To improve CX, bring bite-sized training to frontline branch employees

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And now, without any further delay, let’s begin today’s event. Once again, to improve the customer experience, bringing bite-sized training to frontline branch employees. Sponsored by Axonify and hosted by American Banker. I would like to introduce your moderator for today, and that is Mike Sisk. Mike, the floor is now yours.



Thanks very much Kristina, and I would like to welcome the audience once again. We are very, very grateful that you have chosen to share some of your busy day with us. We know that your time is valuable and we will honor that today with what I am confident is gonna be an enlightening 60 minutes or so of discussion. Once again, our topic today is “To improve the customer experience, bring bite-sized training to frontline branch employees. And my name is Mike Sisk. I will be your moderator.

I’ve been a New York based journalist about 20 years. I’m a contributing editor at American Banker and my articles have also appeared in Barron’s, Crain’s New York Business, Inc, Institutional Investor, Strategy+Business, and Worth. And I am very pleased to introduce our featured speaker today, JD Dillon. JD is principal learning strategist at Axonify. JD has spent 15 years designing and implementing learning and performance strategies for respected global organizations including the Walt Disney Company, Caplin, Brambles, and AMC Theaters. With his practical approach and ability to integrate science, technology, storytelling, and pure common sense, JD delivers modern solutions that enable employees, improve organizational performance, and drive business results.

In his current role with Axonify, JD works with an award winning team to boost employee knowledge and performance for leading organizations through the application of modern learning practices and cutting edge technology. And we are very, very pleased to have JD with us today. And, just before we jump into the actual program, I wanted to reiterate one thing that Kristina mentioned, and that is that we do have time at the end for Q&A. Usually, we set aside 10 or 15 minutes or so, and you don’t have to wait until the end to put your question in the queue. You can do that throughout the hour as it occurs to you, and we encourage you to do that. If for some reason you put in a question we don’t get to it, sometimes we run out of time, sometimes it’s just a question is better addressed in a one on one, we will, in any event, if we don’t get to your question, we will definitely follow up afterward.

So, your voice will be heard. Please do ask away. We definitely want to hear from you. So, that kind of brings me to the end of my little opening spiel. I will be back a little bit later to help out with the Q&A, but right now I’d like to turn things over to JD to really kick things off. JD, please take it away.


JD Dillon:

Thanks, Mike. And hi everybody. And another thank you for joining us today. I’m coming to you from lovely Raleigh, North Carolina. So, I’m actually speaking at the Training Industry even this week, so I figured I’d mention that just in case any of you are in Raleigh, North Carolina or are attending the Training Industry event, you can say hi. But I’m typically from Orlando, Florida. You heard in my bio that I work for Disney. I live about a half a mile behind Cinderella Castle. Because of my Disney experience, I take any opportunity to travel north of Florida because it’s kind of warm and if you live in Florida, you know what I’m talking about.

So, thanks hanging out with me today for the next 45 minutes or so, so we can talk about learning but also not talk about learning. So, I would like the focus of today … You kind of see the agenda on slide. But, the focus of today is not necessarily about learning. What I’d really like us thinking about and kind of this to be the beginning, or maybe you’re already in this conversation, but potentially the beginning of a conversation about how your business is evolving and how that impacts the needs of your people and how you can more effectively support them within your business within the financial services industry.

And that’s really, again, where I want this conversation to come from rather than think about learning or training first, because it’s really about this continued evolution of the customer experience inside of your business, right? At one point, it was entirely a physical world. People talking to one another in a physical place, the phone’s introduced and then ultimately we get the digital transformation of business. And now, we haven’t shifted entirely that way. We’re doing a lot of things on our phones, but we’re not doing everything on our phones, so it’s almost like a bionic experience today where people are making decisions as to when do they want to engage with a person in person or over the phone and when do they want to engage and take care of things and solve problems themselves using the tools that your organizations are providing.

And what we see is that that hybrid is not completely shifted, where you see upwards of 90% of customers still enjoy the opportunity to go to a brick and mortar location to engage with a person when they have a question that requires a more complex answer. And again, it’s really that evolution and digitalization of your business, and I’m sure you hear the word agility a lot, but how can you as learning and development professionals continue to help your people transform alongside the business and alongside the needs of your customers to make sure that in a competitive space with high regulation and kind of constantly changing products that you can remain competitive and compliant and help your people do what they need to do to be successful every day.

And to add a little bit more flavor behind kind of the evolution of client behavior and how that impacts the needs of your associates, you can see here research from McKinsey that speaks to at what point do people potentially look at different types of solutions or types of engagements with your organization? When do they potentially look at going into a branch or physically touching an atm versus doing something entirely in their pocket with a remote device? And showing that globally, there’s still a split in terms of how people are engaging with your business and when you focus down on the United States, you still see a heavy amount of engagement with your associates within your branches or within your sales teams or the specific type of business that you run within financial services.

And what it really comes down to is that when people interact with your employees, when clients come into a branch and they engage, they are now more armed with information than they ever have been before, and that concept applies across the board, across all types of businesses. Personally, I can speak to, when I bought a car, I know nothing about cars, but I knew more about that car than anyone on Earth before I made the decision. So, when I was going into it with sales people, I knew what I was talking about because the internet exists and I can look up a lot of information. And the same is true of your business.

People are coming in armed with research and background and they have a certain expectation as to how your associates should be able to support them and answer their questions and build their trust, else they’ll look at other opportunities. So, in a lot of cases, they may even walk through the door more informed than your employees, and that’s kind of the situation we’re looking to avoid, so that your people can provide the right type of support needed based on where the client is in their journey and what they’re looking to achieve.

And what it ultimately comes down to is when you’re people aren’t armed with the right type of information, when they can’t keep up with the business, when they don’t have the depth of knowledge they need to establish that trust, to make that sale, you lose opportunities as a business. So, that’s where you don’t see upsell opportunities or you don’t see cross selling of products, or you’re not able to provide the level of satisfaction that’s gonna get you the loyalty and the customer satisfaction scores that you’re looking for.

