How PLMS Solves the Challenge of Linking Performance and eLearning Software

April 29, 2024

Is there a need for a paradigm shift toward the separation of performance and learning in HR?

At one time, the delineation was clear. Performance management was run by management, while corporate learning management systems lived in HR or distinct departments. Both were essential to productivity and engagement. Both were sought after by workers. Even so, their methods and metrics were separate.

Well, in 2024, a year of consolidation and collaboration in software, that’s starting to change. One Springboard article estimates the skill set for any given job has changed 25% since 2015 and will continue to change a whopping 44% by 2028. This lack of qualified workers isn’t an abstract cost. That’s $1,267 per worker, according to the ATD 2022 State of the Industry report.

But what will the future hold? Should learning objectives be separate from performance goals? Is there a better way to create a framework for HR? Managers, learning and development leaders, and HR department heads alike are all struggling with these questions to improve learning and performance simultaneously.

In this article, we’ll explore the current state of the two fields and how various platforms are stepping up to answer these questions in different ways.

The state of continuous improvement: performance and eLearning in 2024

As we touched on briefly, performance management and learning management have existed together, but have been used separately. 

Performance management systems come around during quarterly or yearly reviews or are used to deliver feedback after various projects. Meanwhile, employees are asked to log into their corporate learning management systems when it’s time to update compliance or during specific learning initiatives.

Learning and development might be run by an HR department, a separate L&D group, or outsourced completely. Performance conversations happen between managers and employees and are used during compensation discussions and planning by middle and upper management.

This model works fine, so why are some organizations starting to consider it? First, as we discussed in G2’s 2024 Technology Trends, complicated tech stacks overwhelm employees and burn them out at high rates, affecting engagement and retention. 

Systems don’t always play nice together. Integrations can be costly. Organizations have to hire in-house support or use ongoing implementation support. All of this means wasted time, money, and ROI. And if you want to change one thing, well, that could mean upsetting the whole ecosystem.

That’s why, in this article, we’re examining several trends in performance and learning and development. We’ll look at current platforms, how they work, and potential use cases. Let’s dive in.

Learning that impacts performance: learning experience platforms (LXP)

When learning experience platforms (LXP) burst onto the scene in the 2010s, it promised to be an answer for better eLearning. A term created by HR expert Josh Bersin, these learning platforms push personalization to make learning more effective with custom learning pathways and AI recommendations.

Ultimately, the big difference between a corporate LMS and an LXP is that the learning experience platforms focus on creating more personalized options that encourage the learner to take a more active role. 

While the LMS is still the main course for many companies, LXPs drive performance with AI-driven insights and personalization. G2 category leaders as of April 2024 include well-known industry standards such as Docebo, Udemy Business, LinkedIn Learning, Absorb LMS, and Viva Learning.

Every LXP has an explicit purpose of impacting ROI. Docebo’s platform comes with a way to measure the impact of learning and acts as a business intelligence tool. Udemy Business offers a data science module. LinkedIn Learning offers various data insights. Though learning is more directed, managing performance is ultimately kept separate.

While they’re the most popular in IT and services and computer software, they’re used in multiple industries. Notably, from March 2023 to March 2024, LXP reviews came from retail (10.8%), higher education (9.6%), financial services (9.6%), and education management (around 5%).

For organizations looking for customization, this model can yield excellent results, but for those who want closer parity between performance and learning, let’s look to the next model.

Side by side, yet integrated: suites with corporate LMS and PMS

Platforms have been bringing learning and performance together in the same solution for a while. Product suites spanning multiple categories offer a model that runs things separately but has them side by side.

Bridge, for example, bills itself as an “LMS & employee development platform.” It provides a wide variety of capabilities: the course authoring and eLearning of an LMS, employee development with AI learning recommendations and skill development plans, and a host of performance features. Users can get either the “Learn” or “Perform” plan or combine both in one with the “Learn + Platform.”

The same is true of the product Zavvy, a deel product. Its large suite of options includes onboarding, career development, training, feedback, and engagement. They stress a model of performance management with learning, suggesting specific skills in response to low scores in feedback sessions. 

Meanwhile, In the product eLeap, we see a focus on aligning performance reviews, employee engagement, and learning in what they call a “people success platform.”

On the one hand, this offers some of the best of both worlds—defined tools for each objective and a line of shared data. On the other hand, having two essential functions handled by one suite means lesser flexibility if a company needs to switch out a tool. That brings us to another option.

