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How to Find the Best LMS for Small Businesses and Startups

It’s more important now than ever before to provide employees and customers with the resources and training materials they need to be successful.

And in our fast-paced world, a learning management system (LMS) can be your secret sauce to take the employee and customer experience to the next level. 

With so many LMS choices for small businesses and startups, it can feel overwhelming to determine which learning management system is right for your company.

But don’t worry, we’re here to help. The way to find the best learning management system for your startup is to conduct a detailed assessment of your resources and training needs

Whether you’re looking for an LMS to build from scratch or replace your existing learning platform, check out the following suggestions to find the best LMS for small businesses and return on your LMS investment.

Assess your learning needs

All businesses, big and small, struggle with skills gaps between employees’ current and desired skills. In fact, 90 percent of executives and managers expressed concern about skills gaps in their organizations. By clearly identifying your team’s strengths and weaknesses, you can figure out what kind of training is needed. Then, you can use that knowledge to find the right LMS that will help you meet those education goals. This is where a learning needs assessment comes in.

Make a comprehensive list of skills

The first step is to create a list of all the skills needed for each role in your organization. Start by revisiting the job descriptions in your database and ones on external websites. For example, if one of the job roles at your company is “field sales representatives,” you can go to Indeed and see what skills other employers are asking for in that role.

Measure current employees’ skills

After you identify the necessary skills for each position, it’s time to measure employees’ skills in those areas. You can do this through a combination of 360-degree feedback, surveys, and performance evaluations based on objectives and key results (OKRs) and key performance indicators (KPIs), as well as direct feedback from line managers.

Rate your employees’ skills on a scale of one to 10. By evaluating all the skills employees need to succeed in their different roles, you’ll know what areas to focus on when creating a training program. Let’s say you find that your sales reps rank high on communication skills but low on product knowledge. This means you should skip the communication skills courses and, instead, devote more time to comprehensive product training so your sales reps can perform their best.

That type of program would ideally consist of multiple short courses, each focused on a specific product feature or user problem. Then, you can decide if each course will follow the same training format or will be a blended learning model of in-person, hybrid, or online classes. Whatever you choose, you can use this information to narrow down the best LMS for your company, finding one that allows you to house all required courses and supports your preferred training formats.

Choose the source of your training content

The way you develop your training programs will also affect which of the best LMS for SMBs you choose. In particular, look for an LMS that supports uploading existing content and creating new content courses. So, if you want to upload existing courses, you’ll want to narrow your LMS review to platforms that can import courses in that format. Otherwise, you’ll spend a lot of time manually moving course content into your new training platform.

Will you import training courses from an online learning marketplace?

Many cost-conscious small businesses choose to buy courses from an online training marketplace like OpenSesame. The great thing about these digital hubs is that you can access reviews to find the top-rated courses in your industry. You can also use these websites to identify credible subject matter experts (SMEs) and hire them to create future training materials.

Until you can build your custom, company-specific training materials, marketplaces are an option that allows you to tap into hundreds of general courses for short-term L&D results.

Choose an LMS platform that allows you to import material and create course content. This gives you the most value for your money, especially if you’re looking to scale.

Will you create your own training courses?

Whether you want to handle course creation yourself or hire an SME to create content for you, make sure the LMS platform you’re evaluating is equipped with course authoring tools so you can quickly upload and share materials with employees.

You should also consider what type of content you’ll create to find a suitable LMS for your company that supports those formats. For example, if you want gamification in your sales enablement training that rewards top performers, you’ll need a small business learning management system that offers analytics and leaderboards. Go back to your skills assessment to determine which training styles will benefit your team the most, and use that information to weed out LMSs that won’t meet your team’s needs.

Think of other features you’ll need

At this point in the evaluation, you should have a solid idea of the training programs types you want to create, as well as how you’ll acquire and create your content. Now, it’s time to think of even more specific LMS features to further refine the list.

Can the LMS work with your current tech stack?

Integration is a must-have feature for any modern software. An LMS for SMBs should work with your other software, such as your HR information system and CRM, so you can share clean data. Look for an LMS that can sync up with tools you already use or allow you to build custom integrations.

Is the LMS easy for users to navigate?

According to a Gartner survey, 60 percent of employees have trouble adopting new software, but a streamlined user interface can help them adopt it quicker. Spending a lot of time training employees on the software just causes unnecessary frustration.

Sign up for free demos or watch short videos of the LMS software in action to see how it functions. As you get closer to making your decision on which top LMS for small businesses you want to use, select a handful of employees across departments and let them test out the platform for themselves to make sure it’s a good fit for the people who’ll be using it.

Can you create onboarding and certification programs within the LMS?

Employees who have an excellent onboarding process are 2.6 times more likely to be satisfied with the company, which increases retention. To create an exceptional learning experience for new hires, you should be able to set up programs that cater to different learning styles and job titles in your LMS.

It’s also good to look for automated features that speed up manual workflows. For instance, some small business learning management systems instantly enroll each new employee into onboarding programs based on their position once they’re added to the LMS.

Can you measure learner engagement and other metrics with analytics?

To ensure your LMS is a good business investment, it’s essential to use a platform that tracks data. You need an LMS that generates data every time a user acts within the platform—from the moment they log in to the moment they log off.

Keeping track of metrics like course completion rates, quiz scores, and certification statuses will help you improve your programs. For example, some courses may have a higher completion rate than others; video courses may be producing better outcomes than text-based course material, and so on.

You can study the data to identify patterns and make changes in your training program accordingly. You can also use these insights to identify the fastest learners on your team and pair them up with peers for coaching or mentoring. When you combine LMS data with data related to the learner’s performance, you can see how your investment is paying off in real-time.

See the LMS in action before you make your decision

It’s been a long journey, but you’re now close to the finish line with your last few LMS candidates. The final step is to check out free software trials to see how each learning platform works for your business. After you decide, give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back—and get excited for how your brand-new LMS will impact your team.

WorkRamp’s All-in-One Learning Platform integrates with your technology stack, supports live classes, virtual tutorials, and self-paced learning, has a user-friendly interface, and continues to roll out exciting new features throughout the year. Sign up for a free demo today.

Fara Rosenzweig

Head of Content Marketing

Fara Rosenzweig is WorkRamp’s Head of Content Marketing and brings over 20 years of content and brand experience. Her love for storytelling has earned her an Emmy Award, and she’s been featured in many publications. When not wordsmithing or talking about learning and development, you’ll find her globe-trotting while logging miles for her next half marathon.

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