I recall about ten years ago when I first began implementing LMS Systems. The typical cycle went something like this:

– Select a vendor and purchase LMS.
– Assemble internal project team consisting of Training and Development staff and maybe IT representation.
– Conduct meetings with vendor (using only input from the training administrators, instructors, and IT) and configure the system.
– Test it, load it up with courses and push it out to the users.

Obviously this is a simplified version of the overall process, but does capture the overall scope of how things were done. Point being that the user community themselves had no real involvement in the LMS until it was “rolled out”.

Just as technology changes, so should approaches. Through my experience of implementing LMS systems it became quickly obvious to me that regardless of technology – having the greatest system money could buy and setting it up in the most effective way possible was nowhere near as important as getting the end users engaged in using the system. This can of course be done by force, by mandate, or whatever negative feedback mechanism is chosen but ultimately this method would produce limited and, most of the time, unsustainable results.

It has become apparent to me over the years that the companies that succeed, whether it be a tech project, learning project, or just policy changes in general are companies that integrate stakeholder engagement into change management within the organization as part of the culture. It has always been known that the learner is the variable producing the data that training administrators and HR Executives need, so why would the focus and emphasis not be on the user community and gaining their buy in rather than deciding what to call a field or how this or that button should work?

So, the learner is paramount – I get it now. Now what?

There are many ways of engaging learners in the pre-implementation process. With today’s LMS technology, nearly every vendor offers the functionality of learning portals per audience, so the first step in stakeholder engagement would be to identify those audiences. For example, in a manufacturing environment you may have the following stakeholder groups in the learner community (and maybe more, these are just examples): outside distributors, research and development, manufacturing floor workers, engineering department, facilities and safety departments, supervisors, administrative staff, etc.. Given that the technology supports an independent portal for each group, engaging them up front and allowing them to voice their opinions about what is important to them and meaningful in their world from a learning perspective allows them to feel like they have ownership and therefore responsibility and accountability once the system is launched. And, for the most part, accommodating their differences is easily possible within the LMS system.

With the demographic of the current US workforce and the “baby boomer” generation leaving a shortage of experienced senior staff, anything that can be done to create a more cohesive, engaged workforce (especially in a learning initiative) will be critical to ongoing success of companies that rely on knowledgeable and experienced workers. It is proven that companies that rate higher in employee engagement also have lower turnover and ultimately are more profitable. Now, more than ever, it is not good enough to simply have a good piece of technology in place – it is the people that make all the difference, and their ownership of the initiative and up front engagement will go a long way in ensuring a successful implementation with better user adoption rates and improved long term ROI – so include them early.

Stay tuned for my next blog on how to specifically create a strategic communication plan around LMS and various specific methods of stakeholder engagement that can be implemented easily at a practical level in any organization.

Now, go learn something new……

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