This guest blog post was written by our partners at Petra Mayer and Associates Consulting.
Training is a key component of organizational success, and non-profits and associations play an important role in offering diverse training programs. These programs cater to two distinct audiences: internal staff or contractors and external clients or members. Each audience has unique needs that require specialized approaches for effective learning. In this article, we will explore the distinct requirements of these two audiences and the crucial role Learning Management Systems (LMS) play in successful training initiatives.
Internal Audience Training
Internal training is essential for fostering continuous learning and development among its staff. A LMS designed for internal training should encompass the following features:
Onboarding is an important aspect of internal training, ensuring new staff or contractors quickly integrate into the organization. Onboarding programs often cover organizational culture, policies, and procedures. It’s crucial to have an LMS that supports seamless onboarding processes and allows easy progress tracking.
Internal staff often require compliance training to adhere to industry regulations and organizational policies. A robust LMS should provide features for tracking compliance progress, ensuring that all employees are up-to-date with the necessary certifications and requirements.
Different roles within an organization require specialized training. An effective LMS should support role-specific training modules, allowing organizations to tailor content based on job responsibilities.
For leadership development, organizations require LMS capabilities that facilitate tracking leadership training progress. This ensures that leaders are equipped with the skills and knowledge necessary for effective management.
External Audience Training
Many associations extend their training programs to external audiences, aligning with their business models. This involves providing relevant and engaging content tailored to the needs and objectives of external members. LMS platforms should be equipped to handle external-focused courses, accommodating diverse user bases and ensuring a positive learning experience for all participants.
Business Model Support
Associations often bring in revenue from their training programs, whether through membership fees, course enrollment fees, or other monetization models. LMS platforms must integrate well with these business models, offering features such as secure payment processing, subscription management, and access control to ensure a sustainable revenue stream for the organization.
Social Science Training
Non-profit organizations, particularly those in the social sciences, may offer training programs at little or no cost to align with their mission. The LMS should facilitate easy promotion of these courses to members, ensuring accessibility and engagement. Additionally, tracking and reporting features are essential to measure the impact of these training initiatives on the community and to demonstrate the organization's commitment to its social objectives.
Accreditation and Continuing Education
LMS platforms must provide strong features to support accreditation and continuing education processes for courses and programs. This involves tracking and documenting learners' progress, managing compliance with accreditation standards, and generating reports for accreditation bodies. The system should streamline the accreditation workflow, making it easier for organizations to maintain and renew their accreditation status.
Integration with the Association Management System
Many organizations have a Learning Management System. What differentiates an association is the need for a seamless integration between the AMS and the LMS. Usually, the integration should at minimum allow for Single Sign On (SSO) to make the experience from logging into the membership site to utilizing the training seamless for the members. It is beneficial if the LMS also allows for learner sync and two-way data sync so that the administrative processes can be automated and simplified.
Now, let's explore real-life case examples that showcase diverse organizational needs, and the solutions implemented to optimize their LMS to meet their training requirements.
A non-profit organization that operates with both internal and external branches utilizes an LMS to provide internal onboarding training for staff and some external public courses.
What they needed was an LMS with branching capabilities. Additionally, they needed the ability to sell courses exclusively within one branch while limiting access to another. One of the primary challenges in this case is privacy and branding. Each branch needed a unique look and feel and it was important to consider access to data across the different administrator types.
An association provides training courses for both external members and internal staff.
Externally focused courses can be either free or paid and must have engaging content that is aimed at helping its members reach their objectives. These courses may include hybrid formats, allowing members to access live sessions and online materials that can serve as supporting content for learning or as a valuable knowledge resource. Often subject matter experts who are not trained in adult education need to create this learning content to enrich the member experience.
On the internal front, staff training is crucial, and must be easily trackable and align with business and learning objectives, which are typically around onboarding or compliance. HR professionals are also often lacking the expertise to create learning content and build it out on the learning management system.
What they needed was a consultant to collaborate with their team of subject matter experts to design course curriculum and build out the courses on their LMS.
Choosing the Right Learning Management System
The LMS is a critical component in the successful delivery of learning content. Given the time-intensive and potentially costly nature of these projects, you need to be careful in ensuring you aren’t making a mistake when selecting your LMS. Therefore, it’s important to follow a systematic approach when selecting a suitable platform. The process of selecting the right LMS is crucial for successful training initiatives, and typically involves the following phases:
- Needs analysis: Conducting a needs analysis helps to understand the specific requirements of your organization. This is especially important when sourcing an LMS, and also when building out learning content. Follow the 3-P’s of your needs assessment (purpose, people, program) to determine your non-negotiables versus your ‘nice-to-haves’.
- Feasibility study: Once your must-have list is defined, you can begin to scan the market for the LMS platforms that align with high-priority requirements. This includes functional, business, and technical requirements as well as indicators for pricing, support and maintenance.
- Vendor selection: The next step is to evaluate the potential systems based on your requirements. This can be a very confusing phase of the project as vendors tend to vary in their definitions of features. Navigating through this wealth of information can be a challenge, given the dynamic landscape, with vendors entering and exiting the market, and altering their system descriptions. To streamline this process, it can be helpful to categorize each vendor based on the type of service and support they offer and make the data comparable. As mentioned above, here is where you pay attention to the integration options with your AMS.
- Implementation: After selecting a vendor, identify the implementation tasks assigned to the vendor and those assigned to your team. This step is crucial to ensure a smooth and timely implementation process. We recommend creating a detailed project plan and a RACI chart to understand responsibilities and communication lines.
- Testing: Testing is a critical phase that often doesn’t get the attention it needs. Identify specific test cases early in the process to ensure that all functionality is supported by your new system. While testing should happen throughout your project, it’s most important before you transition data and are getting ready for launch.
- Data exchange: Early in the process, you will have defined the data that needs to be transferred to the new system. This is not limited to the content of your learning programs. It includes learner data and their progress in learning or certifications and credits earned thus far. Be clear about what data you will need in the transition, where it’s located, and how it needs to be formatted.
- Launching: Finally, it will be time to launch the new system. Any training that is provided by the vendor at the beginning of the project is critical to ensure that your team is knowledgeable about the platform and can complete their tasks properly. At this stage, the system vendor may also transition you from the configuration team to the support team. Be sure to know what services you can expect and how to approach the vendor.
Benefits of Working with a Learning & Development Consultant
Smaller non-profits and associations may find the LMS selection process daunting. However, there are systems designed to meet the unique needs of organizations of all sizes. The key is understanding the type of system required and engaging an L&D consultant who is knowledgeable in this area can simplify the process. A L&D consultant can help organizations navigate through complex requirements and quickly identify systems that align with organizational needs and goals. Additionally, an L&D Consultant can help guide your organization through the process, from LMS selection to implementation.
Training initiatives are central to the success of non-profits and associations. Choosing the right LMS is an important step in ensuring the effectiveness of these programs. While the process may seem complex, working with an L&D consultant can streamline the journey, providing guidance and expertise to achieve training objectives successfully.
Petra Mayer & Associates Consulting
Petra Mayer and Associates Consulting is dedicated to guiding you from an idea to delivering tailored training services seamlessly. Our mission is to empower you to increase productivity and scalability through engaging learning solutions that suit your specific needs.