All learning management systems are not created equal. Some simply act as a utility delivering a stark environment for a learner to log in, take the required training, and log out. Check the box and ensure compliance. Others allow you to customize your LMS to drive learning engagement and employee development.  


Align Your LMS with Your Learning Culture 

Just as people have different learning styles, organizations have different learning cultures. If you are researching LMS features, you should consider what type of learning culture you have or want to create. No one type of learning culture is better or worse than the others. You will see the best results when you achieve a good fit with your learning culture, employee expectations, training programs, technologies, and developmental opportunities. 

There are four primary learning cultures: 

  • Traditional  
  • Immersive 
  • Pioneering 
  • Free-Form 

You can read more about these in our whitepaper “The Four Types of Learning Cultures.” If your learning culture is more regimented, your LMS may not require many features or the ability to customize. If you are planning to encourage self-directed learning and drive engagement, you will want to consider an LMS that offers the ability to customize to align with your brand and your overall company culture, not just the learning culture.    


Compliance-Based LMS 

Many companies begin with the compliance basics when they initiate an employee training program. They start with the “must have” topics like safety, anti-harassment, and diversity. They assign a course or two each month with a hard deadline. Employees log in, take the assigned course and go back to their work.  

The employees view the training as another task or as an interruption to their work. They don’t view it as training or development to be better at their jobs. It’s more about the company being compliant and not about the employee improving their skills. As soon as the training is announced you may hear a few “groans” about having to complete it. The IM’s and chats “did you see we have to take another course?” and the “send me the answers so I can pass.” 

Since the employees don’t see the “what’s in it for me” they may be reluctant to complete the training; it falls to the bottom of the “to do” list. And that means more work for the administrators having to login and run reports to see who completed the training. Then they can start following up with those employees and their managers to ensure the course is completed.  

The goal with a compliance-focused LMS is for the company to be legally compliant. The purpose of the LMS is to track employee completion of the material and provide reporting in the event a governing body shows up for an audit, or proof of training is needed for legal reasons, a harassment or workers’ compensation claim. A compliance-based LMS is built with the admin in mind. 


Development-Based LMS 

When a company wants to expand to a full employee training and development program, the LMS function expands beyond the needs of administrators to focus on all of the learners. The goals change from being compliant to things like reducing turnover by improving managerial skills, promoting from within and building career paths with succession planning, growing a healthy collaborative culture with healthy communications, and more. You will be looking for a more visually engaging experience and features that are easy to use and motivate utilization. It will need to be mobile-ready (not just mobile-friendly.)   

Many of our clients leverage their training programs as part of their benefits packages. They also promote their training program when recruiting new employees. They are looking for ways to drive learning engagement, not just compliance. They recognize that the look and feel of their LMS represents their brand to their employees. They want the ability to customize their LMS as much as possible.   

All the ideas below are available to our clients to customize Thinkzoom, our learning management system. Some of the ideas were suggested by our clients. 


Customize Your LMS for Your Company and Brand 

Talk to the person or team who will handle the administration of LMS and training content. What kind of environment do they want to create? Here is a list of items you may want to customize in your LMS to drive learning engagement: 

  • Logo. Your logo should be displayed on the login screen, main navigation and any certificates learners earn and download. This reinforces your brand with your employees.   
  • Custom login screen. Beyond having a logo on the login screen, our clients enjoy being able to upload and change the background image on the login screen. They use this visual real estate to promote things like Pride Month, Black History Month, Safety Awareness Month, Mental Health Awareness, and more.  
  • Navigation menu. Some clients may prefer the simple black, white and grey-scale neutral designs. You should have the option to change the color scheme to align with your brand standards.  
  • Select defaults. Your admins should have the ability to define a campus-wide default dashboard arrangement for all learners. This can involve choosing, sizing, and arranging the dashboard widgets. 
  • New user welcome email. Every company has their own culture and brand voice, and you should be able to express both in your new user welcome email. Many of our clients link their company values to the training program. It can be helpful if your vendor provides an email template, but you should be able to edit as needed.  
  • New user welcome video. Many of our clients utilize our authoring tool to create a welcome video, others use their marketing agency. Either way, a custom welcome video is an effective way to start the learning experience with a positive message from the company.  
  • Banners/announcements panel. This space on the dashboard is the first thing learners see after they have logged in. Many of our clients change out this message in a similar way as the custom login screen and use this to promote featured training topics each month.  
  • Turn on/off features. Every client has their own goal with their training program, and they do not all want or need every single feature our LMS offers. In many cases they choose to turn some things off at the beginning of their program and then turn on features later to add excitement.   
  • Pre-roll video: Our clients can use our authoring tool to record an intro to any course. The message helps to connect the learner to the content and any company-specific details.   


