No One Cares About Your New Learning Management System; Why Should They?

April 7, 2014 Brian Sabin

learning management system

At a former employer of mine, I was the system administrator for our Cornerstone OnDemand system.  I remember how exciting it was to implement this new system, which would become a key enabler of employee development for our organization.  Having been a corporate trainer by trade, I had a solid understanding of the learning & development programs the organization needed to push and what tools the organization needed to help ensure compliance on these initiatives.  Like the leadership in our L&D and HR teams, I was really happy with the system when we deployed it.

However, one group was not as thrilled about the Learning Management System (LMS) ‘Go-Live’ as we were…our end user employees.  As it turns out, they were not excited about having easier access to many of our training programs (read: the online compliance course page-turners everyone is expected to complete).  And the average employee or manager did not appreciate all the hard work we’d done to get all of our data into the system correctly, load the courses, train administrators and set up system preferences to get the system live.  All of these things are always extremely important, but we didn’t make the time to focus on the end user experience.

What I’ve learned from that experience and over subsequent years of working as a consultant with clients on their Cornerstone OnDemand talent management system deployments is that you really need to put on your marketing hat to get the end user adoption you need to get the most out of your system.  Here are a few suggestions as you grab for the hat.

Start with the End in Mind (Hint: Go-Live Does Not Equal Success)

Remember it’s not about the system, it’s about what the system supports.  So how do you measure the success of a Learning Management System?  You measure through both transactional metrics and perceptual metrics.  To do this effectively, you need to build out a plan of how you use the LMS to measure not only employee satisfaction with it, but more importantly, their satisfaction with the programs accessible through it.  Useful, tactical metrics that can be measured shortly after go-live include # of portal accesses, development resource accesses, course completions (hint: focus on programs leadership cares about) and post-go-live survey and focus group results.

Longer-term measures should include progress being made on employee development plans and the impact of L&D programs completed [as tracked through the LMS] on:

  • Improvements in employee performance and bench strength [as measured through CSOD’s Performance Cloud]
  • Employee mobility [as measured through your HR system of record]
  • Employee productivity [as measured through  other transactional systems such as point-of-sale and CRM systems]

“WIIFM” (What’s In It For Me)

This is a term we often used in training classes and is one of the first things to think about when putting yourself in the shoes of your end user.  In the case of a Learning Management System, it’s not about the system, but rather, “Why would I go there?”  and “What am I going to gain other than not being in trouble for not taking a training course?”  This should be clearly communicated to end users in advance of the implementation, when the system goes live, and on an ongoing basis to maintain interest.  Common ‘WIIFM’s’ may include ‘ this is where I go to close my skills gaps in order to do my job more effectively’ or ‘this represents one of the investments the company is making in my career development’

learning managementBranding

Does your company have a talent management brand that speaks to your performance culture?  Is your Welcome Page welcoming?  The welcome page is the first impression of the system when a user logs in.  A few tips:

  • Don’t use colors that distract users from what you want them to see.
  • Keep it simple – don’t have too many tabs or too much to read.
  • Only display what I MUST know and what I might want to know.
  • Consider using image links with good quality images.  Think of this as your favorite website that you visit for online shopping.  Image links help you visually find what you are interested in quickly.  This is really important if you are using the Extended Enterprise Cloud offering to sell training.  You’ll want to help guide your customers to the training products they want to buy.  Don’t make them work hard to find what they want or they will leave with nothing.


Consider using incentives to drive users into the system.  Using incentives can help keep users coming back and while they are there you can use the tips above to help them navigate to what you want them to see.  Some clients use incentives to get employees to sign up for certain classes within the system such as employee store give-aways for the first X number of people that register for a certain course.  Regional/organizational unit contests are useful in enterprises that encourage internal competition between different teams and the leaders who oversee them.

Cornerstone OnDemand works best when all parts of your organization are engaged in using its functionality.  Try some of these suggestions to get more return on your investment.

Change Champions

Don’t leave change management solely up to the project team.  As my colleagues Amy Rollier and Dawn Moore put it, Change Champions are ‘people who, regardless of level or role, will advocate for a change initiative, support their peers and provide constructive feedback to senior management and leadership.’  These are the folks I advise my client teams to engage throughout the project.  You should:

  • Validate guiding principles with them.
  • Get their take on new processes and new offerings before finalizing them and rolling them out to the masses.
  • Provide them with the right materials to get the word out to their constituents.
  • Leverage them as a ‘customer advisory board’ who provides ongoing feedback to continually improve your programs and how their delivered.

If you’re curious about how to go about recruiting Change Champions, here are some great tips.

There are lots of other creative ideas out there to create the best user experience possible.  What are some ideas that have worked for your organization?  Feel free to drop me a comment here or visit me at Cornerstone Convergence at the Appirio Booth.

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