Companies are increasingly recognizing that the LMS, as a talent suite, is not enough to meet today’s learning challenges. While the LMS was built around the idea of the internal knowledge worker, training today must integrate new audiences, who cannot be trained in the same way. These audiences can include everyone from blue-collar workers and high-potential leaders to external audiences like clients and partners.

How can we engage modern learners, whoever they are, wherever they are and however they learn? Which technology should we leverage? Whom are we leaving out of the LMS “talent suite” approach, and why does it matter?

Leaders: Improving Engagement

Leadership and soft skills are the most important skills to train for, according to research by LinkedIn Learning. However, the LMS’ historic focus on formal, self-paced e-learning cannot keep up with today’s star talent as their needs shift to social and collaborative learning, especially as millennials join the workforce. Today, 75 percent of managers believe face-to-face training is the best way to develop management and leadership skills. Indeed, one area in which face-to-face learning significantly outperforms online learning is engagement.

Technical Workers: Reaching Forgotten Employees

Over the next decade, nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will likely need to be filled, and the technical skills gap is expected to result in 2 million of those jobs going unfilled. Many companies rely on a large workforce without regular access to a learning portal, including medical personnel and field services employees. Not only are these workers harder to reach, but the skills they need are probably more difficult to teach online, as self-paced online learning has always been more effective with theoretical knowledge than with skills.

External Audiences: Different Audience and Different Processes

From customers to partners, dealers and suppliers, external audience training is on the rise, representing 53 percent of training dollars, according to ATD. It isn’t hard to see why. Not only can external audience training turn training into a profitable business, but it is also an important approach to improving customer loyalty and partner performance. External audience training is a strategic investment in an age where a company’s performance increasingly depends on its network. It is, however, vastly underdressed by technology, with a mere handful of the almost 700 LMSs on the market addressing it.

These audiences are often misunderstood, because they follow different processes and behaviors. First of all, unlike employees, they are not a captive audience: Training cannot simply be “pushed” upon them. Secondly, their training often relies on a commercial relationship that entails managing sales, customer relationships and profitability, all of which fall outside the typical LMS capabilities.

The LMS Sweet Spot

How can we engage these audiences?

Don’t Forget Instructor-Led Training.

If instructor-led training (ILT) is still the most widely used delivery method, it is because it is both the most effective (56 percent of ILT modules but only 21 percent of e-learning are deemed highly effective) and the most versatile. Quality facilitators know how to be flexible and engage their audience, whether that audience is emerging leaders or highly technical workers. In a 2015 study by the Chartered Management Institute, 72 percent of the managers surveyed emphasized the importance of a good course leader. For leaders, the classroom, as an inherently social experience, is a great place to network and develop essential soft skills such as coaching, giving feedback and delegating.

Master Informal Learning.

Informal learning is another versatile method that it is truly tailored learning. Apprenticeship has always been used in technical professions, but through coaching and mentoring, senior employees can pass on key skills and technical expertise regardless of level, industry or function.

Leverage Hands-On Exercises and Simulations.

Experiential learning can be leveraged at all levels to acquire both hard and soft skills. For leadership programs, this learning can take the form of collaborative exercises and interactive games to practice negotiation, sales techniques and conflict resolution. Technical workers who don’t have access to a learning portal can be reached through mobile micro-assets and benefit from immersive simulations that are directly relevant to their work.

Mapping the Right Technology to the Right Audiences for a Holistic Approach

Let’s say you are a manufacturing company looking to train technical and non-technical employees online and face to face, as well as manage an external training academy for your dealers. Where do you start?

It can be helpful to map technologies to your needs. After identifying potential technologies, grade them against relevant criteria. For example, if you deliver ILT training to your technical workers and dealers, the criteria could include “ability to manage commercial processes” and “ability to manage ILT logistics.” This process can help you eliminate irrelevant technologies and find complementary combinations.

For example, a complementary combination to support your LMS could be:

  • A training resource management system (TRMS) to manage ILT training across technical and non-technical workers and all the commercial and logistics processes for your dealer training academy
  • A learning record store to aggregate all formal and informal learning data and calculate ROI
  • Virtual classrooms to reach remote audiences
  • A learning experience platform to serve as a unique front-facing platform for your non-technical employees to empower learner-driven experiences and informal learning

There are countless audiences to train, but there are countless ways to engage them through training: formal or informal, instructor-led or self-paced, theoretical or hands-on, collaborative or individual. And there are countless creative ways to deliver this training through technology. Why restrict your learning strategy to just one?