Learning Has Changed. Has Your LMS Kept Up?

Four decades ago, employees slogged through printed training manuals accompanied by the occasional slide carousel show. Today, cutting-edge training is conducted via high-quality video content on mobile devices. We’ve come a long way from those dog-eared three-ring binders!

As training advanced, the learning management system (LMS) emerged in the 1990s as a tool to manage organizational learning programs. But now that training is accelerating into a more mobile, social, and connected experience, do you see your LMS as an innovative tool that simplifies training and makes it more engaging, or a clunky obstacle employees must overcome to find what they need?

Your learning platform should engage and inform. If your LMS can’t do that, you have a training problem. And it won’t be long before that becomes a business problem.


LMS Satisfaction: Lukewarm at Best

According to Brandon Hall Group’s 2015 Learning Technology Trends survey, 85% of companies surveyed use an LMS, but “LMS satisfaction” seems to be an oxymoron:

  • 38% of companies are actively looking to replace their LMS
  • 31% of companies said they would not at all recommend their solution to colleagues
  • 20% said they would not renew

That adds up to an astonishing 89% of companies seeking a new training platform.

The oft-heard complaints about your LMS: it’s too clunky, too expensive, employees hate it. And the clincher: “It’s too complicated! I can’t find what I need when I need it. Why can’t training be easy to access?”

Brandon Hall sums it up:

“A system that is difficult to navigate causes frustration and can even impact the completion and effectiveness of the learning it’s supposed to be delivering.”

Ranking dead last in Brandon Hall’s satisfaction survey was whether respondents thought their LMS has the ability to meet future needs. The score: a dismal 2.57 out of 5.

Organizations are unsure of their LMS’s ability to satisfy future training needs. Let’s gaze into our Training Crystal Ball to determine if your organization’s LMS can handle them.

What Modern Training Looks Like

In our modern world, learners consume high-quality content and videos daily. Bland training courses can cause an eye-rolling epidemic. To help knowledge stick, today’s learners need high-quality, modern training content that keeps them engaged.

So, what does modern training look like? Take a look at ATD’s Learning Trends for the Next 5 Years for a good starting point. Learning should be adaptive, social, delivered in short bursts, immersive, and include gamification to make it – dare we say – fun.

And here are the training trends our readers are watching in 2017, which compare favorably with ATD’s 5-year-outlook (we typically move a little faster than average).

This is where learning is going. Stop for a minute and think about these two questions:

  1. Does your training content stack up?
  2. Can your current LMS support these trends?

Should an LMS Handle More than Just Training?

Traditional LMSs only house training. Users log in, complete their training, and log out. Admins log in, analyze who’s completed their training, nag those who haven’t, and log out. Lather, rinse, repeat.

If that’s all your LMS accomplishes, it’s outdated and ineffective. Today’s learners expect – and deserve – more.

To step into the modern era of training, organizations need more than just a way to deliver training and track completion. They need:

All training materials in one place. A single platform to host all the content employees need to be effective in their roles ‒ training; job aids; product information, updates, promotions; etc. Put everything at their fingertips and make it easy to access.

Collaboration tools. Allow your learners to connect with one another to keep the learning going. Social learning doesn’t just make learning fun. ATD points out that social learning enables rock star employees who engage and inspire those around them to significantly widen their circle of influence – with no travel expenses.

Simplified communication. Training is not a one-sided conversation. Your learning platform should make it easy to communicate targeted, visual, and engaging updates to the frontline without sending yet another email.

Motivation and rewards. Modern employees, especially sales professionals, love a little friendly competition and being rewarded for performance. Use gamification to keep employees engaged throughout their learning journey.

Imagine what would happen if people were actually engaged in their training. Imagine if everything your employees needed related to their training and job performance was in one location. Imagine if all of the above tools existed in one platform. Imagine!

We Knew There Had to Be a Better Way

So that’s why we built Spoke. With Spoke, easy access to all of these tools in one simplified, compatible platform isn’t just a figment of our collective imaginations anymore. It’s real.

Folksinger and social activist Pete Seeger said it best:

“Any darn fool can make something complex; it takes a genius to make something simple.”

Sure, Spoke was named a top LMS in eLearning 24/7’s annual Top 50 LMS report in 2015, 2016, and again in 2017. But companies using Spoke are the ones seeing real results.

“Improved performance for every employee…”

“It’s intuitive. Nothing is buried.”

