Features to Look for in a Compliance-Based LMS

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Organizations get a learning management system, or LMS, for a number of different reasons. Often, for some combination of reasons.

One very common reason that organizations get a learning management system is to stay on top of and document compliance training requirements.

In this article, we’ll give you a few key features to look for if you need an LMS to comply with mandatory training requirements.

And be sure to download the free LMS Buyer’s Guide from the bottom of this article, which has even more helpful information for you. And if you’re interested in compliance for safety training, check out our free Online Safety Training Buyer’s Guide Checklist and/or our Guide to MSHA Training Compliance Requirements.

Key Features to Look for in an LMS for Compliance Training

The list below isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a good place to start and you’ll find more in our LMS Buyer’s Guide to consider after that.

Integration/Sync with Your HR System

This may not be top of mind for you, but it’s actually critical for your compliance training needs. Having an LMS that is integrated with other software systems is very important in general. And it’s especially helpful for compliance purposes to have your LMS integrate with your HR software.

Why? Because you want to know that every time someone gets hired (and they WILL get put into the HR software system) that they’ll automatically be put into your LMS and will receive automatic training assignments for at least SOME of their compliance training as a result of their job location and job role (example: the Memphis, TN plant/Welder).

You can read more about LMS & HR System Integrations in this article.

Customizable Organizational Hierarchy & Custom Groups

Most learning management systems allow you to create an organizational hierarchy, putting employees into different organizational units. Having the ability to create your organizational hierarchy, assigning employees to units such as the business unit they work for, the location they work at, and their job role, makes it easy for you to both assign training to all employees (sometimes to the individual employee, sometimes to a selection of employees, and sometimes to an organizational unit, such as an entire business district, a work location, or everyone in a specific job role) and of course to run reports to check compliance training completion for different business units as well.

In addition to that organizational hierarchy, though, you’ll also want to create custom groups that you can put people into and then assign training to (or run reports on). For example, if you don’t have a specific job role titled “Forklift Operator,” but instead people in several different job roles are required to operate forklifts, it could be very handy to create a custom group called Forklift Operators for purposes of assigning compliance training related to forklift operation and running reports to determine who’s completed that training, who hasn’t, and whose previously completed training has now expired.

Ability to Import Training Content in Multiple Formats

Compliance training can come in many formats or delivery methods: written materials, video, elearning courses, wiki pages, instructor-led classes, and even virtual reality these days.

You’ll want an LMS that can allow you to work with and utilize all of these training delivery methods so you can create the most effective blended learning compliance training solution possible (check out our free Beginner’s Guide to Blended Learning).

We made mention of this above already, but it’s also worth pointing out that you want an LMS that isn’t limited to assigning & tracking online compliance training but can also help you manage the instructor-led/classroom training that’s part of your compliance programs as well (read more about Using an LMS to Manage Instructor-Led Training here).

Ability to Easily Update & Version Training Content

Compliance training requirements change over time. So you’ll need to change your compliance training materials as well (actually, you should change them up just so people don’t get bored of the same-old, same-old, but you’ll definitely need to change them up when the compliance training requirements change).

The best way to handle this is to have an LMS that allows you to update the existing compliance training materials you have on a specific topic (say, for example, OSHA-mandated Fall Prevention & Protection training)

Flexible Assignment Options

Some compliance training may fit in the one-size-fits-all category for everyone in your organization, but in general, your compliance training assignments will need to be much more specific, focused, and targeted. And so you’ll need an LMS that allows you a ton of flexibility in your assignment options.

We discussed this a bit already in addressing the need for an organizational hierarchy and custom groups above. And it’s also going to require a lot of special attention to due dates, expiration dates, and refresher training, which we’ll cover below.

But take this as a general reminder. If you’re thinking of getting an LMS for compliance training purposes, you really want to get under the hook and check out assignment options closely. Write up some use cases for your potential-new LMS first and then give that training assignment engine a meticulous analysis.

Robust Due Date Tracking

It’s often necessary to set and enforce due dates for compliance training. This is usually addressed in the assignment options of the learning management system.

So once again, analyze your compliance training needs and the due date requirements before you begin your LMS search (this is what people mean by “develop your use case for the LMS” before you shop).

Once you’ve got those uses cases together, and have a solid idea of the due date management capabilities you need from your LMS, talk with the LMS provider and use the LMS yourself to see if it will do what you need it to do.


Equally Robust Training Compliance Expiration Tracking

Just as compliance training often has due dates to consider, an employee’s completion of compliance training often “expires” after a certain amount of time (for example, a lot of OSHA-required safety training must be completed yearly).