And ultimately, we have seen that customers are very willing to make a switch when they have a poor customer service experience. So, what it comes down to is while your organization may have great products, great services, a great strategy, if your people aren’t properly enabled to execute on that strategy within, obviously, the realms of regulation, and to the standards that you set for your clients, people may make a decision to walk away.

So, again, rather than just think about learning today, hopefully everything we’re talking about is within that framework of the need to evolve your people alongside the continued evolution of your business. And it ultimately comes down to how does this impact us? So if you’re a learning and development professional like me, you know I spent most of my career in enterprise roles across a variety of different industries. It comes down to the fact that what we have traditionally done, the message we’ve used for a very long time simply aren’t hitting the mark anymore when it comes to this type of a workplace, this type of an evolution of business, and the level of compliance and regulatory requirements and how fast they move in your world.

So, why do some of these methodologies fall short? Well, most traditional training methods, whether it be putting people into a classroom or scheduling them to complete lengthy e-learning and online modules, it removes them from the job. So, there’s a disruption there and often that’s hard for the operation to overcome. I know in my experience I had to chase a lot of people to go to the training and I had to have conversations with managers to try to get people out of the operation because they tend not to overstaff. They’re running with the number of people they need in order to do the job, so you’re looking at disruption in the operation when you’re trying to impart new information and to provide training.

A lot of traditional training’s a one and done event, so people go to a room, they’re told a lot of information, and then they leave the room and it’s expected that they now know and they can do something different, and that’s simply not how learning works. You know, the fire hose of information, especially in an onboarding or a new introduction to a role type of experience simply doesn’t line up with how learning actually works and ultimately people forget and can’t effectively use a lot of that information.

On top of that, nothing happens after the session. So, again, I go to a class, I’m there for two hours, I leave, and then if I don’t use that information right away, I’m likely to not remember when the time comes. So, it’s missing that reinforcement side that’s gonna sustain that information and make that classroom potentially a powerful event. In a lot of cases, training unfortunately is something that is done to people not something that people engage with. I know we’ve all had, you’ve had the experience where you’ve had required corporate training, and it was the opposite of fun, in a lot of cases. You clicked next to continue a lot. It was not engaging. You don’t necessarily remember what you did. You just had to get to the end so you could check the box that everything was compliant to that point.

People now have options. The bar is raised in terms of what is engaging content and engaging experiences in everyday life, and employees recognize that when they take training, when they complete an e-learning experience. So, that also lessens the impact of a potential training, and ultimately what it comes up to is that these methods, the ability to schedule people out for classes, these lengthy e-learning modules, they simply don’t allow you to keep pace with the business, because if there’s a change in regulation and you have to implement across your entire organization in a matter of weeks, the traditional cycles of building and deploying large scale content over the course of months simply doesn’t keep up with what the business needs today.

SO, one thing I wanna make sure everyone here is keeping in mind is that this is not a from and to conversation. This isn’t a complete before and after. I am in no way saying that you need to get rid of everything you’re doing today. The classroom is not dead. Regardless of how many articles you read that say things are dead. Classroom is not dead. E-learning is not dead. However, because they have traditionally been the default, the only thing in our tool kit, that’s where the problem is. So, what I’d like to challenge everyone here today to think about how you can use these tactics differently with some of the principals we’ll be talking about as we start to introduce the concept of microlearning.

So, again, it’s not about completely throwing everything you’re doing today, it’s about thinking about the tactics differently and using them in their optimal way so that people can get what they need and your business is successful. Here’s an image of what traditionally learning looks like, and this borrowed from two very smart gentlemen, Bob Moser and Conrad Dockerson. And if you look at the green component, that’s what we tend to be very good at today in enterprise learning. People don’t have a high degree of knowledge, they come into an event, they take a course, they take a series of workshops, their knowledge increases. But, then what happens after?

I already talked about a lack of reinforcement. The just simple fact that people forget, and that ability to execute declines rapidly over time. You’ve probably heard references to Ebbinghaus’s Forgetting Curve. There’s a lot of other research and information out there that validates the fact that if people don’t use information quickly, they simply lose it over time, and then when they are challenged by that client, they’re not ready to execute. They can’t get the job done, the client experience suffers.

So, what we’re talking about today is how to fill in the blue parts on the right hand of this graph. How do we sustain and extend that competency that comes out of training, out of initial introduction to new information and make sure that the true value of training and learning is recognized is that ability to continuously improve, to make decisions, to solve problems, and to execute for your business with your client at the moment of need. So, that’s our goal in the conversation today, and hopefully I’m gonna show you how we’re helping organizations do that with Axonify, especially within financial services.

So, we do a compare and contrast. We talked about where some of traditional tactics fall short. What type of things do we need to introduce from a modern learning tactic perspective? What’s pieces are missing that we can add into the mix that’s gonna support the needs of a modern workforce. So, for it really to be a modern learning strategy, certain things need to be in play. First, we need to talk about continuous learning. It’s reality that we’re always learning all the time, largely by doing our work, but the way that we support people has to match up with the fact that people are always learning and evolving. So, our learning and training tactics have to be continuous in nature, as well.

We talk about microlearning, you’re gonna think or you’ve heard a lot about microlearning in terms of the definition and you’ve probably heard short chunks, shorter content, these types of ideas. It’s really about helping things be focused so that people can more easily digest the content. If I told you to go learn information, read a whole book over one day, you’re not gonna come back with a lot of that information. You’re gonna come away with pieces and parts of it.

So how do we make learning more easily consumed and digestible so that people can iteratively improve over time and continuously learn? How can we help people learn from one another? How can we help source the best information available within your organization so that once one person in one branch solves a problem, that problem can be overcome in another part of the country because you’re thinking about learning in a collaborative way. How can we make it engaging but make training something that people actually want to do, not something that’s done to them? How can we get it closer to the work day?

