A Conversation with Carol Leaman, CEO of Axonify

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Carol Leaman the CEO of Axonify. We discussed the daring new shift Axonify is making in the corporate learning space.

Carol, herself, has had a remarkable career working in the technology space for a number of years. You can learn more about her in this great interview called “Why this woman turned down a fabulous job at Google”. You can also check out a fascinating case study of how the Axonify platform is being used at Bloomingdales.. Now here are the highlights from our conversation.

Kapp: Carol, can you please explain a little about what Axonify does and how it got started?

Leaman: Axonify got its start out of a need on the operations side of the business at Pep Boys. Their Associates weren’t retaining and applying their corporate safety and loss prevention principles and it was costing them a lot of money. Their LMS and awareness programs quite simply weren’t able to change behavior and there was nothing they felt was available to help solve this problem. We worked with Pep Boys to create the world’s first microlearning platform (before microlearning was even a term) and the results were so phenomenal—with savings in the millions of dollars a year—that we took the solution out to market and the rest, as they say, is history.

Following our first deployment at Pep Boys over 4 years ago, Axonify has continued to innovate and expand our solution offering and I’m excited to share that we’ve just launched the world’s first Employee Knowledge Platform. It’s a platform that focuses entirely on driving employee knowledge in corporate enterprise, ensuring that every employee has what they need, either in their heads or at their fingertips, to effectively do their job.

Kapp: Wow, so you are in the process of leaving behind the eLearning category, that’s big news. Can you explain what you mean by that and why such a bold move?

Leaman: There are 2 fundamental reasons why we made the conscious decision to leave the eLearning category behind.

First, the Axonify platform has expanded well beyond eLearning.

What started out as a very effective microlearning platform has now evolved into a sophisticated multi-faceted platform that provides organizations with everything they need to ensure that their employees acquire, grow, sustain, share and apply their knowledge to the job. The platform is 100% committed to solving the employee knowledge problem in a way that is fun, fast, personalized and at the point of need.

The second, and more fundamental reason, is that the majority of our customers quite simply don’t see us as an eLearning platform.

More than half of the individuals who purchase and implement Axonify are within the business unit and not part of a learning team. They leverage Axonify to improve employee performance and ultimately make a business impact. These folks have never seen us as an eLearning platform, but rather as a way to improve employee knowledge, drive behavior change and help them meet their bottom-line objectives. Whether it’s the VP of Logistics at Walmart looking to reduce safety incidents, the VP of Risk at John Hancock or the leader of dealer enablement at Toyota, they’re all using Axonify for one thing and that is to help their people to do the right thing. eLearning solutions just don’t deliver on that promise. With that being said, we also have learning leaders who’ve purchased Axonify, and now have a way to demonstrate a distinct contribution to the business.

Kapp: Can you tell me more about your Employee Knowledge Platform?

Leaman: The Axonify Employee Knowledge platform consists of 5 interconnected and interdependent components: microLearning + knowledge-on-demand + management support + behavior observation & measurement + business results tracking & measurement, each with their own unique set of capabilities.

Kapp: Interesting, what problem are you solving with this new platform?

Leaman: Quite simply, Axonify solves the corporate employee knowledge problem.

More than ever before, employees are overwhelmed with what they need to know to do their jobs. As a result, they aren’t doing the right thing, which is collectively rolling up to a very expensive problem for organizations. To try to solve this problem, organizations have thrown traditional eLearning and training practices at it, along with convoluted wiki-type portals, none of which have been effective. The reason is simple – all approaches are focused on delivering learning, not on the acquisition, retention and application of knowledge. The result? Low participation, poor learning retention, lack of knowledge growth, no behavior change and no bottom-line impact for the organization.

Kapp: What are the key elements of the platform?

Leaman: Central to the platform is our award-winning microlearning capability, which delivers short, daily bursts of learning that adapt to what the employee knows and doesn’t know. Alongside microlearning is our performance support offering that provides knowledge-on-demand, where employees can access the information they need, when they need it. Pulled from a living repository of information that is populated by subject matter experts and crowd-sourced by the employee community, Axonify’s knowledge-on-demand solution builds a bridge between experts, learning professionals and employees.

