Which comes first – HRIS vs LMS (learning platform)?

Table of Contents

For many small to medium organisations on a digital transformation pathway, there is often a moment of choice: shall we first implement a new human resources information system (HRIS) or shall we start with a new online learning platform? HRIS vs LMS?

For some organisations, they have the capacity to implement both platforms at the same time. However, some organisations may be concerned about their ability to implement two platforms and wonder which to start with first.

Let’s consider both aspects at play here.

  • What’s the effort in setting up a HRIS vs LMS (learning platform)?
  • How can a HRIS vs LMS (learning platform) assist with strategic goals?
  • HRIS vs LMS (learning platform) – which should be implemented first?

What’s the effort in setting up a HRIS vs LMS (learning platform)?

First, what is the effort involved in these platforms? Let’s consider effort from several points of view: stakeholders, data and implementation.


For an HRIS, the stakeholders are small and defined. It is largely the human resources team with potential input from the finance team if payroll is integrated into the HRIS. The IT team may also be heavily involved given the HRIS stores both personal and sensitive data about employees and may need to integrate with other systems.

For an online learning platform, everyone is a stakeholder. The human resources and/or training teams may lead the way, but all managers and employees are likely to use a learning platform on a regular basis. While an HRIS may also have employee portals, that is not always the case, and HRIS employee portals are accessed less regularly by general employees than a training portal is.

At first glance, it may seem like an HRIS, with a tighter group of stakeholders, is a better place to start. It can appear more manageable. Certainly, from a project management point of view, fewer stakeholders are better.


Next up is data management. In an HRIS, data management is significantly more complex than in an online learning platform. To get a meaningful benefit from an HRIS, it must become the central system for all employee reporting. This can amount to a mountain of data to prepare, clean and coordinate.

In comparison, data management in online learning systems is comparatively straight-forward. Training can begin with the most simple of user data (name and email are often enough) and gain complexity as required over time.

Preparing the data for an HRIS is often a 3-6 month process, whereas preparing the data for an online learning platform is often a 3-6 day process (or even less).


The final issue in effort is one of implementation.

For an HRIS, there is a smaller group of stakeholders…but with significant implementation workloads. Every single aspect of an HRIS needs to be customised during implementation – there is very, very little opportunity to ‘plug and play’ or achieve quick wins. For employees, the interface for an HRIS is often relatively more complex too. HRIS are typically designed for administrators, with employee portals a secondary issue (especially as employees may only access their HRIS periodically). Change management issues and employee training after often higher for an HRIS roll-out.

For an online learning platform, implementation is comparatively simple. While custom training content can require work to create, initial implementation is often able to generate quick wins with ready-made training content. Training platforms, by their very nature, are designed for ease of use by employees. Most employees have used an online training platform before and are familiar with concepts of enrolment and completion. Most employees can implement a training platform in their role in minutes with minimal instructions or effort.

Online training platforms are also far easy to roll-out in stages. It’s simple to run pilot programs with teams and slowly roll-out training across the organisation. The implementation of an HRIS tends to be more of a ‘big bang’ since its functions require everyone to be moved to the new platform at once.

How can a HRIS vs LMS (learning platform) assist with strategic goals?

While effort is one consideration, the potential return should be the other consideration. We can consider return as a combination of the scope of issues addressed along with the time required for benefits to accrue.


Implementing an HRIS has immediate benefits for the human resources team. It may also have benefits for other teams, such as payroll or training. However, those teams are likely to already have business processes in place. An HRIS may only provide incremental improvements for payroll or training teams.

Nevertheless, the human resources team is likely to see immediate benefits in efficiency and accuracy. So, if the efficiency of human resources activities or the accuracy of employee data are key organisational goals, then an HRIS may need to be prioritised.

Employee onboarding can also usually be made more efficient by an HRIS, as can annual employee review processes. Once again, business processes are likely to exist for both of those functions, so an HRIS is about improving efficiency or accuracy. If the organisation is undergoing extremely high new employee growth or having significant problems with its annual employee review processes, then an HRIS may need to be prioritised.

Alternatively, improvements in business processes around those areas may also be a solution. Certainly, however, the larger your organisation, then the more critical an HRIS becomes for solving issues of personal data, payroll accuracy, employee onboarding or performance reviews. As your organisation reaches 500-1,000 employees in multiple locations, then an HRIS can become a very useful platform.

An online training platform can also be a solution to these problems. Better training for managers on performance review discussions or automated employee induction training (which moves beyond simple onboarding and into actual induction) can be provided by an online training platform.

An online training platform is more likely to address a wider range of strategic goals too. Improvements in sales, reductions in errors, better team management or stronger compliance processes are all addressed by an online training platform. Business process cannot address poor management skills, non-compliant behaviours or lack of knowhow with internal systems. This is where training needs to kick in and provide missing knowledge.


A final consideration is that of time – time for the scope of change to have an impact.

An HRIS delivers almost immediate change. Improvements in accuracy and efficiency in human resource and payroll data should be almost immediate.

An online learning platform delivers change both immediately and over time. Some training can deliver immediate impact – eliminating mistakes in common processes or knowledge, or ensuring compliance with required behaviours or regulations are two common examples.

Training also delivers change over time. In fact, some training requires time in order to generate its benefits. Training in soft skills, including business development, sales or service, often requires time for change to occur. New skills must be tested and refined, new tools or processes may need to be developed, or the opportunity to implement new ideas must occur.

This issue of timing is very important. If a strategic goal is to reduce mistakes or improve sales, then delays in appropriate training create compounded delays in achieving those strategic goals. If you wait six months to deliver training on a strategic goal, and that training takes 3-6 months to embed and have an impact on strategic outcomes, then the initial delay is critical.

HRIS vs LMS (learning platform) – which should be implemented first?

Chicken or egg. Which came first?

It is true that an HRIS can assist every employee in an organisation. However, the range of strategic goals which an HRIS can address is significantly less than the reach of an online learning platform. The typical benefits of an HRIS are also more keenly felt at large scale, where business process struggles to provide a solution without improved IT.

For large organisations, or for organisations which have identified strategic goals in employee onboarding (not employee induction), payroll accuracy or employee data management, then an HRIS should be a priority.

However, for the vast majority of organisations – and particularly small to medium organisations – an online learning platform is more likely to be the priority.

  • An online learning platform has easier data management and significantly faster implementation, reducing bottlenecks in providing assistance for strategic goals.
  • An online learning platform can assist with a wider scope of strategic goals.
  • Delaying an online learning platform can compound delays in providing required assistance for strategic goals.

Put simply, prioritising at HRIS can add 3-9 months of delay for the implementation of an online training platform, which may then have another 3-6 months of delay for the impact of some training activities on strategic goals. Alternatively, an online training platform can be up and running in weeks. Attention can then turn to an HRIS while the benefits of the training processes begin to accrue towards strategic goals.


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