Mobile Learning for the Deskless Employee

About my guest:

Athena Marousis is the Growth Marketer of TalentCards, the mobile learning app that puts training in people’s hands, no matter where they are in the world. She has been with the company for over 3 years and having worked in deskless industries in the past; she has experienced first-hand the absence of software designed specifically for frontline employees. Athena is now on a mission to make TalentCards the go-to mobile training app for companies with deskless employees.

TalentCards is the latest software in Epignosis’s portfolio of software products, which also includes TalentLMS and eFront. The company has helped hundreds of thousands of organizations of all sizes across the globe deliver better training.

More about Athena Marousis

More about TalentCards

More about Epignosis Learning Technologies

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Transcript of the Interview

{Edited for Ease of Reading}

Petra Mayer  00:03

Hello and welcome. I’m Petra Mayer. I’m the CEO and founder of Petra Mayer and Associates Consulting, and today in my interview, I am here to introduce you to Athena Marousis. Now, Athena is the growth marketer at TalentCards. And TalentCards is the newest software of Epignosis Learning Technologies. And she will help us understand what TalentCards is, how she got to work for them, and why she is so excited about this product and the features. Welcome, Athena.

Athena Marousis  00:33

Hi, Petra; thank you so much for having me. It’s really great to be here with you.

Petra Mayer  00:37

Well, thank you for your time. And I am very excited about this particular interview. Because as you know, I’m interviewing learning management systems, but I’m also interviewing specialty systems. I think you are one of those specialty systems. Athena, maybe share with us how you got to work for Epignosis and especially for TalentCards, and why you’re so excited about this product.

Athena Marousis  01:02

Yeah, so initially, my background isn’t specifically in marketing. In college, I actually studied English literature and economics. And then came to find out that marketing is a nice overlap of these two things where I get to use both of these skills in my day-to-day job because marketing is both. And growth marketing is both understanding people, the psychology behind people, the way people think how words persuade people, but it’s also a lot of metrics and a lot of understanding what converts and what doesn’t convert, how things perform in a very numeric sense.

So that’s a little bit about my background in terms of education, and I started at Epignosis three years ago. And as you mentioned, of course, TalentCards is the newest software in Epignosis. And that really drew me in from the beginning when I first joined the company. So for the past year and a half, I’ve actually been dedicated to the TalentCards team. And I guess I was just drawn to it in general because of the nature of the software. The market that it is directed at is a market that I relate more to. And that was kind of what pushed me to want to be on this team specifically.

Petra Mayer  02:22

You’re already going into kind of the market. And I think what you told me prior to starting the interview; you’ve worked in an industry where you would have wished to have something like TalentCards. And so that must be quite exciting now to be able to promote a product to that kind of industry. Tell us more about that.

Athena Marousis  02:43

One of the main reasons why I was really attracted to TalentCards, specifically from the beginning, is that TalentCards is actually geared at the end user, the employee that isn’t desk-bound but actually is desk-less. I personally related to that when I first joined the company because, like a lot of people in college and before, I had waited tables, and I had worked retail, and you know, these people do the kind of jobs that we take for granted every day.

And they don’t necessarily get the job training and support that you get when you’re in a formal office environment. I definitely experienced that firsthand, and so when I found that TalentCards was actually geared and designed specifically to support deskless employees, I was like, This is what billions of people are missing in their day-to-day, and that mission just resonated with me much more and pushed me to want to be on the TalentCards team.

Petra Mayer  03:43

You’re already bringing in some really important terms, the deskless employee. We also know TalentCards as a mobile-first platform. So what does that actually mean? Mobile first diskless. employee? Tell us a little bit more.

Athena Marousis  04:01

Yeah, sure. So mobile first essentially means that the software was designed from day one to be used on a mobile device. So not a laptop computer or a desktop computer. And in the LMS world, the vast majority of LMSs were designed initially to be used on desktops and laptops. And then, of course, you know, a lot of these systems do have mobile apps that go with the LMS.

But what you’ll find is that the content that you hide in your LMS, your Word documents, your PDFs, and that sort of thing, which are, of course, designed to be used on a laptop, have just been shrunken down to fit on the phone. And this is not a mobile-optimized experience. Mobile first means that from the beginning, the content and all of the features surrounding the platform are designed to be used on a mobile device, whether that’s a smartphone or a tablet

Petra Mayer  04:59

And then you are talking about the deskless employee, okay, so we can understand there’s a whole load of people who work in the day-to-day environment where they don’t have access to a computer. Give us some examples of typical industries that should really look at TalentCards.