“It makes my job a lot easier.”

Oh, not to mention it gets used up to 4X more than traditional learning management systems.

Let’s Connect

Is your organization ready to change as learning evolves to the next level? Can your learning platform keep up?

When you’re ready to discuss modern training and a high-performance platform that does more than just deliver that training, contact us or give us a call: (888) 723-9770.

5 Learning & Development Trends to Watch in 2017

Update: Check out our list of 2018 training trends to watch.

It’s January. Prime time for predictions about the corporate training landscape. In 2016, we highlighted shared goals, collaboration, and analytics as topics of interest. This year, instead of telling you what we think the year’s big trends will be, we went straight to the source ‒ you! We polled our audience: “What L&D trends are you watching in 2017?”

2017 Learning and Development Trends to Watch

We asked. You answered. Now, we deliver.

Here’s what’s on your collective radar:

1. Microlearning. Training in bite-sized, easily digestible chunks.
2. Personalization. Make training individualized and contextual ‒ so it sticks.
3. Employee Engagement. Wowed employees are happy employees.
4. Measurable ROI. How impactful is your training program?
5. Marriage of great content + great technology. Deliver awesome content – awesomely.

Now for a deeper dive into each trending topic and what percentage of you picked each topic.

69% Donut Chart

Microlearning: shorter courses and more of them

StatisticBrain.com says our average attention span in 2015 was 8.25 seconds, down from 12 seconds in 2000, when mobile went mainstream. In addition to having an attention span lower than the average goldfish (Goldie clocks in at 9 seconds), learners are busy.

Delivering training in bite-sized chunks is key. With shorter courses divided into more segments, employees are empowered to learn at their own pace. They gain valuable information with minimal disruption to their workflow.

Adding mobility to microlearning enables users to train anywhere, anytime. And on the go. That autonomy combined with entertaining, informative content helps learners retain knowledge in a simple, easy-to-remember way.

Hungry for more? Check out this post on using microlearning for sales training.

49% Donut Chart

Personalization of training


Personalizing the learning journey for each specific job function ensures that learners get the information they need without wasting valuable time. For example, an inside sales rep requires different knowledge and skills than an outside sales rep. Their personalized training journeys should reflect that.

Learning is contextual. Employees want their training to look and feel like their day-to-day encounters, so they can see exactly how to apply new knowledge and skills situationally. This improves productivity, performance, sales – and therefore, your bottom line.

In addition to personalizing for job function, training should be customized to mirror your organization’s particular values and culture. Keep it conversational and sprinkle some humor around.

Unique, contextualized training that informs and entertains gets a thumbs-up from employees and superior results for your company. Win-win.

33% Donut Chart

Focus on employee engagement

Fact: highly engaged employees are more productive and less likely to job-hop. That’s critical because employee turnover costs big bucks. Some studies suggest replacing a salaried employee costs six to nine months of their annual salary. A CAP Study found that losing a high-level employee can cost up to 213% of their annual salary. Plus, it tanks employee morale.

Churn is bad. So how do you poach-proof valued contributors?

Increased employee engagement is key. If you think another three days of PowerPoint presentations will get your team amped, think again.

Instead, give employees something they will actually look forward to. Innovative, high-tech training ‒ like the media they consume on YouTube and Facebook in their spare time ‒ holds their attention and boosts retention rates.

We’ve found that instilling gamification, interaction and socialization into your training – maybe even virtual reality – boosts employee engagement and job satisfaction.

Smart content fuels discussions as learners compare best practices. They evolve into champions who bolster your organization. Collateral benefit: elevated employee morale.

33% Donut Chart

Measuring training ROI


Increased completion rates are great, but let’s talk about the measurable business impact of training. What’s your training ROI? How does training correlate with and impact key performance indicators?

The general benefits of training are undisputed: greater productivity, improved customer retention, increased sales, higher employee engagement and decreased churn. But are you measuring them?

To measure specific KPIs, identify them before creating your training program. Ensure the metrics are measurable. And integrate a testing function into the program.

27% Donut Chart

 The marriage of great content and great technology

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to tell you that today’s employees expect training to showcase the marriage of enlightened content and interactive technology. Perk: like many power couples, the two are more effective when combined.

For a hands-on example, look no further than your iPod. The game-changing technology moved the needle on the entire music industry. But without great content, an iPod is merely a well-designed piece of metal with potential.

