For most businesses, a Learning Management System (LMS) focuses on internal employee training and development. However, as commercial models shift and customer relationships become more complex, the role of the LMS is also changing.
Some forward-thinking organisations are breaking down the boundaries of the traditional LMS to reach new audiences outside their organisation. They think of learning and knowledge as a strategic tool for growth, profitability and value, regardless of the target audience.
Whether learning is for employees, contractors, franchisees, stakeholders or customers, an LMS needs to adapt to meet the changing requirements of modern businesses.
In this post, we’ll look at the case for learning that extends beyond employees and why that needn’t mean two separate Learning Management Systems.
Extended enterprise learning
If you haven’t yet introduced extended enterprise (EE) learning at your organisation, then you’re at risk of being left behind by your competitors.
That’s the warning from learning and business experts, who point to the measurable business impact that extended enterprise learning has made at organisations that responded quickly to the changing ways we do businesses.
Independent LMS expert John Leh defines extended enterprise learning as “any training effort targeted at your non-employees with the goal of impacting measurable behaviour change”.
And in a single line, he explained why businesses need to get on board with EE learning: “Training your corporate extended enterprise audiences is all about making money, impacting business change and winning your competitive race.”
Traditionally, companies have used LMS solely to train their own workforce in topics such as onboarding, compliance, sales uplift and product knowledge.
Some companies then realised that there were benefits to be gained from training groups of non-employee learners, too. These groups include:
Independent channel partners that sell your products and provide local value-added services and support to customers. They also sell your competitors’ offerings so the more they know about your products, the more they’ll promote them and the more of your products they will sell.
Dealers or franchise holders who represent only your company and work in multiple locations. With these people, product knowledge is key.
Contract workers who often do risky work, where up-to-date safety and compliance training is critical but often limited.
Customers – having an LMS Customer Training Academy boosts customers’ knowledge and loyalty to your brand. If they know how to use the product, they’ll be more satisfied.
Patients in the health sector seeking trusted information.
In today’s business world, expanding the depth of knowledge of your company’s goods and services to these audiences will give you a competitive edge.
The results from those using an extended enterprise learning LMS platform show this:
- Increased product/service awareness 60%
- Reduced training costs 58%
- Improved customer relations 55% (Source: Brandon Hall)
There are other benefits too, such as accelerated product launches and expanding into new areas globally. It also creates a more holistic view of learning and knowledge, inside and outside an organisation. And you don't even need a second LMS!
The good news is that you don’t need one LMS for employees and another for non-employees. An extended enterprise learning LMS allows cloud-based learning for everyone you want to reach, saving money and avoiding duplication.
The top tip from John Leh is to start small. Decide on your measurable business case. Who do you want to target? Which behaviours do you want to change? How will you measure this? Once you know your business case, the content is built accordingly. It’s likely to include formal and informal learning tools and engaging, fun elements to improve learning outcomes.
Good topics to start with are sales and product knowledge, as this content can serve the employees’ portal on the LMS and can be easily re-versioned for external audiences, with the business goal of increasing sales and customer satisfaction. How will you know if this is achieved? Because the LMS allows you to track training activities and measure the impact.
Using the world’s most versatile LMS technology, Sponge’s bespoke solutions enable organisations to:
- Create and manage user-friendly learning journeys to train multiple audiences to measurably impact the business
- Assign admin rights to partners and customers while keeping control of knowledge assets
- Offer custom-branded portals and device apps to customers
- Guarantee privacy to each unique audience
- Retain global visibility as the LMS administrator
Talk to us about how to extend the boundaries of your LMS to include external learners.