Athena Marousis  05:18

Yeah, sure. So, you know, aside from food and beverage, and from retail, you know, that I mentioned before that I can personally relate to, there are other industries that are absolutely vital to us that these employees need to be supported in their jobs. We’re talking nurses and doctors in the healthcare industry and first responders. We’re talking construction workers; we’re talking manufacturing employees, you know, first responders.

These kinds of people that we do often take for granted, you know, in our day-to-day and don’t have access to the same kind of software and training material and training resources that, you know, office-bound employees do have access to simply because they do have access to a laptop all the time, and that’s where they do most of their job.

Petra Mayer  06:07

I can certainly relate to that. Because I’ve worked in a lot of these industries, I’ve worked in the travel industry, the hotel and retail, and, you know, the coffee shop, etc. Thinking back as I’m listening to you, I’m thinking like, how did I get my training at that time, but it certainly wasn’t sitting in front of a computer.

But it certainly wasn’t in front of a mobile phone, either. A lot of it was person-to-person training these days, that’s not really easily scalable. I’m really curious to learn more about how we can think about a platform like TalentCards.

When you’re looking at training your workforce that has these kinds of situations where they, but you can’t bring them into they don’t have their own computer at all, they might not even have a computer at home to do their training. And it’s hard to bring them to the same spot because they’re a dispersed workforce. Let’s look at that a little bit more. But before we go, maybe we could look at the learning management systems overall. And then look at it specifically for mobile users. How do you define this market, and where does TalentCards fit in?

Athena Marousis  07:20

I would define the learning management system market as crowded. There are countless learning management systems out there, you know, companies build their own custom learning management systems, especially large organizations, with hundreds of 1000s of employees, and that sort of thing. And again, most of these LMSs do have a mobile app that goes with the platform.

However, the market and the software that has been developed from the beginning for the mobile user, and not the deskbound user, is significantly smaller in comparison. And a significant amount of funding, the majority of funding that goes towards training, and software development, goes toward software that is supposed to be used primarily on a desktop or a laptop computer.

So there’s definitely this gap in the market and even in the awareness of companies that there are other options out there. Aside from the traditional LMS, you know, is one of the things that I’ve come across, companies will come to TalentCards, and they don’t know that they need a mobile solution because they don’t know what a mobile solution is. They don’t know that such a thing exists. What they know is that the traditional LMS doesn’t work for them; they’re not seeing the success and the results that they would like to be seeing with it. And they want to try something new.

Petra Mayer  08:44

What do you think is the common misconception when those people start to look for an LMS and purchase any system? So, where do they go wrong?

Athena Marousis  08:58

We see this a lot. Actually, I think that the common misconception is that an LMS will work equally well for all the different types of employees that a particular company employs. And LMS of course, work fantastically for employees who come into the office or even work remotely from their laptops. They’ve got access to their courses online, and they’ve got videos, you know, interactive learning, blended learning, instructor-led learning.

All of these things work really well for the desk-bound employee who has access to these things from their laptop. But for the mobile employee, for the deskless employee, these systems don’t perform equally as well. And there are a couple of reasons for that.

One of them is accessibility. If I don’t carry my laptop around with me all day long, it’s not convenient for me to sit down on my phone and, you know, have this PDF I have to zoom in or some file formats are not even compatible, you know, on the mobile app and that sort of thing. And then the other one is time.

So, when you are an office employee, it’s not uncommon that you know, you’ve slated an hour in your calendar for an hour’s worth of training or upskilling to learn a new skill, but when you are, you know, a nurse or a manufacturer worker or a construction worker or something like this, you’re not going to sit down for an hour and do one hour of training, you know, once a week, that’s just not a reasonable expectation. So this is the assumption that gets proven incorrect that a learning management system will work equally well for all types of employees. And that’s just not the case.

Petra Mayer  10:34

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense to me. And I think what you’re talking about when you were thinking about the deskless employees as well, I mean, you were talking about time, and they can’t make an hour or somewhere in between and do training. We really need to look at more micro-learning units that are can be easily accessible to them wherever they are.

Athena Marousis  10:59

Yeah, exactly. That’s right. And that’s one of the cruxes of TalentCards is that not having to deliver a super lengthy course that takes an hour or more to complete or necessarily having to join at a specific time and instructor-led seminar or meeting or something like this. Instead, TalentCards delivers short, concise, to-the-point micro-learning courses that give people access to the information that they need at exactly the moment they need it. In an efficient amount of time so that they can get that info and then get back to work.