Imagine lacing up your Adidas and listening to elevator muzak instead of a workout playlist. Spoiler alert: even with superior iPod technology in hand, you won’t shatter your 5-mile PR the day Engelbert Humperdinck replaces Daft Punk.

Don’t just deliver great content. Deliver it in a memorable, relatable way. Edgy modern media captivates employees because they relate to it, so the knowledge and skills they learn will stick.

So, what are you watching?


Let’s bring it full-circle. What other training trends are you watching in 2017? Let us know by commenting below, or give us a shout on Twitter @unboxedtech.

If your organization is on the verge of a growth spurt, custom training can catapult you to the next level. Let’s talk about transformational training solutions: (888) 723-9770

Lochinvar Makes Training Easy by Choosing Spoke®

A manufacturer of high efficiency boilers had great online training, but the learning management system (LMS) that delivered it left them wanting more. A cumbersome user experience and limited customer support sent them searching for a better way. Two years and many LMS candidates later, they found Spoke.


Lochinvar Logo

Lochinvar, LLC is a Tennessee-based manufacturer of high efficiency boilers, water heaters, pool heaters, and storage tanks. Their need? A better way to deliver online training for more than a thousand people a year: engineers who specify their products, end users who own them, and contractors who service and install them.


Lochinvar’s product training was solid content-wise, but their LMS got in the way of learners’ access to that content. Users said the platform was hard to navigate. Plus, it wasn’t mobile-friendly. “Everyone has a smart device these days,” said Ernie Chase, technical trainer and administrator for Lochinvar University. “We have to get the training to learners wherever they are, not just on a PC in the office.”


Now they can focus on learning instead of navigating the platform.

Enter Spoke, the simple and social learning management system. “Spoke is intuitive,” Chase said. “It’s so easy to use. Users are only two clicks away from training. Now they can focus on learning instead of navigating the platform.”

Spoke Dashboard and Reports

“Plus, customer service is beyond just ‘Give us your money and we’ll give you our product,’” Chase continued. “Any time we have a question, we get an answer. When we have a problem, Unboxed finds the solution. And with Unboxed, we know they’re always updating Spoke and keeping it current. It’s a moving, living thing.”


We’ve had an extremely positive experience with Spoke. The platform is easy to navigate. It’s intuitive. Nothing is buried.

Initial results indicate learners are more engaged, and LochinvarU is delighted. “It’s unbelievable,” Chase shared. “All we did was move our old content onto Spoke. Overnight, the feedback was, ‘This is amazing training!’ Once the platform issues were out of the way, people could enjoy and learn from our content. Plus, people are talking about how many Spoke coins they have. It gets their competitive nature flowing. They want to complete more courses to get more coins.”

Training reports

Spoke’s reporting features give LochinvarU new insight into what content their audience wants—and uses. “We spent six months developing an interactive troubleshooter. We never knew how many people were using it, until Spoke,” Chase said. “This helps us with planning. We know what people are using, which guides our future training decisions.”

“We’ve had an extremely positive experience with Spoke. The platform is easy to navigate. It’s intuitive. Nothing is buried,” Chase said. “And we love the open communication with Unboxed.”

Comcast Closes More Sales with Interactive Sales Tools

For customers in Best Buy stores, Comcast sought a way to create a more consistent and engaging experience to teach them about the benefits of XFINITY® products and services. After introducing our sales enablement tools, pilot stores achieved a 40% increase in productivity and a 60% year-over-year increase in sales.


Comcast logoComcast brings exciting products and unparalleled choices to customers across America. Their state-of-the-art TV, internet, and voice services push the boundaries of innovation and creativity. Through a partnership with the complete solution in mind, Comcast Connection Specialists can sell XFINITY products from within Best Buy stores. This gives customers quick, easy access to XFINITY packages that optimize their new Best Buy devices.


