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Change management: How to Sell Your LMS Internally

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You and your team have spent months on acquiring an LMS and implementing it. But, there is a problem. Some of your colleagues aren’t using it! In fact, some don’t even know about it. The LMS has been up and running for only two weeks and it looks like it will be a washout!

This is a worse case scenario. The job of selling your LMS internally should have started months before it was implemented. In this article, we’ll look at selling your LMS internally by using change management techniques. We’ll begin by explaining some things you can do to prepare for the change. Then, we’ll look at some strategies you can use to manage the change and close off by talking about implementing the change.

Selling Your LMS Internally – Getting the Buy-in You Need for Success

Selling your LMS internally is basically a change management exercise. That’s right, sell it to the people who are going to use it, especially those who resist the change. Figure out where the resistance is coming from and the communicate with them.

Changes at the workplace are inevitably met with resistance by some. Implementing an eLearning program is bound to make some people grimace. You’ll need a solid change management program to bring them onside.

Let’s look at some basic change management steps that will help bring you the buy-in you need across the organization.

Step 1: Prepare for Change

1. Marketing to Senior Management

Although they approved the purchase of the LMS, senior management will be your toughest sell.

More than anything, senior management is about results. They approved your LMS purchase based on what you told them in your LMS business case. One thing you told them was that there would be a return on investment. ROI – three letters that make a senior manager’s heart race. Now, you need to show them that you meant what you said.

You’ll want to demonstrate how the LMS has saved time and money on training-associated costs for items such as:

  • Travel – eLearning means that instructors do not have to travel to deliver courses
  • Infrastructure – no classrooms required
  • Training time – there is far less time away from work when training is delivered through eLearning

Use the free ROI calculator to calculate the return on your LMS investment.

2. Using Email to Sell Your LMS Internally

You may want to start selling your LMS internally by using an email campaign. However, email may not be the most effective way of getting your message across. Here are some tips for selling your LMS internally by email:

  • Send emails that inform your audience about the LMS BEFORE it is implemented. You want them to be ready for the change. They need to know that it’s coming and what they can expect. The last thing you need are responses complaining that they can’t log on to the system when it hasn’t even been turned on.
  • Don’t depend on people reading emails. Some only read the subject lines. Others will skim the first paragraph and then either read on or delete. There are those that never read emails. And then, thankfully, there are some people who will read the entire email message and even respond!
  • Write interesting subject lines. You want everyone to read your messages. Make them wonder what the message is all about. Instead of “LMS implementation schedule”, try something like, “Expand your mind – legally and on company time”. Sometimes, a teaser will garner more attention than just straight facts.
  • Target specific audiences. The way you write an email for senior management should be different than the email attended for HR personnel or workers on the factory floor. They all have different interests that need to be addressed and they do use different language. Effective communication comes down to knowing your audience and knowing what will hold their attention.

Your initial email campaign was a good start, but you’ll have to let everyone know about what’s coming. Think about using:

  • Posters and informational fliers in common areas
  • Orientation meetings for teams
  • LMS demonstrations – at various user levels
  • FAQ sheets to explain your eLearning plans
  • Define and assign LMS administration roles
  • Train your LMS administrators

For more tips on using email to sell your LMS, check out Jeffrey Roth’s article Marketing Your LMS Internally.

Step 2. Manage Change

One key element in change management is overcoming resistance to change.

Regardless of the nature of the change, there will always be some resistance. The signs of resistance to change are there if you know what to look for. Some people resist change because they:

