How to Find the Best LMS for Small Businesses and Startups
February 18, 2023
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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 options for small businesses and startups, finding the right learning management system for your company can be overwhelming.
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.
Follow these steps to find the best LMS for small businesses and get the greatest return on your LMS investment.
What is an LMS?
A learning management system is a platform that hosts your training courses and resources. It’s a centralized place to create training and a platform where employees, and in some cases, customers, can log in to complete courses.
Not only does the right learning platform make it easy to create and take courses, but it also includes tracking so you can monitor completion rates, student feedback, and where students tend to drop out of a course. You can also link training completion to improved results in performance, customer retention, and more.
The best learning management systems are all-in-one options, like the Learning Cloud from WorkRamp, that can serve as the foundation for all of your employee and customer training needs. You can use the Learning Cloud for new hire training, sales enablement, compliance training, L&D, customer education, and more.
Why is an LMS so important for small businesses?
What makes an LMS for small business so important? It’s all about maximizing the impact of your training, learning and development, and customer education programs.
Those programs need the right foundation to succeed, and the right LMS is essential.
Time and cost optimization
Creating training from scratch in Word or Google Docs is time-consuming, and the material is difficult for learners to absorb. You’re limited in what you can include in your training, which means the materials are not as effective as they could be.
With the right LMS, however, you can centralize various assets, from audio and video to text. You can easily create interactive training with a drag-and-drop editor, and the resulting training is fun and engaging.
The right LMS saves you time and money while making your training far more effective.
Improved retention and engagement
In 2022, SHRM found that 76 percent of employees are more likely to stay with a company that offers continuing training, and 48 percent of employees agreed that training opportunities were a factor in choosing their current employer.
Customer education programs also help keep customers engaged with your solution and make them less likely to leave or consider other options.
TSIA found that 68 percent of trained customers reported being able to use the product more, 56 percent reported using more features, and 87 percent said they could work more independently after training.
Of course, these training opportunities have to be effective, open the door to future opportunities, and give customers an easy-to-use way to answer their questions, which is why it’s so important to have the right LMS as the foundation for your training programs.
Centralized training management and data
Nothing is more frustrating for a manager than to have to dig through dozens of folders and files to find the proper training material for an employee, the right sales sheet for a rep, or any other assets for their team.
The right learning management platform allows you to centralize your training information in one place.
When you choose an all-in-one solution like the Learning Cloud, everything from sales enablement to employee L&D to customer education lives in the same place, making it easy to find the assets you need at the right time.
A high-quality LMS also makes it simple to track the results of every type of training, allowing you to link your training programs to concrete business results.
We’ve covered the benefits an LMS offers for your organization, but learning platforms are also valuable for employees and customers alike.
Closing skill gaps
Skill gaps are a significant problem for companies but can be even more glaring for small businesses because there aren’t as many people to cover the workload.
As a result, having the right LMS is especially important for smaller companies.
Research shows that 87 percent of companies say they have current skill gaps or will within two years. Also, the 2022 SHRM study found that 55 percent of employees say they need additional training to perform more effectively in their current roles.
The only way to close those skills gaps is to have effective learning and development and the ability to measure the results of training programs, and that requires a robust LMS.
Effective leadership development
Another part of keeping your employees engaged and feeling purposeful about work is giving them opportunities to lead.
The truth is that most organizations struggle to develop effective leadership. In fact, one study found that 59 percent of managers who oversee one or two employees had no training at all.
Leadership development requires a focused training program that aligns with your company, available opportunities, and plans for future growth. When you create leadership training in-house, you can also take advantage of mentoring and job-shadowing opportunities so that new leaders can learn in real time.
When you consistently create strong leaders, the employees under those leaders will be more engaged, perform better, and stay with your company longer.
Key features of an LMS for small business
What should you look for as you compare different options?
It can be challenging to answer that question as a small business, especially since budget is generally a key consideration. However, you can’t afford to overlook these other elements when deciding.
Scalability and flexibility
Can your LMS grow with you? Being able to support more employees, more customers, and other training priorities as you grow is essential.
Having a training platform that can make it just as easy to onboard 1,000 new customers as 100 gives you significant peace of mind and allows your sales and growth teams to focus on their core work without worrying that they’ll overwhelm learners or your platform.
Being able to add new employees quickly and efficiently is also important, especially being able to do new hire training either remotely or in-office, depending on the situation. The flexibility to train on-demand also helps existing employees develop their skills on their time rather than having to clear their calendars.
Finally, you want to be able to create a variety of different kinds of training, depending on the situation. Microlearning is great for L&D, whereas longer-form courses might be better for new hires. Training should also include various media types to keep it engaging and interesting.
The best LMS will allow you the scalability and flexibility to succeed both today and in the future.
As a small business, budget is often your tightest constraint. That’s one of the many reasons an all-in-one platform like the Learning Cloud is so helpful. Addressing multiple needs with a single solution makes all the difference when budgets are slim.
