As a small-to-medium business (SMB), you know the value of training. You also know that businesses with frequent learning practices experience better employee retention, compared to other companies (#yesplease!).
So, over the years, you’ve organized workshops and seminars, and other “gather-all-in-one-place” training activities. But while your staff appreciated the learning opportunities, the pressures of work left them with too little time and energy to attend these events. So, your training venues often stood empty – or worse, filled with lifeless faces!
You know an LMS will help solve these issues. Your only problem? There are so many LMS solutions for small-medium businesses to choose from! How do you know which of them will be best suited for an SMB like yours?
What’s special about an LMS for small and medium businesses?
You might be surprised to know that small businesses benefit from an LMS in pretty much the same way as big enterprises do. However, when it comes to SMB training, you’ve actually got a few major advantages over the corporates (would we lie to you?).
First, you probably aren’t weighed down by on-premise HR software that passed its sell-by date years ago, which means that you can start fresh with a cloud-based LMS that suits your needs both now, and as you scale. Having a smaller staff, and only a few teams and departments, also means that you can choose a simpler and, well, less expensive LMS.
Still, while you’d love an LMS that suits your fairly tight budget, you also need it to fulfill all of your training requirements. What you’re looking for, is value for money. The very best LMS for small-medium businesses, in every respect. And you’ve come to the right place.
Your small-medium business LMS checklist
Below, we’ve listed all the criteria you’ll need to choose the best LMS for your SMB. Remember that every SMB is different, and you’re unlikely to find an LMS with every feature and functionality you need. So, try to decide in advance which features are most important to you by separating the criteria below into must-haves, nice-to-haves and wouldn’t-hurts.
- Free trial
- Easy to use
- Course creation and management
- Reporting and tracking system
- Assessment and certification tools
- Administrative layer
- Multimedia content support
- White labeling and customization options
- Branching and user management
- Accessible on all devices
- Integrates with other systems
- Security features
- Gamification tools
- Social and collaboration tools
- Multiple learning delivery options
- Tech support
- Credibility and Reviews
1. Free trial
I just bought a car without test-driving it – said no one ever! Purchasing an LMS without trying it first? Not a good idea. Some LMS vendors offer demos, which are usually once-off tours of the system’s features. What you need, though, is a free trial that lets you explore the software in your own time, and in your own way. The longer the free trial lasts, the more certain you can be before making a purchase.
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2. Easy to use
If you’re expecting employees to learn well and learn often, then the platform they’ll be training on needs to be user-friendly. This is even truer if you’re introducing an LMS to your business for the first time. Most vendors know this, so no matter who you ask, they’ll probably promise a seamless user experience. So, how can you be sure that the user interface is clean and intuitive? By going right back to the first criterium and taking a free trial!
3. Course creation and management
For many SMBs, the ability to quickly create high-quality courses that meet specific learning objectives is one of the most vital criteria for selecting an LMS. Choose an LMS that allows you to create original content, or recycle content that you already have, with just a few clicks.
4. Reporting and tracking system
As a small business, training can be an especially hefty investment. The best way to measure the ROI of this investment is by analyzing data for assessments, course completion rates, and learner feedback. For this, you need an LMS with reporting capabilities that give you the data you want when you need it. Look for systems that automate aspects of reporting and also let you share reports with others.
Getting learner feedback is just as important, as it can reveal which parts of the course or overall training might need to be improved. An LMS that lets you add surveys at the end of courses will help you do just that.
5. Assessment and certification tools
Assessments are an important way for your business to measure learning, but they also provide employees with much-needed feedback on their own progress. The chances are you’ll need more than one kind of assessment, so choose an LMS for small-medium businesses that supports a variety of tests and questions, like written assignments and automated quizzes.
6. Administrative layer
If you’re like any other SMB, administration is probably your greatest bugbear. Plus, you’re worried that as your team grows, and as they need more training, the admin work is only going to get worse. This is why you need an LMS with superpowers to automate repetitive tasks for both course and user management – like sending automated email notifications about upcoming events, and automatically assigning courses to new users.
7. Multimedia content support
Today, we recognize that people learn differently. Repeating information in a variety of forms and mediums is often the key to knowledge retention. This means that, for maximum effectiveness, your courses will need a combination of media. So, choose an LMS that supports video, graphics, notes, and interactive elements like branching scenarios, too.
8. White labeling and customization options
Many LMSs offer a white-labeling option that allows you to select a theme, use your own domain and logo, customize your communication, and really make the platform your own. If brand identity is important for your SMB, then this feature should be a priority.
9. Branching and user management
Organizing your training audience in a way that makes sense for your business means that the right employees always receive the right training. Plus, when your administrator can control what each training audience can see and do (or not see and do) on the LMS, the learning experience is more convenient and relevant for everyone. If this sounds like something you’d benefit from, then choose an LMS with branching and user-type features.
10. Accessible on all devices
Ah, yes. Mobile learning is no longer a corporate-only learning practice. If your employees spend as much time on their mobile phones as the rest of the global population, you’ll need an LMS that’s responsive on any device, including iOS and Android.
11. Integrates with other systems
Raise your hand (or just nod along) if your company uses more than 5 software apps to organize and run different areas. You don’t want to get another one in there that doesn’t connect with all the apps you already use. Especially your hiring, performance management, and CRM tools. So, when choosing an LMS for small-medium businesses, select a system that integrates seamlessly with your existing HR tech. It’ll make your life so much easier.
12. Security features
After investing great time and effort into designing your courses, the last thing you want is for your LMS to become a wormhole for viruses or identity theft. Unfortunately, in this age, cybersecurity is a real concern, even for small-medium businesses. So, make sure that your chosen LMS operates over a secure communication channel, and allows two-factor authentication.
13. Gamification tools
Gamification might not be the top feature on your list, but it does help to create a fun and interesting training environment that employees are more likely to engage with. On a recent gamification survey, 87% of the employee sample agreed that game elements make them more productive, while 85% said they were more likely to use software more if it was gamified.
These numbers show that, used wisely, gamification can have a positive impact on your training program. Some of the best LMSs for small-medium businesses are those that use game elements, like badges, points, levels, rewards, and leaderboards.
14. Social and collaboration tools
eLearning can be a lonely experience compared to classroom-based training. Plus, social interactions can be a source of learning in and of themselves. This makes social and collaboration features, like personal messaging and discussion forums, an important criterion when choosing an LMS.
15. Multiple learning delivery options
Most SMBs would agree that eLearning is the future of training. It’s convenient, cost-effective, and provides a travel-free solution for dispersed teams. Still, this doesn’t mean that your courses can’t have instructor-led training (ILT) elements. Select an LMS that caters for blended training delivery, like video conferencing for ILT sessions.
16. Tech support
No matter how user-friendly the LMS, you’re still likely to hit the odd technical glitch, or have a question about using the system. Because your training needs won’t wait, it’s important that these issues get resolved quickly and effectively.
Speed of response is just as important as quality of response. Do they go out of their way to help you? Think through who is more likely to offer superior support before you choose an LMS provider.
17. Credibility and Reviews
Choosing the wrong LMS could result in wasted resources. Worse, it could be the biggest obstacle to upskilling your workforce. So, it’s always a good idea to select SMB learning management software that’s proven its credibility. Look for client testimonials and recommendations, industry awards, and if available, customer success stories.
SMBs aren’t just different from large companies. They’re different from each other, too. So, make sure to choose an SMB learning management system that meets your specific training requirements. Any additional features and benefits (the wouldn’t-hurts) will be a welcome bonus.