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What is a learning management system (LMS)?

A  learning management system (LMS) is a software application that administers, documents, tracks, reports, automates, and delivers educational courses, training, as well as learning and development programs.

What does LMS stand for? LMS stands for learning management system. 

Learning is essential to any organization’s success because it improves business results, boosts productivity, and increases organizational competitiveness. Learning helps produce positive business outcomes in critical areas and at key moments in an organization’s development, such as during mergers and acquisitions, restructurings, and product launches.


Yet, outdated learning management systems are holding organizations back. This system is often one of the last enterprise software systems to be replaced, even though content, tools, and methods around learning have been explored and developed over the years. To be future ready and transform digitally, organizations must apply this innovation and enact upskilling initiatives.


Today, learning is even more business critical. We live in a fast-paced, increasingly digital world and according to a recent World Economic Forum Future of Jobs Report, “50% of employees will need reskilling by 2025 to keep pace with emerging technologies.” The current pandemic has accelerated the high need of organizations of all sizes and industries to upskill and reskill their workforce. So, the change is here to stay and organizations need a next-generation LMS to help them adapt more quickly and increased agility. 

LMS benefits

A modern, next-generation LMS can help organizations achieve the following critical benefits:

  1. Reduced costs or increased efficiency: On-site classroom training can be expensive and time intensive. Modern learning tools and new technologies (such as e-learning and virtual reality) are driving costs down, and driving higher agility and efficiency.
  2. A continuous learning culture: Newer learning management systems are designed to promote learning on an ongoing basis, facilitating professional development and upskilling and reskilling of employees.
  3. Speed and flexibility of implementation and higher ROI: A cloud-based learning management system allows quick and flexible implementation of the latest innovations that improve employee learning, engagement, and development.
  4. Ensured compliance: LMS offers specific capabilities for all stakeholders – HR, managers, employees – to assure compliance trainings are done. Capabilities include, for example, monitoring, workflow, and e-signature processes.
  5. Increased skills and better outcomes delivered across the workforce: Organizations are able to empower their employees to gain skills needed now and in the future in a continuous and agile way due to an everchanging environment. Outcomes include increases in attendance, training completion, and training adoption; a higher number of certifications; an increased number of leadership after specific programs; and higher retention rate of talents – to name some.
  6. Increased learner engagement: A modern LMS supports new ways of learning like social and remote learning capabilities, collaboration, curated learning paths and recommendations, as well as learning in the flow of work, gamification, and microlearning (highly focused learning delivered in small pieces, such as a tutorial about a specific problem).

Overview of achieved certificates generated by an LMS.

LMS buyer's guide

Learn how training technology and LMS support upskilling.

Elements of a learning management system

There are four critical elements – features and functions – of any LMS: 

  1. Engaging learner experience 
    Personalized learning with content that’s relevant to the employee helps to progress development further. For example, learners get information relevant to them pushed and consolidated in a 360-degree view into activities such as learning history, surveys, business goals assigned, certificates of completion, and e-signatures. Recommendations and curation of relevant content help to boost engagement and to give clear guidance. Formal training can be complemented with informal, collaborative, and engaging communities of practice that offer easy access to experts and knowledge sharing. And employees can access learning wherever and whenever they need it whether it’s at their desk, on their mobile, or downloaded for offline work.
  2. Learning administration 
    Learning administrators need to be able to set up a blended learning approach with all different kinds of formal and informal learning, as well as career paths or learning programs. Modern LMS software will ensure administrators have all tasks and information at their fingertips directly from their LMS homepage to plan and execute efficiently on different kinds of learning requirements. They can even integrate third-party content or solutions as part of the learning offering.
  3. Talent development
    Learning is most meaningful when integrated into the employee lifecycle. For example, robust learning management systems provide clear career paths linked with development goals at each phase of employment, starting when an employee onboards to a new job and continuing on as they get promoted to a manager or higher levels of leadership and work on their skills and professional development.
  4. Compliance
    A learning solution should help to reduce administrative headaches by automating compliance training experiences for all parties: employee, manager, and HR. Common functions include offering certification and document management, handling e-signature and workflow policies efficiently, and gaining visibility into compliance training status and activities.


For businesses in highly regulated industries, such as healthcare and life sciences, telecommunications, or transportation, LMS solutions are key to automate and assure compliance training, minimize risk, and meet government reporting requirements.

Learning communities available in an LMS.

Who uses a learning management system and how is it used?