Customize Your LMS by Learners 

What’s the point of a training program if your learners aren’t engaged? Yes, they will take assigned training when there are punitive consequences, but don’t you want more than that? Thinkzoom was built learner-first and mobile-first. We offer a list of items that give the learners control over their experience and hopefully drive learning engagement. Thinkzoom is very user-friendly so learners can customize their view of the LMS. 

  • Dashboard. The first time employees login, they will see the default dashboard the admin chooses. Learners have the same ability to customize their dashboard. They can choose, size and arrange the widgets. This puts the most important content and reminders up front and makes it easy to access.  
  • Save favorites. Most of our clients open up their library of content to employees to take any course they want. When an employee finds a course they enjoy or plan to rewatch as needed, they can save it as a favorite. When they add the “favorite” widget to their dashboard, they can easily revisit a course. A great example is when a rookie salesperson “favorites” our course on uncovering customer needs. They can easily rewatch the course before each discovery call.   
  • Make notes. This feature works well with the “save favorites.” If an employee plans to revisit a course, they can make and save a note that helps to apply the learning points to their real-life situation. Employees can also share the notes. A manager might view a course, make notes and then share with their team to provide an action plan on a specific area of concern.  
  • Share courses. In some cases, your employees know each other much better than their supervisor or manager knows them. In many cases they have each other’s back and care about their success. Allowing employees to share courses will benefit both the employee and the company. This extends the training beyond what a company or manager might think is important when they assign or require a course.   
  • Choose language. All of our microlearning videos come with the closed-captioning and transcript in eight languages: English, Spanish, Chinese (Simplified), German, French, French Canadian, Portuguese, and Thai. Your employees can easily choose.  
  • Follow coworkers. Another aspect learners can customize is to follow coworkers in our social learning technology, The Quad. Employees can scroll through an activity feed that will show the videos their coworkers have completed. This inspires social learning and employees take additional courses, and ideally learn new skills.  


Customize Your LMS by Admins 

Your LMS should be a nimble tool that allows your admins to easily assign and track training. The implementation and set-up process should not be a burden. Your LMS should facilitate training to help you solve problems and meet goals. Each company runs their training program a little differently, so your LMS functionality should be flexible and user-friendly to allow for those differences.  

  • Adding users. This function should be simple. You should be able to easily import large lists or manually enter a few new users ongoing and not just upon implementation. Different users require different, permissions, roles, and access and the process should not be clunky or time-consuming. 
  • Manage content access. Many of our clients open the video library to all employees for self-directed learning. You should also have the ability to make some content available for some people but not everyone.   
  • Groups. Different groups of employees need different training. Some employees will be in multiple groups. Your LMS should give you the ability to easily create groups of employees and assign courses. A few examples include: 
    • New hires: courses related to the company mission, vision, values, benefits, anti-harassment, and cybersecurity. 
    • New salespeople: training on the company’s sales process, products, and sales software. 
    • Customer service: ongoing training on phone etiquette, handling angry callers, and problem solving. 
  • Competency-based Learning Tracks. Our library of training has been mapped to the Korn-Ferry (formerly Lominger) competencies. We created “Tracks” as an easy way for clients to align our training videos to their internal competencies. Admins can enroll learners into these tracks and learners can self-enroll. In addition, clients can further customize the LMS and create their own tracks.  
  • Classroom management. Many of our clients combine our off-the-shelf courses with their internal instructor-led training. The classroom management tool helps you manage both your live and virtual ILT events in one place.  
  • Authoring tool. Our Thinkzoom LMS comes with an award-winning authoring tool at no additional charge. This tool allows your admins to easily create custom training, company updates, pre-roll videos to our courses and much more.  
  • Custom reporting. Most learning management systems come with default reporting and tracking but your admins should also have the ability to create custom reports for their unique point of view. In addition, you can schedule future reports and have them automatically emailed so you don’t have to recreate each time.  
  • Customize exams. Our courses end with an exam to test the learner’s comprehension of the material. Your admins can also customize these exams. 

Finding the right LMS for your organization does not need to be stressful or complicated but you do need to do your homework. Hopefully we have given you a lot to consider in your search beyond LMS functionality to include learning engagement. We have also compiled a feature checklist and itemized technical questions for you to ask of your potential vendors in our blog post about buying an LMS. 

It’s important to mention that when you buy our off-the-shelf training content you get our LMS for free. You can sign up for a free trial of Thinkzoom, our LMS. You will be able to access all of the functionality mentioned above and see for yourself how simple and easy to use our LMS is.  


Additional Resources 


Kathy Irish

Written by Kathy Irish

Kathy joined ej4 in 2007 as our first Instructional Designer. She has over 15 years’ experience in Human Resource Management, Training and Organizational Development. In addition to managing and planning ej4’s yearly new content development, Kathy also oversees all the production on updates (both legal and style-wise) to current off-the-shelf content.

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