Also, we haven’t forgotten about the importance of managers in the employee knowledge equation and as a result, provide them with a comprehensive toolset within the platform to help them coach and support staff development.

Report information available through Axonify.

Report information available through Axonify.

Example of Report available through Axonify.

Example of Report available through Axonify.

And last but not least, is the most amazing part of the offering—our business impact capabilities. With the launch of this platform, we’re providing our customers with the unique ability to observe, track and measure behaviors through to business results. For the first time ever, organizations can measure the impact of their learning efforts on knowledge growth through to employee behaviors and business results, whether it’s an increase in sales or a reduction in safety incidents.

Kapp: Can you expand on the microlearning component of your platform? What makes it unique?

Leaman: As I mentioned, Axonify was the first organization to bring microlearning to market—before a category was even developed—so we’ve been able to perfect the approach to drive unprecedented voluntary participation, knowledge growth and results.

Specifically, our microlearning solution delivers personalized, bite-sized content in short bursts, several times per week, or even daily. Based on the latest in brain science research and wrapped in gamification, employees follow their own unique knowledge path that adapts and expands as their level of comprehension grows. Throughout the experience, they can play a game, accumulate points, or compete with their peers, which makes the experience engaging and fun.

What makes it unique and effective is the patent pending Axonify Learning Model, which is the perfect combination of brain science, adaptive learning technology and gamification. Our adaptive, spacing algorithm has been optimized to maximize knowledge growth and retention.

Kapp: Can you explain a little how you leverage game mechanics to drive employee engagement, knowledge and behavior change?

Carol: The Axonify platform employs about 15 game mechanics that work together to drive participation and results. For example, employees can choose to take their learning from within game play, whether it’s a brain game or an arcade style game, we have dozens to choose from. Other game mechanics include coaches, leaderboards, rewards, news feed, badging and more.

Game selection in Axonify.

Game selection in Axonify.

Example of an Axonify Game.

Example of an Axonify Game.

Example of a question in the Axonify platform.

Example of a question in the Axonify platform.

Kapp: As an early player in the gamification space, I assume you’ve accumulated and analyzed a significant amount of gamification data. Can you give us some insights? What are some interesting findings that you’ve discovered that help engage learners?

Leaman: We have learned an enormous amount from analyzing the gamification data we’ve accumulated over the years. In fact, we have 2.6 million gamification data points that we analyze and correlate to knowledge growth and results—more than any other vendor on the market.

We’re going to be releasing a report early next year, however I’ll share some of our discoveries. First, when learning is wrapped in a game, more learning occurs: those who select a game participate 20% more than those who don’t. Also, learners care more about how they stack up against their peers than we could have imagined: 30% of Axonify learners check their leaderboard every time they’re on the platform, 40% if they’re a sales professional. Also, we’ve proven that tangible rewards drive participation and learning more than we thought. Stay tuned on more on this over the coming months.

Axonify personal dashboard.

Axonify personal dashboard.

Axonify page for choosing rewards.

Axonify page for choosing rewards.

Kapp: What have been some of the results that you’ve seen?

Leaman: The beauty of the platform is that it truly works to create more knowledgeable employees and we have some really great customers who are tracking results every day. For example, Bloomingdale’s has attributed a 22.9% reduction in safety incidents for stores actively using Axonify—equating to a $2.2 million in annual savings. Toyota has seen rep confidence climb and an increase in sales of one to two vehicles per month—per representative. Capital BlueCross documented a 66.6% reduction in errors within their administration team on Axonify.

Kapp: I teach graduate students in the field of instructional technology, what advice or guidance would you give to them as they begin their careers?

Leaman: I would share that whatever the content or subject matter you’re building, always make sure that it’s driving towards a business result. Content needs to link to knowledge growth, which needs to link to behavior change that ultimately correlates to the bottom-line. Start with the end in mind. That way you always know that you’re providing value to the business.

Posted in: Gamification, Out and About

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1 Comment

  1. Jonathan Jones November 18, 2015

    Great interview. Thank you Karl and thank you Carol Leaman. Tying knowledge to performance to business impact. I love it and I’m sure Axonify’s clients love it as well. Congratulations and thank you for sharing.

Karl Kapp
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