Risk management is an important tool in many different fields: finance, safety, and more.
Risk management is also central to your workplace learning and development efforts, even if you don’t think of workforce learning in that way. But stop and think of all the different risks you’d face if it wasn’t for your workforce learning programs. You might not be able to recruit as many good new employees without one and you might not keep the ones you do recruit as long. New employees would struggle to understand their jobs and it would be harder to teach them new job roles and skills in their career path. You might quickly run afoul of compliance challenges, and without an emphasis on learning, your company might drift into inefficiency, irrelevance, and ultimately out of existence.
One tool your learning program can use to reduce these risks is a learning management system, or LMS. We’ll discuss a few of the ways an LMS can help your organization reduce risk exposure in this article.
If employees at your workplace aren’t being trained, if they’re not developing new skills, if they’re not continuously learning and applying that learning to make your workplace more efficient and innovative, then you’ve got a risk management issue on your hands, even if you don’t tend to think of risk management and learning & development in this way.
On the other hand, if your L&D program IS functioning well, and if you are assisting employees with the training, learning, growth, and knowledge share we just mentioned, then know that the next time you walk into a conference room and people are talking about risk, risk exposure, risk mitigation, and risk management, you’re contributing to the risk management efforts as well, so it’s safe to join into the conversation and highlight what your L&D team is doing.
One of the tools that can help your learning and development department is a learning management system, or LMS. If you’re not familiar with LMS, it’s a web- or server-based software system that helps you administer training–assigning, delivering, tracking, reporting, creating, and so on (you can learn more about what an LMS is here).
We’ll list a few reasons why an LMS can help you manage risks at your organization below. Surely there are more–let us know what you’d add to the list.
Many people looking for a job want an employer with robust training and L&D programs so they can continually develop their careers and sharpen their skills. Studies have shown this is even more true of millennials, and of course in a tight labor market this is even more important still. So having an LMS as part of your L&D program can help you avoid the risk of not being able to acquire new talent or being unable to acquire the best talent in the labor force.
Likewise, employees are more likely to leave your organization if they feel they’re not continually learning, developing new skills, and growing professionally. That’s probably more true for your most valuable employees, who will always have opportunities with other employees. And if you can’t retain employees, you’ll continually find yourself back at square one, struggling with recruiting new employees and of course losing all that knowledge and experience from those experienced employees who left you because you weren’t helping them develop professionally.
Once you HAVE hired a new employee, you want to do everything you can to get them up to speed and ease their transition into their new role and into your organization. A well thought-out new employee onboarding program can help with that. If you don’t have a good new employee onboarding program, that new employee’s transition to your workplace will be less efficient than possible, slowing your organization down and making you less productive. That’s not a risk worth taking. And of course, without proper onboarding, new hires are more likely to jump ship for a new job elsewhere, meaning you’ve lost that investment in recruiting and hiring–another poor risk.
A learning management system can’t manage your entire new employee onboarding program. There are meetings with managers and coworkers to take place, there are HR forms to sign, and more. But an LMS CAN play a big role in delivering onboarding materials to new hires at timely points in their initial months of employment (and in being a repository for information the employee may need at unpredictable times as he/she struggles to learn key information about your company). Easing the pains of onboarding with an LMS is a great L&D risk management task–why not do it at your workplace?
Your organization has risk exposure related to compliance training in at least two different ways. First, lots of the compliance training you’re required to deliver is for a good reason–you don’t want employees doing those things the compliance training is telling them not to do. You don’t want employees discriminating based on age, gender, or race; you don’t want people releasing toxins into the environment; you don’t want people operating dangerous equipment without proper machine guarding and PPE; and so on.
So the first risk to manage and mitigate is avoiding all those bad things. And you can use an LMS to deliver thoughtful, effective, impactful compliance training to help reduce non-compliance at your workplace.
The second thing to keep in mind is you’re going to need records to prove you’ve delivered that compliance training. Maybe you’ll need to show it to a regulator like OSHA to avoid a penalty, or maybe you’ll need the training records if you’re wrongly accused of something by a disgruntled employee (we have a real customer with a story like this, btw). And an LMS is EXCELLENT at creating and storing training records to prove you’ve provided compliance training. The tracking and recording aspects of an LMS alone are enough of a risk management benefit to run (not walk) to an LMS provider and get an LMS today if you don’t have one.