As I said, historically as a training manager, my problem is always getting people off the job, especially when I worked in a call center environment. If you support a call center of any type, you know that you don’t take people off the phone. That’s rule number one. So how do we get our ability to help people and help them learn more strategically closer to the job so they don’t have to step away for extended periods of time?

Device agnostic is a low bar at this point. People should be able to get the information they need wherever they are. So, if you’re supporting folks who work inside a branch on desktop computers, it should be there. If you’re supporting a remote sales force and they’re walking with tablets, it should be there. So, it’s really about making sure that the support they need is on whatever device they use to do their job, not a situation where they, again, have to step away and go find the training computer, which is another barrier friction point in the learning experience. And focus on high value topics, right?

Instead of trying to teach people everything they potentially need to know ever to do this type of job, what are the specific things that they’re struggling with and the specific things your business is struggling with so that you can focus on what’s gonna deliver the most value to the individual and the business long term.

So, this is a set of things that we need to be thinking about when we transition from what I’ve termed traditional learning development tactics to modern work force and modern learning strategies. And finally, I already mentioned this in terms of the devices, but that point of need, where and when people need support.

So, that’s transitions me into this idea of microlearning. So, given that microlearning is probably the most popular conversation in workplace learning for the last year to year and a half or so. I would guess everyone here has heard the word or you’ve been to another presentation, you’ve read 17 different articles, and I’m willing to bet they’ve also all said different things, but they’ve probably centered around concepts like, and I already mentioned shorter content. You’ve probably heard someone say microlearning’s all about video, or microlearning’s great for the millennials and these different types of things.

What I hope to do in the next slide is kind of center the conversation around a particular definition. In learning and development, we’re not great at defining things very consistently. If anyone here has a solid definition of e-learning, I would love to see it, because I still don’t know what e-learning is and I’ve been around for a little while. But what we’re trying to do in presentations like this and in the variety of things that I write is kind of break away from the noise, the hype around microlearning and help people really, not necessarily think about the word microlearning, but the set of principals that are proven to be impactful and to help overcome the challenges we’ve talked about in terms of traditional learning.

So, in order to provide a definition so that as we continue down that kind of how’s or microlearning, you know what I mean by this term. We’re specifically talking about an approach that delivers short, focused content. So, focused on a specific, meaningful objective to the business that fits into the workflow that’s engaging, that aligns with how people actually learn and that focuses on providing the right support to the right person at the right time.

So, to summarize that definition on screen, it’s really about helping better fit what you do in trying to help your associates learn and get better at their jobs into the reality of that associate. If you’re in a branch or you’re traveling for a particular reason or you work in a call center environment, what have you, what does their day look like? What are the demands that are put on them by the organization and their manager, and how do we fit our ability to help them do their jobs better into that day to day rather than always have to remove them from the job for extended periods of time and then face the fact that it’s so hard to do that we can’t provide much in terms of training and support, and that’s why people maybe go to training once a quarter. They go to your L&S once in a while when something’s required. You do a lot of chasing.

We wanna get away from that experience into a world where people can engage with learning and support opportunities every day based on their particular needs. That’s what microlearning means to me, and hopefully that’s of interest and kind of the world that everyone here would like to see evolve inside your organizations. That’s what we’re talking about today.

So, to really take a step back, again, I said microlearning’s been the biggest source of conversation in workplace learning globally for the last year, year and a half. Why? Why are we suddenly hearing about this word? Why is this concept suddenly so popular? What’s changed in our world that makes these type of principals more important than ever? Well, there’s kind of three key considerations in play here. I’m gonna go through them pretty quickly to help you understand why should you care about microlearning, and why is now the right time to start talking about this with your teams and start introducing this into your organization.

And the first, I’ve already touched on multiple times, is the evolution of the workplaces. It’s the demands on your associates, on your employees, what’s expected of them in order to function within your business. I’ve never met anyone in any life of business that’s ever said to me “My employees have all of the time they need to learn. They’ve got all the extra time. You can pull them away whenever you want.” People are time starved and resource limited. So how do we support that world and an ever changing world of business around them with better learning and support tactics?

So, first, the needs of the modern employee have shifted because the workplace continues to evolve around them. They also have increasing knowledge demands. Roles have consistently shifted around individuals where in the past maybe their biggest consideration within a bank was making sure their til was balanced. Now, at this point, they’re acting in a much more consultative manner. They’re engaging with more informed consumers. And ultimately what it comes down to is when they don’t have the knowledge necessary to execute in today’s type of business world, it’s expensive for you because they’re making mistakes that are potentially losing you customers and potentially challenging your regulatory status.

So, in this world, knowledge is even more important and the abilities of your associates are more important, and it’s a constantly moving target. The second piece is learning science. We finally remembered that learning is a science. We’re finally not forgetting that people forget. We’re finally starting to talk about and there are a lot more conversations and books coming out around practical learning science topics. So things like using tactics around space repetition. The idea that the more often you’re exposed to information, the more likely you are to retain it. When you go a long time without seeing a piece of information, you’re likely to forget it. It’s relatively common sense, but it’s things that we forgot to apply, ironically, in a lot of the strategies that we’re applying.

There’s also the consideration of retrieval practice. So, if anyone here has ever used flash cards, you know how effective that can be in terms of helping you remember. It’s more effective to recall information for long term retention than it is to shove information into your head more consistently. So, this idea of applying retrieval practice. The idea of deep encoding and confidence based assessment. It’s not just about having people prepared with the knowledge they need to do the job. They need to be confident enough to execute. Pardon me as I cough on mute.

Sorry about that. People need the confidence to be able to execute at the moment. So, really helping people deeply encode information in memory so that it’s top of mind when they need to pull out in order to serve a customer with a particular piece of information about a product, a process, they’re more ready to recall.

And finally there’s the technology side because maybe for a long time, you might have been like I was in a past role where I wanted to do more. I wanted to have more practice exercises after people left the classroom, but I couldn’t get the people back. I couldn’t reach them. They weren’t logging into the learning management system. There were barriers in between me and the people I was trying to help. Technology has evolved that challenge in such a way where we now have more potential access points. So, it’s everything from more agile learning technology, so it’s not about enterprise learning systems that take seven clicks to play a video anymore.

