In Part 1 of this three-part series, I talked about the importance of ease of use in selecting a learning management system (LMS), not only for the learners, but also for managers and administrators. In this article, I will address the hidden dangers of feature creep, which can distract from actual learning and waste valuable training time.
The ability to reduce unnecessary distraction is important to a successful e-learning program. Scientists have recently found that the average human’s attention span is decreasing, which is something that most of us probably guessed, but now there is data to prove it. One study showed a drop in attention span from about twelve seconds in 2000 to roughly eight seconds today, which is less than the average goldfish.
Unfortunately, LMS companies are constantly fighting to win your dollars, and sometimes this results in the addition of highly marketable, yet incredibly distracting and time-consuming features, such as the ability to share learner-created content, play games or even take additional content at the learner’s discretion, that may or may not have anything to do with their actual job duties. For some organizations, these additional features communicate something about their brand that is intangible, and thus they are willing to allow for a little less focus on the main objectives and assume the additional labor expense. But for many restaurant companies, these added bells and whistles simply end up being a form of “feature creep” that lends little in the way of genuine value, and may even be counterproductive.
Organizations that prioritize the learning process over bells and whistles should seek out a system that positions value-driven functionality over fad-driven features, and be critical of any feature that is not essential to the learning process. The best way to do this is by asking the right questions. For example, to gauge the usefulness of an added non-learning feature, ask for information about how other customers are using it, and for data on overall usage rates. It might turn out that what sounds like a great idea to an eager buyer is not so much of a wise move in practice.
One of the hot trends in training right now is social learning. Given the popularity of social media, it’s a great idea in concept, but it may not be ideal in a hospitality environment. Like many LMS features, social learning is often a better fit in a corporate environment, where salaried workers can benefit from asking questions in an asynchronous conversation, collaborating with distant colleagues or crowdsourcing and sharing additional content with coworkers. In a restaurant or hotel setting, however, these benefits may not be so easy to achieve, and the results may even be detrimental.
For example, the use of social functionality might sound very appealing, but will learners ever get around to adopting it in any meaningful way? Unlike corporate workers, hospitality workers are busy serving guests and are not tied to their devices all day, so the opportunity to engage in social activities can be very sporadic. Perhaps the larger question is, would operators rather their team members check a social media post or create a memory with a guest?
Further, do managers or trainers have time to administer a social network, in addition to all their other duties? There must be oversight and a genuine desire on the part of the administrators to want to make it part of their employees’ daily work lives.
Hidden Labor Cost
Finally, does the use of such functionality come into conflict with your organization’s labor policy? It’s possible that hourly employees engaging in social-related activity off the clock may be interpreted as performing work related duties under current labor laws, which means they should be compensated. Your organization will need to determine rules around when employees can use social features to reduce such risk, and how much time the organization would want to allow each employee to spend on social activity while on the clock.
As discussed in Part 1 of this three-part series, one of the key benefits to successful e-learning is the ability to cut training time. Each additional feature will result in consuming some of the limited time and attention a learner has, and every minute wasted increases labor expense. Thus, it’s possible that these extra features may reduce the return on investment of an otherwise well-crafted e-learning experience.
Think it Through
Organizations will have to decide for themselves whether these added features support their training objectives, and to what extent they are willing to take on the additional time and money expenditure required to administer and use them. There is not necessarily a right or wrong answer here, since this will ultimately depend on the philosophy of each individual brand. But, for those who have not thought it through, the added expense may end up being far more than they were budgeting for. It’s important to have a clear understanding in advance of your organization’s needs, and to ask the right questions in the process.
If your objective is to train learners as quickly as possible, with as little distraction as possible, you may be in the market for an LMS that is specifically designed to reduce clutter and focus the learner’s attention on the task at hand – learning. This video shows an example of how our LMS has achieved this simple objective.
Before deciding which LMS is right for you, think through the points above and critically evaluate the impact of non-learning related activities to the ultimate objectives of why you are getting the system in the first place. If you’re able to do this, then your organization can be expected to reap the benefits many times over, and your attention deficient goldfish will thank you as a result.
In Part 3 of this series, I will discuss the importance of hospitality-specific features. With hundreds of LMSs on the market today, finding one that is right for your business can be an overwhelming task. So, in the next article, I will provide some specific examples of features that are uniquely relevant to the hospitality industry.