  • Misunderstand the need for the change – “Why change? Things are fine just the way they are!” For those with this attitude, clear communication is the answer. If people don’t understand the need for change, you need to explain why it will be happening. Communicate why the current training methods are not fulfilling the needs of the organization and how the new LMS and eLearning will answer those needs now and in the future.
  • Are afraid that the changes will cause them to fail – “I don’t do well with online training and if I don’t pass, I won’t get ahead.” It’s a valid concern for some. You need to remind this sort of person that they can complete their eLearning anytime and anywhere. They can repeat assignments that are difficult until they succeed and there is online help available.
  • Feel a loss of control – This sentiment may be most prevalent amongst trainers and supervisors who provide training. Change can make people feel that they’ve lost control over their territory. Suddenly, something they did and controlled will be gone. These people need to be shown how eLearning and the LMS will enhance what they’ve been doing and provide additional opportunities for on-the-job training. Leave room for those affected by change to make choices. Inviting them into the planning gives them some ownership in affecting the change.
  • Feel uncertain about the change – Some people don’t like change because they are uncertain about how it will affect them. They like what they know and are comfortable with it. Your job is to provide a sense of safety in the transition for them. Create certainty by communicating clear, simple steps for transition. Use charts, schedules and timetables to ease them along.
  • Hate surprises – “When did they decide this?” is the question most often asked by those who are surprised by change, regardless of how many emails you’ve sent, posters you’ve put up, meetings you’ve held, etc. Be patient with these types and make sure they know what’s coming next and when that will happen. It’s the surprise haters that often start gossip along the lines of, “And then they shove this down our throats…”.
  • Don’t see the benefits of the change – Some might not see the benefits of an LMS or eLearning because it doesn’t affect them or they have never been exposed to it. When the benefits of change are not apparent or don’t seem worth the trouble, resistance is common. Make sure that the benefits of the change are well and frequently communicated.

The list of reasons for resistance to change at the workplace goes on and on. For more examples of why people resist change, read Rationale for Resistance.

The key to overcoming resistance to change is to involve those who resist and having them participate in making the change. Read the section “Is Participation Enough?” in How to Deal with Resistance to Change for notes on a study by Lester Coch and John R.P. French Jr. that illustrates the effectiveness of participation in change as a means of overcoming resistance.

Step 3: Implement Change

You’ve prepared everyone for the upcoming change and you’ve eased the anxieties over the new learning management system. Now, you’re ready to implement – or are you?

1. Plan your LMS Implementation

Planning for LMS implementation begins with pulling two teams together – your IT team and your LMS administrator team.

> Let’s start with your IT team.

Communicate your expectations around timing and scheduling and make sure that the team understands what needs to be done and when it needs to be done by.

You will need to work with your LMS vendor to ensure that your IT team is trained in how the LMS works, how it integrates into your existing system and that they learn how to troubleshoot the system. They will need to understand how data will be transferred and how users will be moved from the old system to the new one. Most vendors offer training on these and other technical topics and ongoing support as part of the LMS licence agreement.

For more tips on the technical side of LMS integration, read 6 Steps for a Successful Learning Management System Implementation.

> LMS Administrators.

Your LMS administrators will most likely come from your HR /Training department. These people are on the training the front line. They need to understand how to operate the LMS and they need to understand it well enough so that they can teach others how to operate it. They will be the ones training content authors, HR staff, trainers, managers and end users how to navigate within the system and how to use the functions available to their specific roles.

2. Involve and train users

Effective communication and involvement is essential here in ensuring that the right training is provided to the right people. For example, training a warehouse manager on uploading new course content would be a waste of time and resources. You may need to consider one-on-one training for some key positions such as Report Administrators or Super Administrators.

Most LMS vendors offer LMS administration training and support.

There are many articles on implementing change at the workplace that you may find interesting. Here are a few titles:

Conclusion

In this article, I’ve covered some of the basics of selling an LMS internally. I’ve described some communication techniques to help prepare and guide your people through change. We’ve discussed some of the many reasons for resistance to change and I’ve provided some advice on how to overcome that resistance. We’ve also spent some time talking about implementation of change and how communication, planning and participation are key elements in making the change a success.

If it is carefully planned, communicated and implemented, selling your LMS internally can be done in a relatively painless manner. Working with your LMS vendor can go a long way toward creating an easy transition for you and for your organization.

Looking for a tool to prove the ROI of your learning initiatives? Download our free eLearning ROI Calculator.

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Peter Exner

Peter is an Instructional Designer with BaseCorp Learning Systems. He has been writing and creating learning materials for just over 20 years and is still relatively sane. When he’s not working you can find him on a golf course or on a sunny deck with his trusty Martin D-28 guitar in hand.

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