Spoke Updates: Follow People & Discussions

Spoke® is already one of the world’s best social learning management systems available (don’t take our word for it), and with the latest release we’re giving users even more ways to enhance their social learning experience.

These new features are, once again, a result of overwhelming user feedback. Users wanted a way to stay connected with their peers and to be notified when their colleagues post in the community and new content is added to Spoke. As a result we’ve added the ability to follow people and discussions, receive additional email notifications, and manage these settings from an updated account settings.

Here’s a quick tour.

Follow A Person

Learners can now follow a person within their organization. Have a colleague you want to keep up with? Follow him! Is there a rock star sales rep you want to learn from? Follow her! Now, whenever someone a user follows posts in the community, they’ll receive an email notification to check out the discussion. This feature adds yet another social element to Spoke and will be a building block for more features to come in the near future.

Spoke: follow a person

Follow A Discussion

Community is a busy place and it can be hard to keep up with the discussions you really care about. Users can now follow a discussion and receive email notifications whenever there’s a new post.

Spoke: follow a discussion

Additional Email Notifications

New Course – Even frequent Spoke users could miss a new course that’s been added to their curriculum. The New Course email notification will allow users to receive an email notification when new courses are added.

Spoke News – Spoke News now has more visibility than ever. All assigned learners can now receive email notifications about the latest updates. The goal of this feature is to increase open rates for all news items.

Spoke: manage email preferences

Account Settings page

As we continue to enhance Spoke, we wanted to give users a super simple, all-in-one place to manage their profile, email notifications, people and discussions they follow, and more. The new Settings page allows users to manage these settings as well as their photo, nickname, password, and Salesforce integration.

Spoke: settings page

Speak Up

We love getting user feedback and want to hear from you. If you’re a current Spoke user, drop us a line or leave a comment below.

If you’re not yet using Spoke and want to see it in action, check it out, or contact our Spokes-people to schedule a personal demo.

Our Funny Theory:
Use Humor to Improve Training Effectiveness

Quick: can you recall any of the ads from Super Bowl 50? How about a play from the game itself? If you’re like most people, you still remember the ads but can’t recall the details of a single play. Of course, there is one exception. If you’re a Broncos or Panthers fan, you likely have certain plays imprinted deep inside your hippocampus.

Why? Emotion plays a crucial role in memory and learning. So if you love the Broncos and were euphoric on Super Bowl Sunday, certain plays will linger in your brain a long time, giving you great satisfaction with each retrieval. And if you hate the Broncos, certain plays have taken up residence in your head, despite your wishes. The reason is that negative emotions—fear, anger, disgust—embed memories, too.

What does any of this have to do with employee training? Well, in our view, everything.

Illustration of brain

Let’s go back to the “Super Ads” for a minute. People who have no interest in football tune in to watch the commercials, which is interesting when you consider most Americans have a negative view of the advertising industry. But we want to watch the ads because they’re funny. And we remember them, whether we want to or not—they make us laugh, and laughing helps us remember.

A (Very) Little Bit of Neuroscience

Ever notice how you don’t remember much from a boring day? Extreme emotions on both ends of the spectrum tend to be best for firing up the neurotransmitters that make us remember. Who could forget being beat up by a bully? Or crashing into a tree at 55 MPH? And, on the other hand, who could forget a first kiss? Or the birth of a child? Or the day you really did laugh out loud when your dog joined you in the shower after hearing a clap of thunder?

Since advertisers, teachers, and corporate trainers can’t go around traumatizing people or tempting them to fall in love, laughter is perhaps the next-best way to rouse up the emotions that aid memory and learning. Laughter increases the neurotransmitters, like serotonin, that reduce stress, relax the body, and allow the enjoyment area of the brain to take over. When this happens, the “thinking” part of the brain, the neocortex, increases its activity. This is why people tend to understand the message better and remember it longer when information is accompanied by humor. And this is why Super Bowl advertisers, who paid an average of $5 million for 30 seconds of air time, like to make funny ads.

Corporate Training: No Laughing Matter

If arousing positive emotions is so crucial to learning and memory, why do so many companies spend a fortune to make funny ads while their training content is flat out boring?

Two-thirds of employees say the quality of training positively influences their engagement. And yet, research shows learners don’t find their training material interesting and they see current training programs as an unproductive use of time.

With US companies spending approximately $70 billion on corporate training (worldwide figures are around $130 billion), boring training is risky. So, channel the “Super Ads,” embrace some fun, and maximize your investments in training.

Ways to Make Employee Training More Fun—And More Effective

“Fun” and “engaging” don’t have to be overwhelming, scary, or distracting. There are some pretty straightforward adjustments you can make to your training to increase engagement (and ultimately retention). Here are some examples.