Comcast needed a sales tool that could accomplish the following:

  1. Make the sales process more consistent. Best practices needed to be translated into an easy-to-follow, repeatable model. A consistent sales process would capitalize on winning behaviors and empower more Comcast Connection Specialists to be successful in Best Buy stores.
  2. Establish instant engagement. As with any sales role, Comcast Connection Specialists need to immediately break the ice, build credibility, and establish rapport. In a retail setting like this, every minute with the customer counts.
  3. Educate customers. To understand how a product works, most customers need a quick visual demonstration—that’s why businesses often use brochures and one-pagers. However, Comcast wanted to leave their print materials behind and introduce a more dynamic, interactive, and compelling way to teach customers about their value proposition and help them make a smart buying decision.
  4. Measure customer interactions. Comcast didn’t have a way to measure what happened during conversations between Connection Specialists and customers. What packages did the Connection Specialist show the customer? How long did they talk? What were the customer’s needs? Who was Comcast competing against? The Comcast team wanted a way to collect insights to drive future product training, sales, and innovation.


Comcast saw Unboxed as an ideal partner for several reasons. First, they knew we’d be nimble, quick, and responsive. Working with a firm of our size meant we would pay close attention to the project and adopt a consultative approach from start to finish.

They didn’t [just] take direction and go for it. They challenged us a bit in a good way. They really listened to the request of the sales team. That is what they delivered.

“They didn’t [just] take direction and go for it. They challenged us a bit in a good way,” said Rob Simek, Executive Director of Sales Channel Marketing. “They really listened to the request of the sales team. That is what they delivered.”

Building an interactive sales tool was new territory for the Comcast team, and they knew they needed a partner with an extensive retail background. They didn’t just need a vendor to create software—they needed a partner to advise, develop, and support the training and execution of a new experience from a retail perspective.

We teamed up with Comcast to understand their current sales process, pain points, customer needs, and Connection Specialist needs. This involved the following:

  • Meeting with field representatives and visiting Best Buy stores to understand the obstacles to closing a sale
  • Rapid prototyping to show preliminary designs to Connection Specialists and get their input
  • Hands-on training for Connection Specialists in the pilot stores
  • Observation in stores and weekly calls to gather and apply feedback and make changes


After a thorough discovery process, we applied what we learned to create the UI/UX (User Interface/User Experience) for the XFINITY Sales Tool. The app has two components:

Assistant for Comcast

Guided Selling

Advisor’s guided selling tool helps a customer navigate through qualifying questions and provides a personalized product recommendation.

X1 Advisor

Interactive Demos

Advisor also uses interactive simulations to demonstrate the features and benefits of XFINITY products and services.

It was exactly what we were searching for. It made everything simple and easy to understand.


The XFINITY Sales Tool has a simple, elegant design that’s easy and fun to use. More importantly, it gets results. Pilot stores experienced a 60% year-over-year improvement in sales, and productivity climbed 40%. The app allowed Connection Specialists to effortlessly log valuable customer insights.

The app also boosted Connection Specialists’ confidence and engagement skills. Qualitative feedback indicated the iPad provided a professional appearance, making it easier to approach Best Buy store guests. They called the app a “knowledge backup” that lets them focus on the customer. They also said it drives upgrades and helps close sales faster. “98% of a transaction can be done on [the] app, the rest [can be done] after the guest leaves the store,” said one Connection Specialist.

“It was exactly what we were searching for,” said Simek. “It made everything simple and easy to understand.”

New Spoke Features: Dashboards, Badges, and Resources

Hello again from the Spoke team!

These days, one look around the bustling Unboxed office makes it clear how much work is going into our social learning platform. Here’re the new features that are rolling out:

User Dashboard

Learners want to quickly see where they stand without having to dig through a bunch of screens. To help, we’ve created a dashboard that displays the learner’s next courses, the most recent community discussion, and the top-rated documents and videos. To fan the flame of friendly competition, we even show the learner where they stand compared to peers in their store, district, region, or entire company.

Spoke Dashboard

Badges & Gamification

To build out the social, gamificiation features of our LMS, we’ve created badges that learners can earn and display on their profile. Post your first comment in the Community? There’s a badge for that. Complete all your assigned courses? You just unlocked the Head of the Class badge. Badges are a fun way to encourage learners to engage with Spoke and each other.

And you didn’t hear it from us, but there just might be some secret badges hidden in Spoke as well….



Any LMS can hold your training courses, but we know companies often want to post other resources, like job aids and video demos. That’s why we built the Resources section, a library where you can post those helpful files for your learners. And because learners can vote on and award coins to the most helpful content, you can be sure the most valuable resources will rise to the top for all to easily see.


Spoke is ready and waiting. Give your learners access to the LMS features they really need, and none of the ones that will slow them down. Drop us a line if you’d like to see more. We’d love to hear from you!