Own Your LMS Implementation: 5 Steps to Project Plan Success
Sarah Greesonbach | 5 min read
Here you are, weeks into the process of researching and vetting a learning management system (LMS) for your company. And after investing hours of clicking, downloading and reading, and rounds of peer review into painstakingly making your choice… you find that the work has only just begun. Because now it’s time to build your LMS implementation project plan.
Vetting and selecting a company-wide LMS takes a lot of time, thought, and energy. So it might strike you as a bit unfair that after you’ve done all that work, there’s more work to do! But trust us — every minute you put into your LMS implementation project plan will come back to you in hours saved.
At Wisetail, we’ve onboarded more than 250 clients to our LMS. And while we plan a unique kickoff meeting for each unique company, there are a handful of universal themes we see come up again and again.
Our implementation manager, Ryan White, spent a little time sharing his knowledge on the matter and today we’d like to share the knowledge he dropped with you so that you can arrive at your project planning meeting prepared and excited for how implementation will bring you closer to your goals.
Step #1: Identify Your Minimum Viable Content
Few companies arrive at their kick-off meeting with a firm idea of all of the content they want to put in their LMS. It’s far more common to show up with a few must-have ideas and a sense of how to prioritize them. This ends up being a perfect way to approach your LMS implementation project plan because you want to be able to quickly identify your minimum viable content.
“When you’re first kicking off your LMS implementation, reach for the low-hanging fruit,” says Ryan. “Low-hanging fruit, or your minimum viable content, is content that will provide the maximum possible value to the maximum possible number of users in a reasonable launch frame. You can identify it by looking at the gaps in your business now, and how you could use your LMS to fill a need right off the bat.”
Ryan continues: “When you start with immediate value for all users —whether that’s position-based training or a mission and values culture course — you set your organization up to see the value of your LMS implementation right away.”
Step #2: Get Middle Management Buy-In
Implementing any new technology, process, or program in a business requires executive-level support, which is why the first item on most kick-off to-do lists is getting leadership buy-in. But when you’re introducing your company to a new LMS, the next most important thing is to get the buy-in of your middle management, including store managers, general managers, and shift supervisors. These are the people who decide whether to schedule time for team members to get into the system and use the LMS.
“Executive leadership buy-in is important, but they’re not the ones making the day-to-day decisions about frontline employees’ time,” says Ryan. “If your lower level managers see the importance of the system, they’ll make time for it and encourage employees to get involved.”
“When a company really becomes an advocate of an LMS, you’ll see them go that extra step to incentivize it,” Ryan continues. “One franchise tracked logins for the first two weeks of the program, and the location that had the most logins got a pizza party. Turning it into a competition and attributing points to actions helped spread excitement for new tool.”
Step #3: Identify Clear Pathways to Access
With middle management buy-in, a natural next step is identifying how you’ll provide employees with pathways of access to the LMS. Will it be a priority of staff members to spend time in the LMS every shift, and if so, enough of a priority to schedule them 15 minutes early to make it happen? And how will they access it? Will there be a computer or tablet at each location, or will employees be able to sign in on their mobile devices? It’s important to think through these challenges before they derail your implementation.
“One of the biggest barriers to early adoption we see is providing pathways of access,” says Ryan. “Scheduling time for an hourly team member to get on the site is tough, especially if it’s really busy when they’re first getting on shift. Then deciding how they’ll sign on. In some places, like California, employees need to be compensated if they log in to the LMS when they’re at home. Thinking through all of these scenarios in advance will set you up for success.”
Step #4: Don’t Go Feature-Crazy
Often the most exciting part of implementing an LMS is realizing all of the possibilities of the feature set you can access. But it’s easy to get overwhelmed by options and, as a result, create an overwhelming user experience for your employees. Instead, use the kick-off meeting to identify how different users will be using the site and prioritize your LMS options accordingly.
“It’s nice when an LMS comes with a lot of options, but it can be overwhelming to decide which to include with your implementation,” says Ryan. “That’s where doing the content-mapping first really pays off, because you know what you need and you can build an intuitive and easy-to-use user experience. Starting this process with an understanding of your short and long-term goals, what defines success for you, and what your leadership team empowers you to make decisions that will work best to solve your unique business challenges.”
Step #5: Start Brainstorming Your LMS Name Now
Incorporating your company’s unique branding and personality into your LMS might seem like a small detail, but it’s actually an opportunity to establish and spread culture across locations. It’s one more way you can weave culture into your employee experience and create community for employees that may not see each other every day.
“When a client leaves the kick-off meeting, it’s never just ‘the LMS,’” says Ryan. “It’s always the company’s new LMS name, like Bar Louie’s Backstage, Torchy’s Tacos’ Taco Dojo, or SoulCycle’s The Wheel. It becomes an important way to show the same values and brand across multiple locations.”
You put a lot of time and effort into selecting the right LMS for your organization. And your work isn’t over once you’ve made your choice. The next step is to set yourself up for success by preparing for the implementation project plan kick-off meeting. We hope these five steps give you a lot to think about!
BY SARAH GREESONBACH
Sarah is a writer for Wisetail. By analyzing and condensing cutting-edge research and data, she helps L&D professionals develop their instincts and arrive at actionable insights for employee engagement and training. She loves to consider the possibilities of humanizing, organizing, and minimalizing all things HR.