In this new blog series, “Workforce Edtech – Leading the Job Skills Revolution,” we spoke to some of the founders and leaders of LearnLaunch portfolio companies who are filling the gaps in workforce and continuing education, while redefining learning beyond traditional degree programs. To kick things off, we spoke with Steve Albanese, founder and CEO of LearnBolt.
In this interview, Steve told us about his vision of LearnBolt as a “productivity platform for learning management,” why e-learning will likely be a thing of the past very soon, and how even small businesses without many resources can build a robust and dynamic library of training content, even if they think they can’t.
What does LearnBolt do?
LearnBolt is a workforce productivity and knowledge management system for collecting, storing, organizing, and disseminating crucial business knowledge to your workforce. We want to help businesses reduce onboarding time and costs, ensure product and service consistency, and make training easier.
Businesses lose millions from bad onboarding and bad consistency. They lose billions when employees leave and take their knowledge with them. The question is, how do you capture that knowledge? You can’t have knowledge walking out the door because it was only stored in people’s heads.
Any business that’s creating content for learning runs into what I call the “cost, time and effort mountain.” At a minimum, you need capture devices, a content management system, and a learning management system for distribution just to start building out a library of useful training materials. Large corporations have the resources to do this, but a lot of smaller businesses don’t. We want to make it so these businesses can go from idea to delivery of training material with just a mobile device and our platform.
Conceptually, we’re not just a training platform. I would categorize LearnBolt as nothing like any other LMS. We’re more like Trello, Slack, and Evernote, which are productivity products. We want to be a turnkey productivity platform for knowledge management that lets you connect, organize and share information in a heartbeat to eliminate the need to rely on job shadowing, which can lead to inconsistencies in training and outcomes.
Why do you think there has been such rapid growth in alternative/accelerated post-secondary education programs?
I think of it like layers of sediment in the Earth – the bottom layers are very thick, and the further up you go, the layers get thinner. Traditional training – lectures and apprenticeships – was the primary mode of learning for a long time. Then there’s e-learning which is a model where you go to a website and learn something based on what someone disconnected from your life wants you to learn. It’s slide after slide, checking the boxes at the end.
E-learning hasn’t been around for that long, but we’re already moving past it. More people are learning on YouTube than in all universities combined. People ask, “what do I need right now?” It’s more on-demand learning. Almost anything you think you need, you can find. You might have to spend a bit of time and sift through a lot to find exactly what you need, but chances are you’ll find it.
Education is changing because consumers are changing. If our employers are hiring millennials, they need to know that that generation expects instant learning. You can’t be effective if you can’t cater to the needs of people who want to get what they need to do a job right away. It’s not businesses driving the transformations, it’s the consumers – the people being hired.
Why do you think startups are filling the gap in the market for continuing education rather than traditional colleges and universities?
I think it’s about money. Not necessarily the money to do it, but when you look at the lifecycle of a business, people get happy and complacent. They provide a service and don’t see why they should change when they’re making money. They hold on too long. There’s a quote by Cicero I love – “To be ignorant of the past is to be forever a child.”
In any industry, there’s a lifecycle. The big entrenched powers can hold on, but startups with new tech can race around and get ahead. People want to hold onto their jobs, resist change, and stick with the status quo. That makes it an exciting time for edtech.
How are you overcoming the challenge of personalizing education at scale?
For us, it’s more about building a platform than specific content. The architecture is about keeping your eye on the endgame that our target audience wants to get to. We’re just trying to build something nimble that allows users to do what they want. I’m not a PhD in education, so I’m not fixed on a specific pedagogy on how people best learn.
That can be a moving target, but what managers need is productivity, quality, consistency in all facets of the business. That’s a common need and we’re still fine tuning our offering, but we’re quickly learning what the pain points are for businesses. That’s been our focus.
Can you share some of the results your clients are seeing?
A major hotel chain needed to teach people how to use a new cleaning system. One of the directors was worried that he wouldn’t be able to do it on the desired timeline, so I pitched him on our platform. He was able to develop learning materials on LearnBolt and push it to 432 locations within a week. His internal learning department would have taken 6 months to do that.
In many businesses, middle managers want to sidestep clunky processes and teach people what they need when it’s actually needed.
What can businesses do to create good training content if they don’t have quality instructors on their own staffs?
Our customers do have the content, it’s more the collection and organization of it they struggle with. That’s where you run into the cost, time, and effort mountain. Traditionally, you would have instructional designers and media professionals to make content for your business, then you’d need a system to store and organize it, and so on.
For a small or medium-sized business, they just have to do something to ensure the right knowledge gets to the right people when they need it, even if it’s just a PDF. We’re not talking about creating pretty graphics. It’s about curating and organizing the content you already have, such as PDFs, pictures, videos, and so on. We can organize it and keep it all in one place. And we can also help people record videos doing training so they have the raw assets to create a library of useful content. It’s not Hollywood production, but you have it and it’s ready to use.
For example, if a veteran bartender is showing how to clean a counter and makes an offhand comment about using one specific cleaner instead of another to avoid damaging the finish on the bar – that’s gold! Other people need to know that. We record that and other employees who search “bar setup” can see it.
Do you see video/digital learning and traditional training methods like job shadowing to be mutually exclusive? How can businesses combine both?
LearnBolt offers quick, as-needed knowledge delivery, but it definitely doesn’t preclude working in an environment with people. That social aspect is still important. We empower people in the job to learn as they need it. But things change and people always find better ways to do things. We make it so you can update that knowledge as your business changes. LearnBolt is made of micro-assets, not 15-minute long videos you can’t easily change as your business changes. We make it easy to update things, and capture information in the moment.
In a restaurant, if you see someone set up a table in a great new way, you take a picture, upload it, and now it’s the standard practice for all future trainees. You ensure quality and consistency and that you’re always locking in the best way to do something.
This interview was conducted and written by Ideometry, an all-in-one growth marketing agency helping everyone from startups to Fortune 500 companies engineer brilliant integrated campaigns, find their ideal audience, fuel their pipeline, and drive real success.
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