for advice on e-learning when his company wasn’t seeing the desired results from its new platform. Despite the company’s investment in an LMS, its retention rate was plummeting and employee performance remained low. After asking a few questions, I found out what the problem was: The company had rushed into its buying decision and assumed all LMS tools were essentially the same.

In reality, the company’s size, features, and plan for future growth were all incompatible with the LMS solution it had chosen. The system was overly complicated, and as a result, employees were reluctant to learn the software. Ultimately, my advice was to eat the losses and look for a new solution that better took the company’s needs into account.

The lesson here is that trial and error is no way to choose an e-learning solution. There are a few key features that HR managers need to evaluate in order to make a smart decision on an LMS.

Reports and Analytics

Training initiatives are only as effective as the reports that they generate. LMS features allow you to look at both individual progress and your team in aggregate, ensure you address issues as they arise, and keep your learning objectives front and center.

Many solutions will send you email alerts based on various criteria — for example, you can keep track of when a group has completed a course or if it’s falling behind schedule. This is especially important to consider if you work at a bigger company, where it’s not always easy to keep track of each employee’s workflow.


Among the various LMS features, one that can’t be overlooked is usability. Some solutions will try to cram in every feature the developers could dream up, resulting in a finished product that’s anything but user-friendly. Unless your company has the time and resources to explain how to use an LMS, you should opt for an easy-to-use platform.

Almost every software solution will come with some sort of learning curve, but some are more complicated than others. It’s a good idea to explore free demos yourself to get an idea of how an LMS platform is set up. That way, you know what to expect when employees use it for the first time.

Responsive Design

Some of your employees might have eliminated their laptops in favor of tablets; others might prefer training in short bursts while they’re on the go with their mobile devices. Finding an LMS with a responsive design is critical for companies with remote employees who work on different types of devices.

Remember: An effective LMS will allow you to reach your employees in the channels they use most often. Some systems also enable training when users are offline, giving them additional flexibility in how and when they learn.


Depending on your internal capabilities, you might not need an LMS that includes access to a 24/7 support team. However, especially in the early stages, you’ll want to make sure you can easily access your LMS vendor with questions or problems as they arise. Finding the right level of support services will depend on your employees and how much in-house expertise your company can provide. Remember to take into account any language barriers your employees might have with a vendor’s support team.

Many LMS vendors also provide an online community for their users, where you can connect with other companies that use the software and trade advice.


LMS gamification features like point systems, earnable badges, and company leaderboards encourage users to log additional hours in the system by taking advantage of the human tendency to be competitive. An LMS with built-in gamification features will encourage employees to take their training seriously and progress as far as they can.

Gamification also guides employees through e-learning platforms that are equipped with advanced certification features. If this is something your company needs employees to complete, be sure the system encourages them to participate.

There are a lot of LMS platforms that have sprung up to meet the high demand for corporate e-learning solutions. They can vary wildly in features and pricing, so it’s important to review all options and figure out what kind of e-learning experiences you’re looking to deliver for your employees. The industry doesn’t seem to be slowing down, so it’s up to HR professionals to catch up.