The following is a reprint of an article written by Latitude's Jeff Walter and published in Manufacturing Business Technology magazine. The article focuses on the use and implementation of Learning Management Systems by organizations.
Click here to read Learning Management Systems for Success on the Manufacturing Business Technology website, or read a reprint of the the article below.
As the economic crisis stabilizes and renewed optimism builds, manufacturing industry professionals take stock in what will help them survive in the new economy. With an interest in making employees efficient, reducing training costs and maintaining a company culture, some manufacturers are turning to learning management systems to achieve their goals.
Corporate training has shifted over the last 10 years from a complete classroom learning experience to one that mixes classroom learning with online learning. Online learning, typically in the form of Webinars or e-learning courses, allow employees to work at their pace, track their progress and see instant results through a learning management system (LMS). An LMS is the software application that companies use to administer training — helping an organization manage training for a few employees or thousands of people.
“Historically, LMS has really only been available to Fortune 500 and Global 1,000 companies due to the high cost of implementation,” explains Jeff Walter, CEO, Latitude Learning. Latitude Learning offers a flexible and configurable LMS and an open-source LMS for professional training companies, OEMs and franchisers. “Over the last 5 years cloud-based LMS have emerged. These cloud-based systems have allowed the cost of LMS entry to drop dramatically, giving moderate and small sized companies the ability to take advantage of these systems.”
Who Should Consider LMS?
Any organization where training its people or business partners is an integral part of the company’s strategy should consider LMS. For instance, Inteva Products was created when it spun off of Delphi Interiors and Closures in 2008. With the task of creating training and a new corporate culture, Inteva has been using LMS to create a blended learning experience alongside classroom training for employees.
“With becoming our own company and the economic crisis going on, our business changed in a very short period of time,” says Thomas Munley, vice president of HR, Inteva Products. “Uncertain how long the crisis was going to last, companies avoided spending money because they couldn’t afford anything. As the crisis began subsiding, we tried to understand the new landscape of the industry and knew that our old model of training wasn’t going to be successful going forward. We were going to have to implement creative ideas to remain one of the survivors.”
Inteva Products began its journey into a blended learning experience when Mary Carter, CEO, Learning Designs, reached out to the company and assessed its needs. Carter was able to create a robust training experience using the LMS of Latitude Learning. The blended learning solution allows Inteva employees to take part in online training to learn basic principles that don’t’ require elaborate explanation before engaging in more robust classroom training. With the LMS part of training, employees can read materials and take tests at their own pace.
“It's really a game changer for us,” adds Munley. “It is very flexible for our employees and we’ve found that they are retaining and understanding the material lot better because they are getting these basics ahead of instructor-led, classroom training.”
Latitude Learning has looked at the performance of trained vs. untrained staff at some of its larger clients to get an idea of how LMS training is succeeding. What it has found, in many cases, is an increase as high as 100 percent improvement in sales and service, especially if the performance is geared around something technical in nature.
“That’s one of the things that makes our LMS a little bit unique compared to some of the other ones out there,” adds Walter. “We put the performance metrics into the LMS so that if a company does reporting, it can take a look 3 to 6 months after someone was trained on something to see what happened to their performance.”
In terms of implementing a training program, the LMS is an easy thing. It’s something that companies can get done pretty quickly. LMS systems, and especially cloud-based systems, can be ready to go in a matter of minutes, hours or days, if a company is willing to accept whatever workflow comes out-of-the-box.
“Where we see delays on the LMS side of things is when client wants to change the workflow or have heavy integration of the training courses into specific systems,” says Walter. “Even with a project that might take a couple of months to implement, it’s usually creating the course content that takes longer.”
For a company looking at an LMS, there are a few questions it should ask itself first:
After a company works through those four things, it can get a vision of what it’s looking for. Then it can seek out vendors like Latitude Learning to see if there is a good fit there.
“Once a company finds an LMS that is a good fit, start with the easy stuff to get the ball rolling,” explains Walter. “Don’t wait until you have the entire vision to find the right vendor. Start to work on the cultural acceptance of the program and how it benefits the company. Evolve the program from there to include more departments and training modules.”
“If we look at Inteva Products, they’re using it to train their global workforce,” says Walter. “They’re taking training up another notch and using it to instill corporate culture in addition to teaching skills.”
As Inteva Products continues to expand its blended learning process, the next step is to translate its LMS e-learning modules into different languages in order to push its corporate training to all of its global sites.
“We're avoiding excessive instructor costs, travel costs, and lost worker efficiency,” explains Munley. “Using the LMS for fundamental understanding and following it up with robust classroom instruction makes our corporate training more universal and effective. It reduces costs for us and anytime you're doing that you know you're headed in the right direction.”
Jeff Walter is CEO of Latitude Consulting Group, a senior technology consultancy, and Latitude Learning, a learning management software company. Mr. Walter brings more than 20 years of experience in leveraging information technology to solve strategic business problems for organizations. He can be reached at www.LatitudeCG.com.