And of course, the accessibility, the fact that you have that in your pocket, and you can just carry it around with you, you don’t need to carry around a laptop, or a huge training manual or something like this is the thing that makes training convenient, and therefore more effective. These employees, they’re much more likely to reach for it, they’re much more likely to practice it, they’re much more likely to remember and use it in their day-to-day jobs. And that overall has an impact on their productivity and on the bottom line.

Petra Mayer  12:03

Now, I’m getting really curious here, and I don’t know if I can put you on the spot. But can you show us an example of what this looks like?

Athena Marousis  12:10

Yeah, for sure, I can definitely show you. Give me one second. I can share my screen. So we’ve talked a lot about how TalentCards is a mobile-first platform. But that being said, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t also work on your desktop. And that’s how I can actually, you know, show you a little preview today.

But you know, let’s pretend that you are that manufacturing, construction, nurse, retail salesperson, whatever the case, whatever type of employee you are, and you download a TalentCards on your phone, and you opened up the app, and then you had some training material in front of you. This is exactly you know what it would look like for you. And in TalentCards, you actually have what we call card sets. And card sets are exactly what you’d expect them to be, kind of like how when you were in school, and you had different flashcards to help you learn different concepts.

We’ve taken that same exact concept and just put it on your phone and made it digital and easy to access. So if we just take even a simple topic like avoiding hazards in the workplace and keeping a safe and sustainable workplace, here, we’ve got some cards and some text working together to just really elegantly and quickly deliver the information to employees that they need to have. It’s not intrusive and doesn’t interrupt your workday. You can even just swipe through your cards on your, you know, coffee break or on the morning commute when you’re on the subway or something like this. And then get back to work when you’re done with your card set. So it’s just this simple, easy-to-access and pleasant-to-use environment that employees have in their pockets at any time.

Petra Mayer  13:49

Now, I’m curious about something like this, how do you get so from an administrator perspective? You now need to have your staff or your staff need to look at this card set. And you need to check somehow that they not just flipped through it, but they actually really understood the concepts, and they’re acting on that. How does TalentCards support that?

Athena Marousis  14:16

Yeah, that’s a good question. In addition to adding cards to your learner’s card sets for them to review, you can add other elements as well. So you can actually attach video files or audio files that are engaging for the learner. And a lot of our customers get a lot of use out of this. Maybe they have to explain how to install a particular machine or operate a machine or do a particular process. You can upload a video to your card, have the learner watch it, and they go through and then of course, at the end of this there’s a way to evaluate how well the learner has memorized or mastered the material that you’ve presented to them by adding a quiz.

At the end all the normal things that you’d expect people to do, like enforcing a minimum pass score, having these card sets and these quizzes reset on a regular basis so that the person has to go back and review them again. And as an administrator, you can check and see how many minutes did my employee spend in this particular card set. So if they spent like five seconds and just swipe through the cards, you know, very quickly, you would know that, and you can reset their progress, send a push notification to remind them to do it again, assign them a quiz to see if they pass given a minimum pass score and that sort of thing.

Petra Mayer  15:37

Very interesting. Yeah, a very different way of delivering learning over the traditional learning management system. What do you think for an organization that is listening maybe to this interview or realize that things aren’t working the way they want? What are the indicators that they could recognize that maybe they need to switch from a traditional LMS to a mobile-first platform? Or they might need to consider adding it to their portfolio.

Athena Marousis  16:12

Yeah, that’s a good question. So, of course, right off the bat, you know, if your company is one that employs deskless employees, then hands down, you should consider a mobile application for all the reasons that we’ve already mentioned, you know, that accessibility, the ease of use the microlearning elements, but some of the ways that you can actually identify if a mobile platform is something that you should be considering is that let’s say you do have an LMS, or, or a traditional, you know, training platform inside of your company.

If you find that, once people complete their courses for the first time, they never ever log back in and don’t go back to reference or review that material, then perhaps considering a mobile solution to pair with that learning management system is a way that you can engage your employees in their training on a regular basis, it’s much easier to get somebody to open up an app on their phone and review their content a little bit than it is to say, okay, sit down and do this whole course, again, you know, from beginning to end, during your workday, or something like this.

So I think that if you find that people are not engaging with your training at the level that you want them to, or they complete it, and they just never go back to it again, then increasing the accessibility and making it really a pleasure to complete and a pleasure to go back and want to learn more information. A mobile solution might be the way that could that work for you.