The rise of social media. People are increasingly savvy in terms of their alternatives and the way that they use information. Search is a default behavior for pretty much everyone using technology today. People are coming to the workplace with a set of technological behaviors that we can leverage and our technology in the workplace is evolving around it to the point where bring your own device is an increasingly regular thing around the world. We work with organizations that 100% of the training is taking place on people’s personal devices, and a lot of that’s taking place away from the office, because that’s where the individual prefers to complete that type of experience and maybe it’s on the train ride into work or maybe it’s, in my case, I do a lot of my training while I’m on the corner waiting for an Uber to show up.

So, it’s those, using those moments in the day more effectively because technology is getting us closer and closer to the places that people are doing their job every day. So, again, we talk about microlearning suddenly so popular. It’s these three different factors that are enabling a shift in the way that we apply our tactics and the way we can introduce some of these new ideas into the mix as we evolve our learning strategy to match the pace of our business, and hopefully this is making sense so far. Again, if you have any questions or things that you want me to specifically address, we’re gonna leave plenty of time for questions at the end, so drop those into the Q&A module. And I’ll also be providing my contact information at the end if you have a specific question about your organization, because there’s only so much you can cover in 45 minutes.

But, hopefully you kind of set the stage of why is microlearning so potentially impactful for a business today. So, now let’s kind of focus down on what do I mean by microlearning? What does this potentially start to look like and why is it set up in such a way that is gonna really help drive your business forward through the behaviors and knowledge of your people. So, the first method or first kind of thing to keep in mind is delivering personalized relevant training to employees that they need to do the job.

We talked about microlearning. Yes, it tends to be a shorter experience for an employee. We’re going from a world, maybe yo have a course that’s called Customer Service, and you try to cover everything about customer service. That’s counter intuitive to how microlearning works and everything I talked about so far, because maybe that 45 minute course has a lot of great information in it, but people cant’ remember that information that they sit down and stare at for 45 minutes. So, we’re talking about personalized and relevant training. Breaking things down so they’re focused very specifically on what people need to do in an engaging way. So, rather than have that course called Customer Service, you might have very specific video modules that are maybe three minutes in length that focus on a very specific customer behavior.

So, maybe it’s specifically about greeting or specifically about follow up. Those key elements are gonna help your customer service improve measurably as a business, not just general customer service ideas. And then, because it’s more specific, it’s more relevant to the individual. And we’ll talk about adaptive learning a little bit, but the idea that once you’ve broken things down people can then either choose or be assigned the right content based on their particular needs, so it’s not about everyone taking everything anymore and everyone has to take the whole customer service class. Now it’s about which pieces do I need because I’ve identified that I have a particular challenge in that one area.

So, it’s that personalized relevant training that makes microlearning impactful and successful. We’ve talked about this a lot already, but engaging employees with on the job training woven into the work day. So, when we talk about the delivery of microlearning we’re again talking about getting these types of experiences, these short form, focused content moments as close to the work day as possible. So, let’s imagine in one of your environments, your employees come into work and maybe there’s typically a lull at the very beginning of the day. Maybe there’s a good five to 10 minute chunk after people kind of sit down, get settled, where they don’t really get engaged operationally yet.

How could you benefit from using those five to 10 minutes? How could the employee get a little bit of information in those five to 10 minute? Because it’s not about, people don’t always have to go to a two hour class to learn everything. They could do something in that time they have available. So, I work with a lot of organization where we, again, look for those moments in the day where we can introduce a microlearning session. And again, if that’s five minutes at the start of the day, and again, I’ll use my call center experience as an example.

A lot of my folks inside the call center had five, 10 minutes when they first got ready. A lot had gone to their computer, checked their email, and that was the moment. So, they would log in, potentially watch a video, answer a couple of quick questions, and make sure they had key knowledge top of mind before they started really doing their job for that day. They didn’t have to walk away. They used the device they were doing to do their job. We didn’t have to schedule them for anything. It was taking place as part of their normal workflow, so it was really getting woven into the work day and really building a habit of learning, something that they can do every day regularly as part of their job rather than having to step away from the job. Apologies, one more cough on mute.

Thank you again. Number three, enabling you to be agile and reach your frontline quickly with critical information. I asked the question how long does it take you to edit one of your courses. To go through the process of finding the new information, maybe a regulation or a process changed, working with the subject matter experts, editing the content with your instructional designers and developers, going back through a review process. I know several organizations where that can take months. Six, eight months worth of time because people are busy. That’s simply not fast enough in the world we work in today.

If a regulation’s gonna change in a matter of weeks, you’ve gotta be faster in order to get information out to people. And then I didn’t even talk about how long it takes to schedule people to complete the training and then chase the people who didn’t complete the training, et cetera, et cetera. So, in number I talked about this idea of enabling a habit of learning. If you make it something short and targeted, something people enjoy doing, and they just do it as part of their day, now you have a predictable opportunity to get in front of people. You have that three to five minute or that five to ten minute moment in everyone’s day that’s built in. Then, when something changes within the business or when the business has to make a very quick shift to a policy or a new product is released, you have an in. You have a moment where you can reach people with new information that’s, again, very specific and targeted.

Instead of changing your entire course about the regulatory process, you can build a specific piece of content or a specific set of questions and deliver it during that microlearning moment in the day so they can get that critical information quickly, your business is updated, and you can move at the pace that they require. So, again, it’s about enabling this agility within the front lines so they don’t have to wait for you to eventually get new training information out and then be chased in order to do it ’cause it’s not part of their job.

Number four, aligning with how the brain learns and how we actually retain information. That idea of that three to five minute moment every day just happens to line up with how learning actually works. So, I know some people may be thinking well every day. We don’t have new information every day. That’s why when you build in this habit in this moment every day, you can also use it for reinforcement. So, maybe one of your associates logs in to a system tomorrow and they complete something that is new. You have a new policy, they watch a video about the policy, they answer a couple of questions to assess their knowledge. Great.