The Delivery

Embrace and acknowledge inside jokes, pop culture, or other telltale elements of your workplace or industry. In this video, we wove in typical sales jargon (okay, and some texting shorthand) into the script because we knew it would resonate with our audience. (FYI, if you like this, check out our list of 8 funny sales videos that will have you ROFL.)

In an instructor-led training course, this may look like coaching facilitators and participants to share “war stories” to add a personal, storytelling feel to the session.

If telling a joke or saying TTYL isn’t your style, even a change like writing in plain language can make a huge difference in the perception of, and engagement with, employee training.

The Visuals

Clean up PowerPoint decks. Ditch pointless clipart and distracting slide transitions. Reduce text on screen to the most salient points only. Less is more.

Instead of stock photos, experiment with (relevant) comics, or even a funny meme or two.

A slide from a presentation Unboxed gave at CLW

A slide Unboxed used for a presentation at Corporate Learning Week

Training meme from DevLearn

Photo credit: Phase Two Learning

Do you typically rely on talking heads in your videos? Switch things up with animation. Case in point:

The psychology department of the University of Hertfordshire studied talking head shots. Led by professor Richard Wiseman, participants watched a one-minute talking head video followed by a second video with the same voice track. However, in the second video the talking head was replaced by an animation. The animation video resulted in a 15% increase in retention of information and a 33% increase in entertainment value.

The Creative Direction

Using an unconventional or unexpected theme for your training can also make it feel more fun. Take product training for a new product launch. We helped one of our clients produce a video in the style of a home shopping network special. It went beyond features and specs and told a story.

To be certain, this had to be very carefully executed. We wanted a high-energy, slightly over-enthusiastic feel but the delivery still had to be controlled so the video didn’t unintentionally mock the product or the company.

Corporate trainers, take a page out of the “Super Ads” book: use humor to create an emotional connection with your audience and ultimately increase training effectiveness. Start small. It might mean more whitespace in a training workbook, or ending a sentence with a preposition. And, use fun smartly or else you’ll end up in Doritos territory.

Is Guided Selling Software Right For Your Sales Toolkit?

When you think of sales enablement, what comes to mind? A CRM? Content management tools? Refresher training and coaching?

People are quick to name the usual suspects. But these sales tools are often rep-focused. And reps are only one part of the equation. The other mission-critical part? Your customers. The customer experience is crucial and if you don’t win their trust, you don’t win sales.

Enter guided selling. Guided selling software weighs the rep experience and the customer experience and creates a win-win for both parties.

Is Guided selling software a good fit for your sales toolkit

Benefits of Guided Selling Software

Unlike other sales tools, guided selling software isn’t just for reps. It benefits both your reps and customers. Here’s how.

Consistent Experience

Guided selling software is configured to reflect your sales process and provides a consistent framework to guide customer interactions and needs assessments.

Benefit for reps
For new reps, this framework can help them learn the ropes faster. For experienced sales reps, this is a reminder of “true north” that helps reinforce best practices over time.

Benefit for customers
According to the CEB, buying decisions typically involve five to six stakeholders. When a rep encounters multiple stakeholders, consistency needs to be the name of the game. Wildly different interactions with your team mean your reputation’s shot and customer confidence is shattered. Guided selling software will help ensure each and every stakeholder receives a consistent experience and message—and the customer trusts you.

Up-To-Date Information

In sales, information changes at a rapid-fire pace. There’s a lot to keep up with, like new product launches or changes in pricing or availability. With guided selling software, both reps and customers have access to current product or service offerings, features, specs, pricing, and resources.

Benefit for reps
Guided selling software can help support reps’ training. To be clear, this isn’t a crutch or a replacement for product and sales training. It’s a supplement, reinforcing overarching messages while also keeping reps on top of the nitty-gritty.

Armed with current information, reps feel better prepared and more confident.

Benefit for customers
Would you buy from someone who seems unsure? Confident reps mean confident customers.

Guided selling software also helps convey credibility and expertise. Customers see their rep is in the know and using the latest insights, not outdated information.

Personalized Recommendations

The output of guided selling software is a product or service recommendation for the customer. This recommendation is generated dynamically. An algorithm behind the scenes weighs customer inputs to build the best solution whether it’s products, services, or other options.

The recommendation summarizes the customer’s answers and shows how the solution meets the needs expressed by the customer. The sales rep can edit and fine-tune the recommendation on the fly if the customer has additional feedback. Once the recommendation is finalized, the rep can send an email summary to the customer, if desired.

Benefit for reps
Guided selling software simplifies the process of proposing solutions. Plus, reps position themselves as customer advocates because they’re equipped to clearly and consistently summarize, confirm, and respond to the customer’s needs.

Benefit for customers
There’s transparency about how and why certain products or services were recommended. So instead of feeling like a rep is pulling a fast one, or pushing something just to make quota, customers instead see their best interests are at heart.