When you compare LMS options, be sure to look not only at the bottom line price but at the capabilities because when you buy multiple solutions, you almost always spend significantly more.
Simple and engaging UI
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 platform causes unnecessary frustration.
Sign up for free demos or watch short videos of the LMS in action to see how it functions.
As you get closer to making your decision on which LMS you want to use, select a handful of employees across departments and let them test out the platform to ensure it’s a good fit.
As you discover more about ease of use, don’t forget to check for how accessible training would be on a mobile device. More and more employees are working remotely or traveling frequently, and the more devices your LMS supports, the easier it is to get employees to complete training.
How fast can you hit the ground running with your new LMS?
Part of the answer is related to how easy the platform is to use, and part is related to how much installation is required. With a cloud-based learning management system, you won’t have to worry about any on-hardware installation, so that you can get started much more quickly.
Being able to start quickly means you can experience the benefits of an LMS quickly. For example, Knowledge Services used WorkRamp to launch Knowledge Services University (KSU), and within 30 days, they had 46 prebuilt courses imported, over 2,000 guides started, and five course enrollments per employee.
Content libraries and authoring tools
No one wants to reinvent the wheel whenever they create a training, so look for an LMS that supports uploading existing content and creating new content courses.
If you want to upload existing courses, you’ll want to narrow your LMS review to platforms that can import courses in different formats. Otherwise, you’ll spend much time manually moving course content into your new training platform.
A high-quality LMS will also give you content libraries to start from when you’re creating training. You can start with the information provided and tailor it to your specific organization and needs.
The Learning Cloud offers curated, off-the-shelf LMS content from subject matter experts. Leverage training content for L&D, compliance, leadership development, and more.
Onboarding and certification programs
Employees who have an excellent onboarding process are 2.6x 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.
You should also 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.
Beyond onboarding, consider how easy it is to create certification programs for employees or customers. Certifications can help your employees prove a specific skill proficiency, and customer certifications encourage users to learn more about your solution and help them get the most out of your products and services.
Integration is a must-have feature for any modern software. You need all of your systems to work together, especially if you’re going to track training results in areas like sales enablement or employee development.
The right LMS for your organization should work with your other software, such as your HRIS and CRM. Look for an LMS like the Learning Cloud that seamlessly integrates with your existing tech stack.
Reporting and analytics
A high-quality LMS can give you data you need to measure two critical metrics: how engaged learners are with your training and how well the training programs drive business results.
First, keeping track of metrics like course completion rates, quiz scores, and certifications will help you improve your programs. For example, some courses may have a higher completion rate than others; video courses may produce better outcomes than text-based course material, and so on.
You can use the data to identify patterns and change your training program accordingly. You can also use these insights to identify the fastest learners on your team and pair them with peers for coaching or mentoring.
Second, you want to track the training results and see how they tie to business results.
For example, if you have a sales enablement program that’s training sales reps in new techniques, you want to be able to track completion and compare it to future close rates and deal sizes.
With the right reporting, you’ll never struggle to answer the question, “How is training helping the company, exactly?”
How to choose the right LMS for your small business
Now that you know the many benefits of an LMS for a small business and how the right platform can benefit your company, how do you choose the right software?
Here are six things to keep in mind.
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 employee 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 reviews 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 1 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, for example. 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.
Determine your training content
Next, you’ll want to decide how to create your training content. Will you import it from an online source or create your own?
Many cost-conscious small businesses choose to buy courses from online training marketplaces. 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 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 want to scale.
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 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 LMS 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.
Review provided features
Next, compare the features of each LMS against your organization’s need. For example, is it a cloud-based LMS, or do you have to install or maintain the platform on your internal servers?
You’ll also want to consider the kinds of training you can create and how accessible the system is for both internal and external learners. For example, there should be a secure login where customers can access training materials without having access to sensitive information.
Also, consider if the system is easy to use—the truth is that if something is cumbersome, employees, customers, and even admins will struggle to use it consistently. You want to remove the barriers to use to maximize your training programs.
Test out the LMS
Just like a car, there are times you need to see something in action before you can make a commitment.
The final step in choosing your LMS is to check out free trials, demos, and product tours 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 about how your brand-new LMS will impact your team.
Use the best small business LMS
There are many choices when it comes to choosing an LMS for your small business, but now you’re well-equipped to find the best one for your needs.
When you choose a platform that’s easy to use, fits your budget, and allows you to run a wide variety of training programs without additional software, you’re in great shape.
The Learning Cloud is the All-in-One Learning Platform that integrates with your tech stack, supports live classes, virtual tutorials, and self-paced learning, has a user-friendly interface, and continues to roll out exciting new features and enhancements.
Want to learn more about how the Learning Cloud can help you provide engaging, effective employee and customer training? Contact us to schedule a free, personalized demo.
Complete the form for a custom demo.
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Fara RosenzweigHead 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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