They come in the next day, they don’t have anything new. You know, they’re maybe a more experienced associate. So, instead, they might get a set of reinforcement questions so that you can ask them very targeted questions, challenge their knowledge, maybe present a scenario to prove that they still are retaining that information. They have that new knowledge. You’re challenging them, maybe they get the question wrong so that they know that there’s a potential gap, so that that’s something to look for and maybe learn more about a particular topic.

But, by doing these small, bite sized iterations every day, it matches up with our ability to take in and retain new information, especially in a busy work environment, because this is not the only thing your employees are doing with their day, right? There’s a lot going on. So, in order to fit into that, not overload them from a capacity perspective, it’s really about focusing on how the brain learns, reinforcing that information over the long term, rather than fire hosing people at one particular time.

And finally, the ability to connect training to behavior and business results. I firmly believe that if you can’t measure what you’re doing, there’s no reason to do it ’cause how do you know if it actually works. So, in this case, this continuous idea of learning every day and answering questions every day for reinforcement gives us continuing measurement points. So, instead of knowing what people knew when they took the test after the class six months ago, we can actually measure people’s knowledge every day. And we can see how that knowledge potentially goes up or potentially declines as people are lacking in their ability to retain, or maybe they’re not using that information very often, so it’s not staying top of mind.

So, what that enable us to do is create a stronger connection between people’s changes in knowledge. What’s actually happening inside the workplace when they’re being observed doing their jobs, and then the results you’re seeing as a business. So, when you go in to design a microlearning intervention, when you go in to build that short form video about customer service standards, you’re connecting it specifically to a measurable for the business. You know, how are you measuring customer satisfaction and what specifically do people need to do in order to get to that level of customer satisfaction, and then what’s the knowledge you need to impart?

And by delivering information in this way instead of these big, oversized packages, we can create stronger connections and really start to measure how what we’re doing is impacting business results. And that overall starts to shift the experience. So, again, to try to provide a picture of what does learning look like for an individual when microlearning principals are being applied, this is the picture that I’m trying to put together today. So, first of all, we’re putting the individual at the center. So, this is not about fire hosing an entire workplace with all of the information everyone needs to know. We’re focusing down on what this particular individual needs to know.

Whether they’re brand new to your organization or maybe they’re a more experienced member of your team. It starts with a foundation of knowledge, so like I said, there’s a difference between need to know and nice to know information. Unfortunately, a lot of our stakeholders and subject matter experts don’t know that. That’s when people come to you with the PowerPoints, and the PowerPoint has 374 slides, and all of those sides have text on them, and the text is in 12 point font. And they think everyone needs to know all of this information. You know that’s not the case. They don’t agree with you. And that’s where we get page turner e-learning.

In this world, we separate need to know and nice to know, so that nice to know information becomes something that’s in a community of knowledge. Something that people can look up, because it’s not something they need to retain every day. They don’t need to know it at the drop of a hat, they can Google it, per se, or look it up, go into a knowledge base and pull that information when a customer’s sitting in front of them or when they have a particular problem to face.

By breaking apart need to know and nice to know information, that’s what gets us targeted when we’re talking about short form content. So, first we’ve got our community of knowledge where that nice to know information lives and people can pull it whenever they need it. We then talked about surrounding the individual with this idea of every day learning, because again they are learning every day, but the tactics that you can provide that enable that every day learning. So, things from, we talking about reinforcement already. You know, when there isn’t something new to potentially impart. Challenging people with questions and practice activities so that that information stays top of mind and they continuously get better.

Motivating people to engage every day. I will mention a story in just a couple of minutes with this idea of today your employees may be used to getting scheduled for training once a quarter, or they complete an e-learning once in a while. Shifting from that to something they do every day for three to five minutes requires the consideration of motivation. How do you make it something enjoyable, something that’s fun? Something they actually want to do. This is where ideas, things like gamification, challenge, progress, the game mechanic idea really comes into play, because it makes, again, learning something enjoyable and fun, not something that’s done to people that’s not quite enjoyable.

Coaching. So, managers are a critical part of everyday learning, of the habit of learning, ’cause they’re there on the ground, in my opinion it’s the most important person in workplace learning because they’re there with the associate every day. They control access to resources, how people use their time. They’re key influencers. So, how do we enable them as part of this overall experience? How to use data, because we’re collecting a lot more data in this experience, so we’re gathering information from every day experience people have, answering questions, completing content, the manager’s observations in everyday life. So, using that in order to shift and adapt the experience to the needs of the individual and then providing people the opportunity to provide feedback.

You know, when learning is something’s that built into the job, we wanna make sure that they have an opportunity to share what’s working and not working for them. So, again, the training’s not something done to them, something that they’re engaging in and they’re a meaningful participant in. Into this experience we add the things we’re already doing, but we just use them in a smarter way. So, like I said, training events don’t go away. The classroom is still a critically important part of helping people learn to do their jobs.

But, instead of always having to put someone in the classroom, because you have their eyes every day for a couple of minutes, because you’re imparting this new information or reinforcing information every day, when it is time to pull them into a classroom for something that’s maybe more complex, you can use that time more effectively, because it’s more now about practice. It’s having conversations with people, having discussions. It’s no longer about being talked to and information delivery. It’s now a more engaging experience where people can work with their peers in a more collaborative fashion.

And the same is true of online content. You’re still gonna do e-learning and simulation and things like that, but they’re not your only tactics anymore. They’re inserted into the cycle of continuous learning when it’s the right tool to solve to solve the particular problem. And then it’s this experience, this design, that leads to the results we’re looking for. So, everything, including knowledge growth, business results, and a shared experience that helps contribute back into the organization, because when you’re able to really focus on the needs of the individual and make one person stronger, you ultimately make the entire team stronger.