If you’re in a regulated industry, you’ll want to know if your compliance training expires in this way and, if it does, you want to make sure to get an LMS that manages compliance training expiration.

In particular, look for the following:

  1. Does completion of the compliance training expire, if necessary?
  2. How does that happen? (Typically, it’s managed by a setting during the assignment of compliance training.)
  3. What happens to the employee’s completion status for that compliance training when the expiration period occurs?
  4. Is the employee notified that their completion status is about to expire?
  5. Are managers and/or supervisors notified of an upcoming expiration and/or a real expiration?
  6. Is the previous, expired completion record still stored for records?

Graceful Handling of Refresher Training

Of course, the need for compliance training expiration goes hand-in-hand with the need for refresher training for compliance training. They’re the yin and yang; they’re two sides of the same coin.

So find out how the LMS will make the refresher training available to employees who are about to lose their completion status for compliance training.

Automatic Notifications to Employees

It’s always nice if an LMS has an effective way of notifying employees of key training events. It’s more than nice–it’s essential–for an LMS to do this when it comes to compliance training.

This includes notifications of new assignments; notifications of upcoming due dates; notifications of expired due dates; notifications of upcoming compliance training expiration dates; notifications of expirations of compliance training; notifications of assignment of refresher training for compliance purposes; and more.

Two things to keep an eye on are how the notifications are delivered and how often.

Notifications may be sent via messages within the LMS, to the worker’s normal work email (or personal email), and/or as a text message to the worker’s phone. Figure out what’s best for your workforce and find an LMS that supports that.

Notifications may also be sent at different intervals, escalating in frequency over time as something like a due date or expiration date approaches. See what an LMS you’re considering does and consider what’s best for your compliance training needs.

Automatic Notifications to Supervisors & Managers

To keep on top of compliance training issues, you’ll also want that LMS to send notifications to the supervisors and/or managers of employees.

The same issues apply to these notifications as to notifications sent to employees–what the notifications are about, in which form they arrive, and how often they’re sent.

Quick, Easy, and Accurate Reporting

Reporting is essential for any LMS and that’s more true for compliance training.

Training Dashboards

You’ll want to see that training completion data (and other training data) in a quick, easy to scan visual dashboard that presents mission-critical information. Then you can dive into more data-heavy reports if necessary.

Remember, it’s easier for us to make sense of data that’s presented visually. A well-designed dashboard in an LMS for compliance training can become your everyday best friend.

Guaranteed Data Security & Retention

Of course, you’re going to want to know all that compliance training data in your LMS is secure and it’s retained indefinitely (or as long as you want it retained). Be sure to talk with any potential compliance LMS provider about data security, data retention, frequency of backups, duplicate systems, and more.


Remember to download our LMS Buyer’s Guide, below, for even more helpful tips on finding an LMS for your compliance training needs.

Conclusion: Learning Management Systems Can Greatly Improve Your Training Compliance

No business exists solely for compliance, but for many compliance is part of the cost of doing business (even if the goals are admirable and shared by the organization). An LMS can help an organization with compliance training needs, but it’s important to get an LMS that’s well-suited for your organization’s particular compliance training requirements. We hope this article has helped you begin focusing your compliance LMS search and wish you the best of luck in finding the LMS that works best for you.

For additional assistance on issues related to compliance training and learning management systems, check out the following articles:

And, of course, download the free LMS Buyer’s Guide below for lots of thoughts on compliance and other LMS-related matters!

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Learning Management System (LMS) Buyer’s Guide

Learn what you need to know BEFORE you begin your search and get a free checklist to guide you, too.

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Jeffrey Dalto

Jeffrey Dalto

Jeffrey Dalto is an Instructional Designer and the Senior Learning & Development Specialist at Convergence Training. He's worked in training/learning & development for 25 years, in safety and safety training for more than 10, is an OSHA Authorized Outreach Trainer for General Industry OSHA 10 and 30, has completed a General Industry Safety and Health Specialist Certificate from the University of Washington/Pacific Northwest OSHA Education Center and an Instructional Design certification from the Association of Talent Development (ATD), and is a member of the committee creating the upcoming ANSI/ASSP Z490.2 national standard on online environmental, health, and safety training. Jeff frequently writes for magazines related to safety, safety training, and training and frequently speaks at conferences on the same issues, including the Washington Governor's Safety and Health Conference, the Oregon Governor's Occupational Safety and Health Conference, the Wisconsin Safety Conference, the MSHA Training Resources Applied to Mining (TRAM) Conference, and others.

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