Setting up learning paths that match the different job roles and/or career progression paths at your company is a great way to help employees get all the training they need in order to succeed at the different jobs they’ll have at your company.
An LMS is a great tool to help you identify the training materials necessary for each of the learning paths/job roles at your company. It’s also a great tool for delivering that training. And finally, it’s a great tool for checking to see if employees that have been assigned training for their job role have completed it.
Not having clearly defined learning paths, having no way to easily assign and deliver that training to employees, not being sure which employees are currently properly trained for their positions, and not knowing if an employee is properly trained for the position they’re about to move into are all significant risks at the workplace, and risks you don’t have to be exposed to.
And LMS will help manage all these risks by easing the learning paths process.
Read more about this in our article on preparing workers for the next job in their line of progression.
An LMS can help you keep track of who needs refresher training and when they need it, and it can also help deliver that refresher training to those employees at the right time. This is good for a few reasons.
The first reason this ability to deliver refresher training on a timely basis helps reduce risk is for compliance reasons. For example, regulators often require refresher training be delivered to employees on a recurrent basis for specific topics (think of OSHA’s recurrent training requirements for forklifts, Haz-Com, and more here, and/or MSHA’s mandatory Part 46 Annual Refresher training).
And while compliance requirements for recurrent training are important, let’s not forget the real reason that refresher training is valuable: people forget training if it happened a long time ago, and/or they may have strayed from the procedures recommended in training while performing their jobs. Having an LMS that makes it easier for you to deliver training helps reduce the risk of the so-called training forgetting curve.
If you’re focusing solely on training employees, and not on supporting their performance when they’re no the job, you’re fighting the workforce L&D fight with one hand tied behind your back.
You can use an LMS, perhaps one with compatible mobile learning apps, to deliver performance support to workers so they can access training when and where they need it (just in time and/or point of need training access).
Take a moment to think about what happens if you’re not making performance support available. What does a worker do when he or she has to do something and doesn’t remember how–or doesn’t remember the right/safe way to do it? Will the worker just do it anyway (not a risk you want to take). Will a worker just leave it undone (again, not a risk you want to take). Or will he/she walk back to a remote location to find out how to do it (causing inefficiency, which is, again, not a risk you want to take).
If you’re using your LMS not only to deliver training, but to also deliver information to workers where they need it on the job, you’re definitely reducing your risk exposure.
Knowledge and skills aren’t evenly distributed throughout your workplace.
Instead, they live in little isolated pockets. Sally knows how to do this. Joe knows how to do that.
Your workplace would be more efficient if you could capture and distribute that information throughout the organization. That would help other employees do what only “Joe” can do now. And that’s even more important if Joe is getting ready to retire or leave the organization. If you haven’t captured, stored, and shared the tribal knowledge that only Joe knows, then the information walks out the door the same moment Joe does.
An LMS gives you tools to capture, store, and distribute that tribal knowledge, reducing the risk of losing information, knowledge, and skills when employees leave your company for one reason or another (and, ultimately, they will).
One last way that you can reduce risk at work with the help of a learning management system (LMS) is by using it to help employees share knowledge freely amongst themselves. This can be done by allowing employees to upload their own user-generated content and/or by using social learning channels like discussion boards.
According to the 70/20/10 model of workplace learning, employees learn a significant amount of what they know at work as a result of learning from their coworkers. That happens whether you do anything to assist it or not, so that’s a great bonus for you. But if you facilitate that social learning, your employees can learn all the more. Leaving those additional social learning benefits behind is a risk you don’t want to face.
During the COVID-19 pandemic during early 2020, the idea of traditional, face-to-face, classroom-style, instructor-led training became potentially dangerous. Something we had done for seemingly ever, without really thinking about it, now seemed ill-advised and a potential risk to health and life.
Accordingly, many organizations began to understandably look toward different versions of online training: PDFs, videos, webinars, virtual classrooms, elearning courses, performance support, and more.
So suddenly, a learning management system and online training became an important contingency plan to allow organizations to continue training efforts during a time when instructor-led training wasn’t wise, possible, or perhaps as easy to do as it had been in the past.
If you’re a safety professional, you might find this article on OSHA Safety Training Requirements & COVID-19 interesting along these lines.
We hope you enjoyed this quick consideration of how using a learning management system as part of your learning ecosystem at work can be thought of as a risk management tool as well. Let us know your own thoughts on this topic by using the comments section below.
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