Petra Mayer  17:37

And I think we’ve already kind of really honed in on the ideal user being an organization that has deskless workers, for the ones, then with regards to the workers themselves. I’m assuming they need to have access to a smartphone to access TalentCards; is that right?

Athena Marousis  17:57

Yes. So you do download the TalentCards app onto your phone. And that’s how you’d have access to your courses and your card sets. But something worth mentioning here is that you don’t have to have access to the internet. So one of the big perks of TalentCards. And one of the features that our customers really appreciate is that their employees can actually download their content for offline viewing.

So if your employees are off working in a remote location, where they’re very far out of, you know, internet range, or, you know, don’t want to have to use their own cellular data to be able to access their material, they have this option to download their content, you know, while they’re connected to Wi-Fi either at home or central company location and then have access to that training material in the field on the at the moment that they need it.

Petra Mayer  18:45

Oh, that’s good to know. And does it work on tablets or other devices? I think that will probably be a good policy.

Athena Marousis  18:54

Yeah, absolutely. So same process. If you want to use TalentCards from your tablet, you just open up, you know, the Google Play Store or the Apple store or wherever you have downloaded the TalentCards up, and all of your cards in your courses are right there for you. And then, if for some reason, you do want to use TalentCards from your desktop, that’s also an option. You can use what we call the web app version. You know of the app, and actually complete your courses and your card sets from your browser.

Petra Mayer  19:22

This may be particularly useful. I’m thinking about a client of mine that we’re working with. They have a lot of stuff in a warehouse. And I’m assuming those warehouse staff aren’t necessarily running around with a smartphone. If it is, then it’s their personal phone that they might not want to use for work. Additionally, there may be restrictions on using phones in the workplace as well. So for those kinds of organizations, knowing that they probably have a workstation somewhere that as a central workstation everybody gets access to, and this is where they could have stolen cards as well. Now, you talked about pairing TalentCards with another system. So what does an organization need to consider when they want to do that?

Athena Marousis  20:07

So TalentCards definitely does stand on its own as a training system if you want it to. And that does work for, you know, companies whose employees are largely deskless, or mobile. But we have also seen a lot of success with companies actually pairing their existing LMSs with TalentCards. So what they would do is they would deliver, let’s say, the full version of a course on their company’s LMS.

With all of the PDFs, documents, instructor-led training, videos, and that sort of thing, they delivered the full version of the course on the LMS. And then, they create a condensed micro-learning version of that course on TalentCards. And the purpose of that is so that TalentCards serves as a reinforcement tool. So your employees have spent the time to complete those training courses.

But people forget things. And if that employee never goes back to that training course to review it, then they’re likely going to forget a significant amount of the information that was presented to them and then not apply it in their jobs. So TalentCards serves the purpose of reinforcing this information because you have it available for you on the app in this nice, pleasant environment that’s user-friendly and quick to complete. And then, you review that information on a regular basis so that it actually sticks in your memory and helps you overall in your job.

Petra Mayer  21:27

Yeah, that’s repetition is really important. Even when we sometimes hear the same thing twice, we’re like, Oh, my God, I didn’t pick up on this. And I didn’t pick up on that. So having that repetition is really important. Now, what pricing models do you offer to your clients for TalentCards?

Athena Marousis  21:49

So basically, we’ve kept our pricing really sweet and simple. There are two plans that you can choose from standard or premium. The difference between these two plans is just some of the different features that you get access to. The cost of a standard plan is $1 per user per month, and the cost of a premium plan is $1.50 per user per month. And, of course, we give people the option if they want to be on annual billing, then they automatically get 20% off, regardless of which plan they’ve chosen.

Petra Mayer  22:21

Oh, that really sounds simple. And are you when you’re saying a user, you’re talking about active users who are logging into their platform? Is that what you use as a user?

Athena Marousis  22:34

Yes, exactly. This makes a difference to, you know, companies in particular industries, things like hospitality, tourism. That sort of thing because you are billed based on your active users, exactly what you said. And so users that are active inside of the app and log in and have access to their card sets. So if you need to deactivate your users, then you essentially free up a seat, you know, in your plan, and you can fill that seat, you know, with somebody else, as needed.

Petra Mayer  23:03

And I think one important part as well is to understand how you actually implement a system like TalentCards. And clearly, the materials have to be created specifically for it. Tell us a little bit more about the implementation process for TalentCards. How long does it typically take? And what difficulties or challenges do companies need to be able to face?

Athena Marousis  23:29

Yeah, sure. Good question. So the implementation is very easy in terms of time and effort that’s required. So what I mean by that is, we’ve spoken a lot about the learner perspective and the end user perspective and not so much about, you know, the administrator perspective.