So, when we talk about an idea, building a habit of daily learning and fostering continuous learning, this is what that tactically starts to look like. The tactics may shift a little bit based on your particular organization and the tools and resources that you’re using, but this is what it can feel like for an individual to have the support they need when they need it, thought based on a learning and development team using a wider array of tools, a bigger toolkit as part of a microlearning type experience.

And as we start to get to our conclusion of today, I’d like to provide an example. So, we’re working with a variety of financial services, firms, banks across the world. Specifically I wanna reference John Hancock, if you’re familiar with this organization. So, John Hancock is currently, and has been for a while now, leveraging microlearning to help them mitigate risk and keep on top of changing regulations and business requirements. I’m gonna assume that’s something everyone here is particularly interested in. The microlearning experience at John Hancock is very similar to what I have already kind of discussed and outlined.

So, every day, working with Axonify, their associates will log into Axonify and complete a three to five minute session that is specifically targeted at the individual. In a lot of cases, they’re just answering a couple of questions. Those questions may be about new process or regulatory requirements, new product information that’s specific to their role, and what we’re seeing in the numbers on screen, one that’s 89% voluntary participation. So, that’s every month, 89% of the people who could come in for training are coming in voluntarily and they’re coming in at a frequency of maybe 14 or more times every month.

So, if you compare that level of exposure to new or reinforced information to maybe what you’re seeing today, how often you’re able to get touch points with your associates, how many times do they come into your L&S right now, that’s considerably different. So, when I talked about how can you possibly learn big, complex information in just three to five minutes, it’s because it’s three to five minutes every day and it’s an experience that people actually will come do on their own, because they see the value in it.

There’s a considerable knowledge lift that’s part of that. So, like I said, we’re not just measuring a test score once, we’re measuring people’s knowledge every time that they access the platform and every time they answer a question. So, we’re seeing considerable knowledge lift, sometimes as high as 37%. So people’s knowledge is going from the first time they answer a question to the most recent time that they’ve engaged with that content, a lift of 37% over the course of their learning experiences. So, considerable growth in knowledge, but the most important number on this slide isn’t a number, it’s that arrow.

It’s those who participate make fewer errors. There’s a direct correlation between the people who engage in microlearning experiences and the number of errors they are not making on the job. So that’s how we’re measuring the success. Again, it’s great to see hybridization, it’s great to see knowledge changes, but it’s ultimately about how it impacts the business, and in the case of John Hancock Investments, we’re specifically seeing that those who engage in micro learning, this daily type of learning and reinforcement activity, are making less errors on the job, which is creating better results for their business.

And ultimately comes together that it’s this blend of ideas, and I’ve mentioned all of these tactics before. But, like I said, everyone here, if you’re in learning and development in any capacity, you’re getting emails every day about microlearning. Another webinar about microlearning. Another article about microlearning. And what I’d really like to start leaving behind today is that it’s not about one particular tactic. It’s not about just making things shorter. It’s about combining a set of tactics, a set of ideas, in the right way to create an experience that really fits the needs of your people inside of your organization.

So, we talked about things like proven brain science techniques. You know, if you’re exploring any type of new learning strategy or technology, I challenge you to look for things like space repetition and retrieval practice. How do they line up with what they’re doing with the science of learning. Make sure you’re supporting people the way the brain actually works. The idea of motivation, or getting people to engage in training more often, because we’re one, making it more valuable and clear that its’ helping them do their job, and two, we’re making it fun.

At some point, someone must have passed a rule that said training can’t be fun. That’s ridiculous. So, when you look at things like competition and creating a world where peers can challenge one another in terms of how effective they perform in a training experience, that’s neat and actually brings people back voluntarily to engage in every day learning. We talked a lot about microlearning. Microlearning really, for me, is the gateway to adaptive learning.

So, if you’re interested in that topic, we’re not gonna go in deep today, but I’ve got a ton of information on that. Feel free to reach out. The idea is that because we’re engaging with people so often, we can really use the data we have about the individual to shift the experience so that when two of your employees log in, they can get what is specific to them, even though they’ve worked on the same job, maybe they started on the same day, but the experience shifts for them individually because everyone learns at a different pace.

The idea that we can be wherever the employee needs whenever we need them, again, that should be true of every learning strategy in every organization, but if people use mobile devices to do the job, we should be on the mobile device. If they use a POS system to do the job, we should be near the POS system somewhere. And then finally, actionable insight. You know, helping you as learning and development professionals have the information you need to improve your strategies, helping managers have the information they need to coach more effectively.

But, out of this whole experience, we get more meaningful data that helps us make better decisions and better support people within the organization. And just another reminder that everything I’ve talked about applies across topics. So, everything you may be thinking about in terms of the training needs of your organization. So, I said the word regulation a lot. I said things like product and process a lot. This includes soft skills, this includes management topics, things like coaching, because ultimately learning is learning.

Improving a skill is improving a skill. Some are simply more complex than others. When I showed that big graphic with the person in the middle, all of those tactics will be applied differently depending on what you’re focused on. So, if you’re focused on job skills, you may use certain tactics. If you’re focused on coaching and leadership, they may require other tactics. Maybe people get into a classroom more often. Maybe it’s different ways of learning, but these ideas of microlearning and the principals we talked about today can help you and apply across the board, because it’s all about people and how they behave and how they learn and grow their knowledge.

So, as we head to the Q&A portion, a couple things to keep in mind, kind of where do you go from today. Like I said, it’s not about 45 minutes, now you know everything about microlearning. This is hopefully the beginning or a continuation of a conversation that you’ve already engaged with, but a couple of things to start thinking about. One is, how can you escape the idea of place and time learning. If you are in an organization where in order to train people on something new, you have to pull them into a room and that’s really hard to do, how do you start finding those moments in the day?

That can enable you to get closer to the workflow so that it’s not the only option you have, that when you do employ something like a classroom, it’s a more meaningful version of that experience. Expanding your toolkit. You know, we talked about everything from making information available on demand, that could be job aids, you know videos look up when they need to, to using questions more effectively. Questions aren’t just about assessment. People learn from being asked questions, from their knowledge being challenged from scenarios, and then potentially getting the answer wrong. It’s more impactful to get the answer wrong than to always get the answer right.

