Imagine this: It’s the end of a full day of management workshops at an L&D conference in a city you’re not familiar with. You ask a new contact who lives in the city for restaurant recommendations, and here’s what she says.

“There’s this great diner not far from here; the food is reliable and the same servers have been there forever. It’s a bit hard to find because it’s tucked away in a corner of a strip mall, and sometimes there’s a line because you can’t seat yourself. The fixed menu doesn’t change very often and every item has a number, so you give your order on a piece of paper to the server, who then fetches it for you. It’s not quick, but it’s decent food if you don’t like surprises.

“If you’re more adventurous, there’s another buffet place around the corner: you can’t miss it because of the big welcome sign at the entrance. It’s open concept, where you seat and serve yourself, but the wait staff are always on hand to answer questions. The buffet itself is glorious: you can wander around to look at everything before you fill your plate with whatever you like. They’re always adding new dishes, and it’s becoming very popular with the locals.”

If you’re like me, you’ll choose the buffet option. Who wants to get lost on the way to a restaurant, wait to get in, and then wait again to be served items from an old menu? I’d rather visit the restaurant that’s designed to encourage me to explore what they offer, rather than managing or limiting my choices!

Let’s talk about your LMS

Now then. Which of these two options best describes your organization’s current learning management system? Does your LMS offer a buffet of learning, with easy access and freedom of choice? Or does it stop people at the door, assign them seating, and restrict their choices of what and how to nourish their workplace knowledge and skills?

If it’s the latter, it’s time to make some low- or no-cost renovations to your learning management system that will benefit not only your employees, but ultimately, your organization’s learning culture.

Note that your organization’s learning designers, developers, and LMS team cannot go ahead with these low-cost LMS “renos” without management approval. So give them the go-ahead to refresh your LMS with these four easy upgrades.

Create an interesting title for each course

Just because a course is mandatory doesn’t mean it can’t be interesting. Piquing employees’ interest in a course starts with its title, so give your learning designers permission to come up with title or headlines that provoke curiosity, not yawns. Consider the difference between these eLearning course titles: OHS123: Occupational Health and Safety versus Make it Home for Supper: Five Ways to Stay Safe on the Job. Which sounds more interesting? Remember, a title doesn’t change the content of the course, but it does make a powerful first impression.

Add an appealing image

Learning and graphic designers choose and/or create illustrations, images, and infographics with care. If your LMS gives you the option, why not give learners a sneak preview of what’s inside the course by adding a beautiful and representative image? This simple upgrade could change your LMS from a dull, all-text course catalog, to a visually appealing learning menu that shows AND tells employees what to expect in each course. (Not sure what that could look like? Think of your favorite streaming service, online news source, or social media feed—all of which now lead with images; followed by clever captions and then program details.)

Add content tags to each course description

If your LMS has a search function, use it! Add content tags in addition to the metadata you already assign to each course, so curious employees can find everything your organization has to offer on a particular topic. Wouldn’t it help someone who’s interested in safety practices to find all safety-related courses, videos, and job aids that are available, regardless of the audience? Reading more than what’s required is actually something positive and should not be discouraged.

Open all courses to everyone

Which leads me to my last suggestion, scratch that, plea to L&D managers: please instruct your team to make all the courses in your LMS available to all employees! It’s a lot of unnecessary administrative work to restrict access to courses, and it absolutely sends an outdated message about your organization’s attitude toward learning. Lose the locked-down, “fixed menu” of rule-based courses, and transform your LMS into a veritable buffet of learning! Let your employees see everything that’s available to them, and give them permission to feast on all the courses they are interested in.

You will still need to assign certain courses to certain employees, but there is no need to restrict anyone from learning unless the course touches on a highly secret or truly sensitive topic. So what if warehouse employees want to take management-level courses? Let them! Curious, ambitious employees with initiative and an intrinsic motivation to learn more are the ones you want to keep! Remember, when people are interested in learning more about a topic and your organization doesn’t or won’t offer information to satisfy their curiosity, they’ll turn to other sources where they can easily find what they’re looking for.

If you transform your LMS into a veritable buffet of learning, your employees will eat it up and hunger for more!