What I want to say here is that what happens is the administrator will actually create these card sets. That I showed you before, from their laptop or desktop computer. People will spend anywhere from just a couple of hours getting some card sets off the ground. And push them out to their people right away. Or maybe a few more days or weeks really compiling a full knowledge base, you know, of card sets.

Athena Marousis  24:29

And then once they’ve done that, and they’ve created their card sets and done some basic functionality to set up their portal the way that they want to have it structured, then they just send out either an email or a text message invite to their employees, which contains a link prompting them to download the TalentCards app from the App Store. So from the learner side, you know, once you actually just click on that link and download the app. All you have to do is log in, and in a matter of minutes, you have access to all of the material that the administrator of your portal has created for you.

So the actual adoption time is very minimal. And the part that takes time and effort is, you know, for the administrator of the portal to create that content in a way that’s meaningful and impactful.

So that’s what I would say about that. I think that particularly people who come from having an LMS, or perhaps they were used to taking their PDFs, and their word documents and all their different material. And kind of just uploading it into the LMS and having it ready to go. We have not taken this approach with TalentCards. Because we want people to be mindful of how they create those courses to increase the likelihood that their employees will adopt that content and will actually want to engage with it. And that it creates the experience that they want it to create.

Petra Mayer  25:29

And I can see that the end-user application is very simple, I can totally see that. Now for the administrator. And I think that might be useful for our listeners as well to understand, do they work with templates? Are there is there an image database in there that they can utilize to get them started quickly? So that they can get some content out and get users on the platform as they continue to create content?

Athena Marousis  25:59

Yeah, absolutely. Creating that content in time cards can take as little or as long as you want it to. Essentially, you just choose what kind of card set you want to create. Single-sided with just content on the front or double-sided with content on the front and the back. You can get started.

We do have an image base where you can pull icons and images from. You type your text on your cards, change the background colours, and change the font. Do all that sort of thing. And one of my favourite features that I think makes creating beautiful cards quick and really easy. Is being able to take images that you have saved on your computer and just drag and drop them into the card builder.

So if you’ve got, you know, images that you know, you want to include in your training materials, you just drag and drop them, the platform will actually put them into different cards for you on your text, and you’re ready to go.

Petra Mayer  26:55

Hmm, sounds interesting. And sounds like, you know, something that we recognize now in web-based applications for image creation. If I’m thinking about Canva, etc., where you’re just dragging and dropping things in and combining it, you do almost like a desktop publishing directly into your end materials without needing to learn SCORM or any of those wonderful things. So sounds like a great, great project, actually.

Athena Marousis  27:26

Yeah, we have found that a lot of people enjoy the simplicity of, you know, building cards, and they don’t need to have bells and whistles and crazy, you know, SCORM files or animations or things like that. They like the fact that they can just log in other text, either images, diagrams, you know, charts. Whatever information they need to pass on to their learners, and then just push that content out with a click of a button. And suddenly, I got a notification on my phone that I’ve got a new card set for me to view.

Petra Mayer  27:57

Yes, and I do also think that there was a word of caution, and I think we discussed this before, is you need to know what you’re training people on and how to build it out so that it actually becomes consumable content.

The simplicity is great when you know how you build training. And yet, that’s obviously something that we would want people to really have some good knowledge about how do you build out training in the first case so that you can then build it out in these small microlearning pieces that people can learn on the job at the time that they need it.

And not to forget the ability to upload videos, I think, is really important, as well. So I don’t want to I kind of want to make sure that we bring that back to the surface here. So what is one thing that you wish all clients knew before they came to you?

Athena Marousis  28:59

I think I would say that I wish all clients knew that there is more than just the traditional learning management system out there, that you have other options that are tailored to work for different types of workforces, and that you don’t have to stick with a one size fits all platform.

Petra Mayer  29:25

Yeah, and I hope that this interview has added to that, that creating that knowledge and creating that awareness. I am thrilled. I was not aware of TalentCards until just not too long ago. When we did our interview with talent LMS, I really thought this is a great platform that we should look into specialized for the deskless worker sounds like it’s super easy to implement from an administrative perspective.

And particularly from a learning perspective and removing those hurdles is so key to get adaptation for the system. Athena, I am so grateful for you and for your time. Thank you for sharing your information about TalentCards with us today

Athena Marousis  30:10

Thank you so much, Petra. It was great to be here

Petra Mayer  30:14

Okay, bye.

About the author 

Petra Mayer