I don’t know about you, but I remember the test questions I got wrong in school, not the ones that I got right. So how do we use more tools and tactics at our disposal to create this continuous experience and not always default to e-learning or classroom and that’s all we can do. We talked a lot about getting closer to the workflow, understanding your associate’s day. So, what does it look like to do their job? When are those moments in the day? Where are those access points? So you can provide learning and support experiences that fit better into the workflow.

The, again, focus on real problems. Microlearning is successful when it’s focused on a measurable business outcome. So, instead of having a huge class that’s all about all the products that you support, how do you focus specifically on the ones that are the greatest priority, or the ones that and individual’s having a specific challenge with so that you don’t fire hose people with information. You’re focused on just what they need to make the business successful.

And ultimately, it comes down to this results first approach. Working backwards from what you want to try to achieve as a business on the right hand side to what do people have to do in order to execute to get to that result. If you took a picture of it, what does good, you know, the right behavior look like, and then what is the foundational knowledge people need to do their job? And if you’re working with a lot of stake holders and subject matter experts and they’re bringing the PowerPoint and it’s got all the slides and all the text, this type of a flow enables you to have a challenging conversation to say can people do what they need to do without this information?

If they don’t know this, can they do it? And if the answer is yeah, they could do it. That’s a nice to know piece of information, not a need to know information, right? So, figuring out what is the critical knowledge people need to know to do what they need to do to get to the results, and then you make a content decision. This is really that design flow that helps you focus down to build microlearning content. So, your hour of e-learning potentially becomes a three minute video. Your giant assessment potentially becomes a set of 10 questions. Not just because it’s shorter, because it should be, but for the right reasons because it’s targeted on a specific result that’s gonna help drive everything forward.

So, a couple of things to leave behind. You already know where the deck lives. Here’s the URL for an ebook that we wrote that really talks about this idea of digital transformation within the financial services industry and how microlearning fits in, so it kind of builds off of our conversation from today. So if you go to, you can download the ebook from right there. This is my contact information, so again, I can only talk about so much in 45 minutes from a hotel in Raleigh, North Carolina. But, if you have any curiosities, feel free to reach out to me, drop me an email. Feel free to follow me on Twitter. I’m constantly sharing information there.

But, if you have a question about specifically your organization, how some of these principals would apply in your use case, feel free to reach out. I’m happy to have conversations in addition to our question and answer today. And with that, I’ll hand over to Mike to see, hopefully there’s some great questions so we can use our last 10 minutes or so to help contextualize some of this to your particular needs. Mike.



Excellent. Thank you, JD. Yeah, awesome content. And we do have some really good questions that are coming in. And just a reminder to everyone out there, if you’ve got something on your mind, now is definitely the time to get it in the queue. We’ve got about 10 minutes as JD just said. So, let me kick things off with this question. How do you overcome the challenge of delivering training outside of the workplace for hourly employees? That is, having employees learn on their own devices.


JD Dillon:

Sure, so I, we’ve seen that challenge. That challenge comes up a lot, especially in North America. The challenge is overcome in a variety of different ways depending on specific organizations. So, we’ve seen a couple different tactics used. One, we’ve seen organizations put a disclaimer on the login screen of whatever potential tool they’re using, so if it’s an Axonify customer, as an example, there’s a disclaimer on the login screen that basically speaks to what’s expected and what the requirements are and it usually relates to some type of bring your own device policy that the organization has, so that it’s clear to employees that they’re engaging on their own time, on their own data plan, on their own device, where the requirements live in that, who’s responsible for what.

So, there’s that consideration. It is true that there are some organizations that are currently just too concerned, too worried about this idea to open that door, but one of the fun things we found is that we’ve worked with a variety of organizations where the employees have figured it out on their own. They weren’t given the information, they weren’t told how to log in. They found it. I would suggest that that’s a great problem to have.

Imagine a world where your employees find your training and do it on their own because they want to, not because of any nefarious cause. So, what I would come back to is challenging your organization, talking to the compliance team, the legal team, the HR team, and figuring out how you can start working around this experience, because it’s a reality. People are using their own devices at the work place and away from the workplace all the time, but where are the boundaries? How can you start to shift the boundaries a little bit, especially because when you think about completing training, it tends not to be a three minute engaging, enjoyable experience that has little to no bandwidth requirement.

You tend to be thinking about heavy, long course work that people need to take considerable time at home to do. It’s a very different conversation when you talk about it with microlearning in mind, but it really starts with that conversation starting to figure it out. I know of a lot chief information, chief technology officers that are starting to realize this is simply the way things are going to work in the future, so they’re more open to having the conversations where in the past it was a hard no. So, I reckon then, if you have any other questions, feel free to reach out.



Excellent. Thank you. All right. Next question here, where does the content within Axonify come from? Does it take inputs from instructional designers and content developers or is it stocked?


JD Dillon:

Sure. So, speaking specifically with Axonify, there’s options when it comes to content. So, in some cases, and this was true of me. I was actually an Axonify customer when I worked in a call center environment. My team built everything. We administrated Axonify, we built our content, built our own videos, ’cause I had an instructional design team. If maybe you don’t have an instructional design team or microlearning’s a very new idea, so building this type of content might be a challenge in the beginning, Axonify in some case will build content for clients. So, our instructional design team will maybe get you started or build a set of topics to start with the implementation.

And then also have a content exchange marketplace where we work with third party providers of very specific types of content that are already broken down into the microlearning format I’ve talked about, so you don’t have to make the transition from a big course to smaller, short form content that fits into the day. We’re working with providers to already do that in the types of topics that our clients are really looking for, so that you can pull it off the shelf and then customize it to your needs and then launch it to your employees. There’s an option of the different ways you can handle content with Axonify.



Very interesting. Great. Here’s a good one. Does microlearning work for more complicated topics such as soft skills training?