A new framework: performance learning management systems (PLMS)

We’ve now seen how these frameworks can be interlinked, but what happens when the models are two in one? 

One newer approach is the performance learning management system (PLMS) introduced by Acorn PLMS. Instead of simply allowing them to exist side-by-side, a PLMS can do both and integrate the two in a way that goes beyond the superficial.

Acorn PLMS has created a platform that incorporates both with the idea that skills are too disparate from performance goals. The ultimate goal is to enable leaders and learners to have meaningful conversations and identify contextual learning, thereby improving the tech stack. 

Acorn PLMS uses  “capabilities,” measurements that combine learning and performance outcomes into one. Like LXP systems, the learning provided is personalized and AI-guided. Unlike LXP, learners don’t have to go to another system or exit the performance conversation. They are one and the same.

“Corporations are sitting on a powder keg of employee emotions on the topic of performance reviews. It’s been done so poorly for so long that some people have just checked out,” said Keith Metcalfe, president at Acorn PLMS. “That's why we introduced the concept of PLMS. People struggle to tell others things they don’t want to hear. Performance and learning conversations belong together. Technology can make this easier,” he continued.

The idea is that delivering harsh feedback is made easier by turning it into a clear learning objective. Users go from, I need to improve X, Y, Z, to a clear resource. The software connects to a capabilities library, similar to skills management applications. 

What sets it apart is the API and overlaying framework, which can sit on top of preexisting eLearning and performance management systems and integrate them. Though other eLearning solutions integrate via API,  a PLMS specifically combines learning and performance objectives into one and doesn’t need to switch from one software to another.

“People don’t have the time to navigate thousands of courses. The company needs to know which courses will help each person in their specific role. People don’t want to be overwhelmed with content. They need to know what to learn to be better at their job. This is what they care about.”

Blake Proberts
CEO and Founder, Acorn PLMS

Combining learning objects and performance objectives may not be the best fit for organizations where learning isn’t as closely aligned with performance goals. However, for organizations where upskilling is vital, a PLMS creates a way to demonstrate ROI directly without moving between tech solutions. 

Before we conclude, let’s look at what the G2 data says about what’s happening in L&D and performance right now.

G2 insights on performance management and corporate LMS

Performance management has experienced many peaks and valleys when it comes to new category reviews in the past 12 months but ultimately received a nearly 50% increase when comparing March 2024 to March 2023. Corporate LMS had unsteady performance, ending at a nearly 24% decrease.

Ultimately, performance management reviews are on an upward trend, albeit unsteadily, while Corporate LMS’s trajectory is too unsteady to track.

In terms of segmentation, both performance management and corporate LMS are used most heavily by mid-market users, with the biggest spike in usage coming in October. Enterprise is close behind with the small business segment seeing the lowest number. This shows that mid-market segment companies have the greatest use for these solutions. 

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Performance management and corporate LMS in 2025 and beyond

When it comes to eLearning and performance, we’ve seen several models that work. 

Whether it's keeping the two separate, using AI-driven insights to drive personalization and improve performance, having a side-by-side yet integrated suite model, or the new PLMS model, each offers advantages that can help an organization upskill and retain its best providers.

We have many questions left to answer. How will leaders tackle the disconnect between performance goals and learning objectives in 2025 and beyond? Will combining performance and learning become the norm, or will organizations desire a distinction? It depends, of course, on the size of the organization, its business objects, and its resources.

The most important place to start is with the role of learning in your organization. What’s the number one most important learning objective? For example, an LXP could be the best fit for continuous and self-driven learning. A PLMS provides ways to align learning and performance when performance is the key. Software solutions where performance and learning live side-by-side provide a little from both worlds. From there, figuring out the software that best aligns is simpler.

Combining performance management and corporate learning has the potential to be a powerful tool for upskilling and addressing the all-important skills gap. We’re excited to see where it goes and what innovations the future brings.

Learn more about performance management systems and how they work.

Edited by Jigmee Bhutia

Performance Management Software
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How PLMS Solves the Challenge of Linking Performance and eLearning Software Does performance management and eLearning need a new model to adapt to the common era? Read on to learn how vendors are adapting in the software space.
Grace Savides Grace Savides is a Market Research Analyst who loves discussing all things HR. She enjoys exploring where the theory, policies, and data-driven side of the industry interacts with the unpredictable and ever-important human elements. Before G2, she worked in content marketing, social media, health care, and editing. She dedicates her leisure time to video games, painting, DND, and spending time with her wonderful boyfriend and two dogs.