Why Employees Hate Your Learning Management System

This blog originally appeared on the SHRM Blog. The writer, James Cross, is director of learning product strategy at Workday, and is responsible for the vision, strategy, and roadmap of Workday Learning.

Learning management systems are the damp rag of our professional lives. They frequently impede the excitement and buzz of the actual world that learning ought to inspire. Most learning management systems (LMSs) in use today are transactional, back-end, compliance-driven platforms that users only access when required to do so by HR.

If you’re considering the question “Does it matter? Yes, it does matter, particularly if you want your business to remain competitive in the current economic climate.

Organizations rely on their workforces to help them adjust to an environment that’s constantly changing due to business model disruption, new technologies, and M&A activity. The workforce is changing too—for the first time in history, five generations of people are working side by side. With employee engagement directly impacting productivity and organizational success, it’s time to find a better way to engage our people.

To do this, we should first rethink the notion that we need to “manage” learning. Learning is innately human. It’s an intrinsic part of our identities, and how we grow as people. It’s dynamic, usually unstructured, and sometimes even haphazard. So why should it be managed? How can it be managed?

Is Netflix an entertainment management system? Is Tinder a relationship management system? Of course not. They’re simply platforms that enable our human needs—the need to be entertained, and to connect with others—in a smooth and convenient way.

Don’t Mange, Nurture Curiosity and Creativity

Learning—the human need to share and grow knowledge—should not be throttled by a rigid structure, impeded by a clunky interface, or dampened by a relentless focus on administration. Today’s employees deserve better because they have better technology experiences in their consumer lives. They have history’s biggest library of how-to videos on YouTube, but uncovering vital information in the workplace takes the sleuthing skills of an old-fashioned private detective.

So instead of managing learning, what should we be doing?

We should be creating the opportunity for “ah-ha” moments that enable, empower, and engage our people. We should be crafting learning experiences that are just as exciting and engaging as real-world discovery. To truly transform learning in the workplace, we need to change the way we deliver content through:

  • Video that makes over-the-shoulder and social learning scalable and ubiquitous.
  • Targeted learning campaigns that serve relevant content to employees based on their needs, interests, and career paths.
  • User-generated content to encourage people to share their own knowledge, contribute to a collaborative learning culture, and help their organization grow and thrive.

When we bring consumer technologies into the enterprise, we have a much better chance of engaging people and keeping their attention. Learning systems that throw cold water on workers’ natural curiosity don’t empower, they suffocate. What we need to understand is that there shouldn’t be a difference between workplace learning and consumer learning—there should just be great learning.

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