Digital, Mobile Presentations

Guided selling software makes selling less clunky. Content is digitized and available on mobile devices. This includes presentation and recommendation tools, as well as reference materials and collateral.

Benefit for reps
Reps save time because they don’t have to hunt for printed brochures and catalogs or create yet another PowerPoint deck. Everything is built into a single, digital resource and is already designed and styled. Going paperless is more convenient, too. Reps can pick up their tablet or phone and get working.

Benefit for customers
Customers receive a polished presentation every time. And there’s the undeniable wow factor of getting to use a tablet to do a needs assessment and review a recommendation. Plus, customers can get in the driver’s seat and explore interactive modules—for example, they could tap and swipe through a product demo instead of thumbing through yet another brochure.


Benefits for reps Benefits for customers
Consistent Experience Reinforce sales process and best practices See a reliable partner with stable team and strong, shared vision/story
Up-to-Date Information Stay on top of ever-changing details and feel more confident and prepared Feel confident by working with an expert
Personalized Recommendations Simplify process of recommending a solution

Be seen as customer advocate

Understand how a product or service meets a business need
Digital, Mobile Presentations & Resources Spend less time on non-selling tasks and more time working with customers Enjoy a more interactive and engaging experience


Add Guided Selling Software To Your Sales Toolkit

Guided selling software helps both reps and customers feel supported and empowered to achieve their goals. Guided selling isn’t an extra burden or out to undermine other parts of your sales strategy. It supports and bolsters other sales enablement initiatives, like training.

Don’t let guided selling software fly under the radar; integrate it into your sales enablement toolkit. Your reps and customers will both benefit.

Want to learn more? Check out Unboxed Advisor, a sales enablement platform with a guided selling tool that connects reps to customers in a high-tech way.

LMS Gamification, Employee Engagement, & Spoke Rewards

One of the core product principles of our learning management system, Spoke®, is this:

Make it fun and reward participation and performance.

So, we’ve taken LMS gamification to the next level with Spoke Rewards—which drives results like a 5.5x increase in course completions and nearly a 2x increase daily logins to the platform. Take a look:

Want to learn more about how to incentivize training engagement? Keep reading.

LMS GAMIFICATION fast-tracks LEARNER engagement

We built Spoke because our training clients kept telling us their learning platforms weren’t driving engagement—they were actually hurting learners’ motivation and performance. To us, this wasn’t acceptable. People want to learn. And when they’re actively involved, everyone wins. Higher engagement is linked to results like higher productivity, increased innovation, lower turnover, better customer ratings, and more sales.

So, as we developed the Spoke roadmap, we prioritized gamification. We started with these elements:

  • Spoke Coins: Learners earn coins to reward them for completing courses. They also get coins from other users if they post helpful comments in discussion forums as a form of feedback and peer recognition.
  • Badges: Learners unlock badges to recognize achievements and milestones.
  • Levels: Learners advance through different levels that convey their expertise.
  • Leaderboard: Learners can see how they rank compared to others and get motivated thanks to this friendly competition.

The latest enhancement has been the launch of Spoke Rewards. Here’s a look behind the scenes.


Most employee reward and recognition programs focus on outputs. Employees who stick around for a long time receive gifts for tenure. Sales reps are incentivized for closing business. Runners receive a medal for finishing a marathon. We wanted to see what would happen if we rewarded the input, in this case training, to see what effect it would have on the output.

Spoke Rewards does just that. It empowers users to earn Spoke Coins for completing training and sharing helpful content with their peers in the Spoke Community.

LMS gamification - Spoke coins

In addition to leveling up, unlocking badges, and climbing the leaderboard, Spoke users can redeem their coins to claim tangible rewards, ranging from apparel and company swag to small electronics and extra vacation time.



Spoke Rewards simplifies reward and recognition programs by integrating them. Instead of relying on multiple platforms, it’s all built into the LMS. Users can complete training, collaborate, and claim rewards all in one place.

Admins can easily:

  • Create and announce new rewards
  • Manage rewards settings, stock, and fulfillment
  • Monitor which rewards are most popular
  • Make rewards available to every Spoke user, or only to specific Spoke Teams (groups of users based on role, location, org structure, etc.)



When Admins create new rewards, they can base the cost on Spoke Coins earned, or they can require users to complete specific training or participate in a specific Spoke Community discussion to claim the reward.

In addition to the Spoke Rewards technology, we offer an end-to-end client service that includes everything from strategic advice on what rewards to offer, internal communication best practices, and logistics support such as shipping and handling. For clients who don’t want to manage their rewards program in-house, it’s a great benefit.


Craig Weiss named Spoke one of the top three gamification LMSs for 2016, and that was before Spoke Rewards took LMS gamification to the next level. Since the launch of Spoke Rewards, we’ve seen enthusiastic clients use it to generate buzz for their training programs and incentive course completion. And they’re getting great results.

