Let’s start at the beginning.

Being part of a growing fitness company brings some challenges. One of these challenges is searching for a solution to help train an ever-growing staff.

Your search for a solution might have led you to learning management systems (LMS). You’re curious to learn more, but the LMS world is overflowing with buzzwords and jargon might be—understandably—a bit alienating.

What’s eLearning? What’s AICC? SCORM? Blended Learning?

Let’s avoid all that. And let’s ignore buzzwords, jargon, and industry speak. Instead, we just want to help you answer the three following questions:

• What’s an LMS?
• How does having an LMS give me a competitive advantage in the fitness industry?
• Do I need an LMS?

That’s it. This guide is written for fitness people new to the LMS world who want answers to these three vital questions. So, let’s get started.

What’s an LMS?

An LMS (learning management system) is a highly-tuned online tool to efficiently manage employee training, development, and engagement. Whether it’s content creation, compliance tracking, or community building, an LMS is designed to streamline and manage everything you need to train your workforce in the most organized and productive way possible. This happens both online, and in-person.

Think of using an LMS like travelling across the country in an airplane instead of driving. You’ll still get to the same place using the car, but it will take ten times as long, and frankly, you’ll be a lot more exhausted at the end of the drive than at the end of the flight.

You can still train your employees using things like a binder full of material, a bunch of emailed PDFs, and old school reporting checklists, but an LMS is better.

A good LMS makes things like creating learning courses, tracking training completion, and building your company’s community easy, fun, and engaging.

A great LMS is a tool to give the same access to education for all of your employees. No one gets left behind, everyone is engaged, and all parties are held accountable.

Imagine having a tool—just a single click away–to give you the opportunity to further your own career, and builds your team into a smart, engaged, and truly happy community. That’s what you get with a good LMS.

Think of using an LMS like travelling across the country in an airplane instead of driving. You’ll still get to the same place using the car, but it will take ten times as long, and frankly, you’ll be a lot more exhausted at the end of the drive than at the end of the flight.

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Having an LMS in the Fitness Industry

But how does an LMS specifically help you in the fitness industry?

When you’re growing exponentially, your old systems will probably outgrow themselves.

For example, we often see many fitness companies using Facebook groups to train and distribute information.

This is awesome. Any method you can use to engage with employees and offer a fun, interactive learning environment is always a plus. But Facebook is a social networking site. It’s not built to handle learning, so things can quickly get out of hand.

Comments are unmanageable if you have hundreds of users in a group. Responding to every single thread is exhausting and can be impossible to navigate when scrolling through a never-ending stream of posts. Facebook is engaging, yes. But is it a good learning platform? Not quite.

A good LMS combines the usability and familiarity of social media sites like Facebook with high-quality learning content. A good LMS has an interactive, easy-to-navigate interface which provides likes, rewards you for completing training, and fosters a community. In the industry, this is often called gamification, but for real people, it’s just incentivized, fun learning.

We also see many fitness companies setting up intranet systems to manage their content. Most of the time, they view intranets as a type of “owner’s portal” where they can distribute information. Setting this intranet up usually leads to a Facebook + intranet system where owners gather information from the intranet and distribute it via Facebook.

So, we usually see something like this:

• Learning and development managers place learning material in an intranet system.
• Owners and trainers take material and distribute it through Facebook.
• Everyone has to manage learning through Facebook groups without any accountability or quality control.

An LMS is almost always a better solution. Intranet systems can be costly to implement, and while they are independent and self-managed, you have to pay for the bandwidth and system administration and all the tech stuff that makes your head spin.

A great LMS serving as a database of documents, an interactive learning environment, and a social community all in one interface saves countless hours and headaches.

Another thing holding back many fitness companies from using an LMS is the necessity of real-life, face-to-face training. After all, you’re trying to make sure your instructors can demonstrate a perfect squat and your front desk people are friendly and knowledgeable. For some, it might seem impossible to have this type of functionality built into software. But, you’d be surprised.

A great LMS combines live and online learning and makes it easy. This function is called blended learning, and it’s where managers can test new trainers and immediately log their tests. Additionally, a good LMS actually makes this process incredibly easier for you, as you’ll now have all your records in a database in a single place, instead of having to log piles of paperwork. It’s a real-life version of our airplane-vs.-car idea.

In general, if the idea of having a single, interactive platform that manages all training content, creates consistency in training, streamlines and standardizes face-to-face training and recording, and builds community has you saying, “yeah!” then you’re definitely starting to dig the idea of an LMS.

But, do I need an LMS?

So now that we’ve reached the end, let’s look back to the beginning.

What’s an LMS? And do you need an LMS to help your growing fitness company?

Let’s think about our airplane example again. If you only need to drive down the street to the store, an airplane would probably be overkill.

It’s the same with an LMS. If you’re only training a fairly small staff, an LMS might be a tad bit excessive.

However, if you’re adding locations outside of a reasonable drive of HQ, and you’ve got franchises looking for a streamlined way to communicate with one another, then a great LMS is what you probably need.

If your interest is piqued, you can check out some other cool posts to help your search. Find out how buying an LMS is kind of like dating. Or check out how Wisetail is partnering with the fitness industry for training.

Or gain some inspiration with how one awesome fitness company, SoulCycle, is using their LMS to prioritize learning and also create an awesome place to work:

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