Companies of all sizes and all industries can benefit from an LMS, and it’s even more business critical than ever. Digital transformation has been accelerated by the crisis to upskill and reskill employees at an increasingly fast pace.

Watch this short video of a learning management system to see how it works and learn more about the benefits.

Everyone from frontline workers and field teams to management and senior executives can use a learning management system. Here are the main use cases for an LMS:



  • I have to learn this because of job, company, or industry requirements. 
  • I need to perform competently in my current role and to execute on my current tasks. 
  • I want to perform better in my current role, develop towards a new role, and fulfill my intellectual curiosity.


  • I want to give my team members development opportunities to let them grow and to retain them at the organization.


  • I want to ensure that the workforce can adapt to new skills. 
  • I need to guarantee that we as an organization remain compliant. 
  • I need to reach my audience across the entire organization. 
  • I have to create a continuous learning culture. 

How new and emerging technology is changing LMS

Over the last few years, there’s been a shift in mindset towards putting the employee experience at the center of every process and decision. Organizationally, this helps to create a more flexible, engaged workforce and a more resilient business. New intelligent technologies (like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning) are improving the learning experience by personalizing user interfaces and improving workflow, for example. 


For learners to be able to take advantage of these intelligent technologies, your LMS needs to be able to easily and seamlessly integrate and support third-party solutions – this is imperative given the speed in which tools and technology evolve. Organizations that cannot integrate solutions easily and properly will leave their learners with a patchwork of siloed solutions.


What does putting employees first concretely mean? Learning and development goes beyond checking the boxes of required classes or certifications or updating skills from a skills database. It should be an ongoing, dynamic, and individualized experience for every single employee. Rather than leaving it up to employees – who are often overwhelmed with content and tools – to seek out learning options, organizations can provide guidance and suggestions to help people discover new opportunities to develop and grow to support success, and help learners understand the value of each learning activity they may undertake.

Learning and LMS best practices

Leverage the power of the cloud, machine learning, social learning and collaboration, mobile, and other technologies to put these best LMS practices into place:

  • Consolidate learning systems. If you have many learning management systems or tools that cover a wide variety of learning tasks, one of your chief goals should be to reduce that number to one. Modern LMS software should be able to address learning needs no matter your industry or size of your business.
  • Consider new ways of learning. Social and remote learning capabilities, collaboration, learning in the flow of work, curated learning paths, or machine learning-powered personalized recommendations can help maximize learner engagement.
  • Chart a path for employees. Give employees concrete guidance through development goals, curated content, learning paths, and recommendations.
  • Support multi-modal ways of learning. Different types of learning such as gamification, microlearning, mobile, and e-learning are more important than ever.
  • Ensure compliance. Compliance training is always important to minimize legal risk. This is especially critical during times of disruption and when using new tools or learnings offered outside of the LMS, for example, when learning happens on third-party tools such as LinkedIn learning.

What to look for in an LMS solution

Here are six things to watch for when you’re looking for a new LMS

  1. Ease-of-use: learning tools should be easy to use so that they create a positive experience and high engagement. If you need extensive training to figure out a learning tool, you’re looking at the wrong solution.
  2. The potential to integrate other HR systems: At some point in the future, you may want to integrate with HR tools that support recruiting and onboarding, performance and goals, compensation, succession and development, and even potentially a core HR system. Make sure you choose an LMS that can be an integral part of an HRMS software suite to foster end-to-end, engaging employee experiences for holistic talent processes.
  3. An open, flexible platform: The volume of learning content, tools, and solutions has exploded over the past years. Look for an open ecosystem that helps organizations take advantage of great content from Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) providers, for example, as well as benefit from new innovations.
  4. Proven business results: Look for validation from satisfied LMS customers across businesses of all sizes and industries.
  5. Comprehensive, market-leading functionality and next-gen capabilities: These will truly support new ways of learning and development in times of transformation.
  6. Flexible implementation: Watch for a solution that offers flexible implementation and configuration to meet current and future business needs. With cloud-based software, for example, you can focus on the area with the highest business need and then further expand the implementation as needed. That way, your organization benefits from both continuous innovation and low maintenance costs.

Create a culture of continuous learning

Explore a modern, unified LMS – SAP SuccessFactors Learning.


A learning management system (LMS) is a software application that helps administer, document, track, report, automate, and deliver educational courses, training programs, or learning and development programs. 

E-learning is learning that is done outside of a classroom, usually over the Web – often conducted via a cloud-based LMS system. 

Microlearning is a highly focused educational session delivered in small pieces, such as a tutorial about a specific problem.

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