One client reported the Spoke Rewards program was so popular, prizes were exceeded within a week and had to be replenished. Another client shared Spoke Rewards has driven brand awareness because so many employees are carrying company gear they’ve earned.

And then there’s that 5.5x increase in course completions and 2x increase daily logins we’d love to drive for you, too. Leave a comment and tell us what you think. If you’d like to see Spoke Rewards in action, contact us to schedule a personal demo.

What’s the Value of Social Technology in an LMS?

Social technology frequently tops lists of must-have features for learning platforms. However, they still leave many organizations questioning their value. Social is often painted as a distraction, spurring thoughts of idle chitchat and cat videos. Does social technology really drive measurable results?

The answer is yes. Dismissing social’s business value is a disservice.

value of social technology

Benefits of Social Technology

Social technology empowers companies to gain competitive advantages, like bringing new products and services to market more efficiently; responding to customer feedback and market conditions faster; or retaining more top talent.

Spur Innovation

According to McKinsey, 84% of executives say innovation is extremely important or very important to their growth strategy. Social technology can play a crucial role in the creation of profitable new products and services.

For software company Rite-Solutions, their social tools led to the development of 15 new products that account for 20% of their total revenue. Through their online “idea marketplace” and discussion boards, they solicit product ideas. They also quickly identify and mobilize teams of internal subject matter experts to help turn these ideas into viable solutions.

Increase Productivity

Not only can social improve communication and collaboration—it can increase productivity as much as 25%. Emails and other more traditional, one-way communication channels have a lot of value knowledge and information locked in them. But, only a couple people max benefit. Social platforms remove the barriers to institutional knowledge and expertise and make it readily and easily available and searchable for the entire organization. Reps spend less time searching for and gathering information, and more time selling.

Reduce Time and Cost to Go to Market

Cemex, an international building materials manufacturer, cites social as a reason behind their ability to launch new products faster. By using their internal social learning platform, they rolled out their new ready-mix brand of concrete in under four months—a third of the original estimated timeframe.

Social technology enabled the team to work and collaborate more efficiently. The company estimates they saved more than $1 million by cutting out phone and travel expenses associated with traditional meetings.

Pivot Faster

Best Buy, a consumer electronics retailer, has 1,500+ stores and 100,000+ frontline employees. They use social technology to capture, consolidate, and share customer feedback, and leaders use this information to inform business strategies such as sales promotions. Not only do they have an efficient way to collect user research, they’re also able to make decisions and pivot more quickly.

According to Best Buy, “the aggregate insights have proven to be cost-effective for the enterprise and fast and flexible in a high-speed and dynamic retail environment.”

Increase Employee Engagement

Amway, a direct sales company, has shared that twice as much learning happens between peers than through traditional training methods.

“For us to be a really nimble organization, learning needs to be driven by the learners themselves.”
Jon Brickener, Performance Consultant, Amway

Our clients have similar experiences using social learning tools. For example, after implementing our social learning management system, clients have seen a 4x increase in engagement compared to standard LMSs that don’t include these kinds of tools.

Employees want to share their experiences and help others out. Social platforms empower them to take ownership and contribute to their development. And when people are engaged, they learn more and retain information better.

Plus, engagement impacts turnover. Highly engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave an organization.

Retain More Customers

Engaged employees are also more invested in the success of their organization. According to the PeopleMatter Institute, highly engaged employees outperform coworkers by up to 28%. Ultimately, this leads to better customer service and, ultimately, retention.

Shorten Sales Cycles and Increase Revenue

In a study called Enterprise Social Collaboration: The Collaborators’ Advantage, the Aberdeen Group found that, compared to companies not using social tools, those who embraced social technology achieved these results year over year:

  • 55% greater increase in annual revenue.
  • 245% higher percentage of sales reps achieving annual quotas.
  • 116% greater improvement in shortening average sales cycles.

The culmination of other benefits—faster access to experts and information, better retention and application of training, better customer service—can ultimately improves sales.

Implementing Social Technologies

Before going all in on social technologies, organizations must first determine if such tools fit their culture and L&D strategy. Social technology alone won’t make an impact. People need to be empowered to participate.

There needs to be a spirit of openness, trust, and information sharing. L&D must emphasize collaborative, peer-led learning and not top-down training. Social cannot and will not survive or thrive in environments lacking these characteristics.

For many organizations, this is a huge shift in thinking, approach, and behavior. Organizational change takes time. To help gain buy-in, start small. Band together with evangelists to design and implement a pilot program to test the waters. Get user feedback during the pilot and use it to refine your approach. Share results from the pilot, as well as other research, to build your business case and demonstrate value.

As you scale your program, continue to get feedback, observe results, be transparent about wins and opportunities, and iterate and evolve based on what your team learns. There may be growing pains but the results your team will be able to achieve, like increased productivity and revenue, will be worth it.