JD Dillon:

Yes. So, as I kind of mentioned earlier, it’s foundationally about people learn. But, I will say that you’re, in some cases people can learn what they need to know to do a task at work by watching a three minute video and answering 10 questions. And they’ve got what they need to reinforce it over time. We’re good to go. You can’t learn to fly a plane with a three minute video and 109 multiple choice questions. That requires more information, more structured experiences, simulation, everything it takes to become a pilot. However, the ideas of reinforcement, the ideas of iterative improvement, space repetition, they all still apply. They’re just used differently.

So, the idea of microlearning and what we do at Axonify is proven to work across use cases of topics, we just do things a little bit differently and the content becomes different.



Excellent. Excellent. Thank you so much, and thank you everyone in the audience for the questions. All right. We’ve got ones here still, though. How long should a microlearning module be?


JD Dillon:

My answer is always as short as it can possibly be. So, again, the idea is that there’s not a master duration. There is no science that says information should be delivered in less than X numbers of minutes in order to maximize retention. There’s a lot of variables that go into play. The two things that I specifically look at when it comes to duration is one, focusing down on a very specific objective. So, again, not customer service the class. It’s a very specific behavior you’re looking to change in the associate, so we’re making things shorter by focusing it. And then the second consideration for duration is how much time do they have? Because if you look at your employees average work day and you find that they have five minutes regularly that you can use for this type of experience, the answer is becomes five minutes.

You have to build an experience that fits into that or break it apart so that it’s progressively happening over the course of those five minute sessions. So, the duration’s really about focus and availability more so than it is about the magical number because that doesn’t exist.



Good. Thank you. All right. Next, okay. Here’s another one. How does microlearning support training that is required by regulators?


JD Dillon:

Sure. So every business, but especially the conversation we’re having today around financial services, is highly regulated in some capacity. I’ve never had, again, I’ve never spoken with someone who said “You know, our business is completely unregulated.” It’s just different in different organizations. Where microlearning becomes particularly powerful with regulation is what we talked about when it comes to agility. So, the ability to work quickly because you have a consistent channel of information and learning for the associate. When you introduce this idea of a daily habit of learning, you now have the ability to introduce whatever you need inside of that moment.

So, if you get people used to five to 10 minutes of their day being focused on this new training or reinforcement experience, and something starts to shift when it comes to regulatory requirements, you have an immediate access point to people. And when you have their eyes as part of a habit, you can use that in a variety of ways and now you don’t have to chase people. So, maybe there’s also something that you have to deliver to all of your employees on the anniversary of their hire, or once a year you all have to cover this particular content.

You now have consistent access, they’re used to logging into something and completely training every day, so now it’s not about chasing them to eventually complete it ’cause they never do training anymore. It just fits in as part of that continuous day. So, we have clients who see much faster rates of completion for compliance content as well because of the fact that they’ve embedded this habit of learning every day.

So, it’s very beneficial to maintaining compliance because that is a measurable business result, in compliance, so it also fits the story.



Okay. Great. Awesome. Thank you. And, let’s see, all these questions. We’re getting very close to the top of the hour, but I think we’ve got time to squeeze in one or two more. Can microlearning be applied to leadership training?


JD Dillon:

Yes. It goes back to that kind of soft skill comment. I think the challenge we see a lot with leadership training is that it’s not super well defined. When we talk about the traits or competencies required in an effective manager, we often don’t have them distilled in such a way where they can be easily observed. What does a good coaching experience actually look like? And any other trait you’re looking at from a leadership perspective. So, for me, it’s working that flow I showed backwards from results and required behavior and then required knowledge. And really focusing on that behavior side. What does it look like for people to execute the way we need them to execute, and then all the principals apply because there’s a foundational knowledge requirement in order to coach effectively, as an example, you need to know certain things and then build up from there.

And things like challenging questions, scenarios, resources, it all fits the story, it’s just a little bit more complicated than something a little bit harder like a procedure, a process, or product information. But everything still applies.



Okay. Good. And let’s just, like I said, let’s just squeeze one more question. We’re almost at the top of the hour, but we’ve been trying to introduce microlearning, but our business partners are used to the traditional ways. How can we influence them to consider microlearning?


JD Dillon:

Sure. Quickly, the couple things I bring to mind are one, especially if you’re trying to influence business partners and stake holders, it’s not about learning, it’s about solving business problems. So, I never walk into an executive meeting and say the word “learning” right off the bat. I talk about, I use their language. What’s critical to them, what problems are they trying to overcome, and then relate that to their people. A lot of organizations are realizing that their abilities of their people are critical to the success of their business.

So, how do you connect that to make it more about people and their behavior, and then connect that back to learning principals and then, excuse me, sell based on the proposition of learning within the workflow, not having to remove people from the job. That all speaks very well to a business audience. So, it’s not about walking through the door saying “We’ve got a new way to do learning.” It’s about “We’re trying to solve business problems that we know are critical to you. We think we can do it in this particular way.” And then also using stories to influence.

So, are there organizations that they respect or use cases and stories from organizations that are like yours? Maybe it’s the John Hancock example. You go to and click customer stories, you get the other organizations. Bringing those into the conversation to show meaningful, measurable success in other organizations that face similar challenges, also speaks volumes.



Perfect. I think that’s a great note to end on. We’re right, I’ve got actually one minute past the top of the hour. We always try to bring things in as close to on time as possible respecting everyone’s busy days, but let me first of all thank JD. It’s always impressive when one person can kind of carry the ball through the whole presentation and also all the questions, so really great content. Thank you for being here and sharing with us today. And thank you everyone in the audience, of course, for being here as well. We would not want to do it without you. Trust me when I tell you that. Thank you for your questions and please keep an eye out. We will be sending you a follow up email in the next day or two that will have a link to the recording of this event as well as to the slides themselves so you can review this content at your leisure in the future and we encourage you to do that.

And with that, I will wrap it up. Wish everyone a wonderful rest of the day and I hope you’ll join us again here very soon. Thanks so much.


JD Dillon:

Thanks, all.