The Unspoken Learning Benefits of Audio in the Workplace

May 19, 2021

Why We Invested in Spokn

by Shauntel Garvey, General Partner at Reach Capital

The people are listening. Audio consumption has grown to an all-time high in recent years due to the proliferation of smartphones and the ease of consuming content on the go. Today, U.S. adults spend an average of 94 minutes per day listening to digital audio, which accounts for 11 percent of total media time. The global podcasting market is expected to reach $60.5 billion by 2027, at a compound annual growth rate of 27.5 percent.

Clubhouse, which amassed over 10 million weekly active users in less than a year, is the latest buzz in social audio. But there is another area ripe for an audio revolution: the workplace — specifically, how audio can build company culture and help employees grow and develop.

This is the mission of our latest investment Spokn, which recently raised a $4 million seed round led by NEA to become the podcasting platform for work.

Spokn is launching at a critical time as company leaders look for solutions to better engage hybrid and remote teams, all while reducing screen time and fatigue which has led to an increase in stress and brain noise. As the company has shown, a variety of communications and interactions in the workplace are perfectly suited for audio, including onboarding, executive communication and team building.

At Reach, we are especially excited about the ways podcasting can make corporate training more engaging and effective. Today, most corporate training takes place via one-off workshops and static content. Audio offers a more personal medium that can easily fit into a busy work schedule. And since employees are accustomed to the notion that podcasts are released at a regular cadence, packaging training into podcasts is an effective way to engage employees in continuous learning year-round.

Audio also fosters deeper learning and has been shown to improve memory and develop listening skills. Studies suggest that the modular approach enabled by Spokn — “microlearning” — can increase knowledge transfer by as much as 17 percent.

As edtech investors, we aim to back learning solutions like Spokn that are accessible, facilitate continuous learning, and are supported by research.

Fawzy Abu Seif, Mariel Davis and Mohammed Galal founded Spokn after searching for a better way to consume content about startups during their long commutes. They applied their insights to the workplace and launched employee training content in the form of bite-sized audio clips. Today, the platform has thousands of audio clips on topics ranging from management and leadership to mindset and wellbeing from leading publishers including HBS, Financial Times and the Center for Creative Leadership. This curated library alone offers a wealth of easily digestible information for employee growth and development.

But it doesn’t stop there. Through customer conversations, the founders discovered that the most powerful part of the platform is the podcasts that companies themselves create. Podcasting is a powerful vehicle for storytelling, and organizational psychologist Peg Neuhauser has found that a well-told story is remembered more accurately, and for far longer, than learning derived largely from facts and figures. The ease of creating audio content is also a major draw. Clubhouse’s popularity proved that listeners prize the authenticity of ‘low-fi’ production, so long as the content is interesting.

So what stories are there to tell in the workplace? Here are some of the most popular learning podcasts created on Spokn.

The Behind Closed Doors Stories

What if you could be a fly on the wall at your company’s next board meeting? Through Spokn, executives can push out communications that give employees further insight into why certain decisions were made. These stories can help employees better understand the factors that go into a decision and provide different frameworks so that they can further refine their own decision-making skills.

The Success Stories

Ever wondered why your colleague is so productive? Hearing tips and tricks from a colleague is a great way to learn what’s working for others. In the education community we call this peer-to-peer learning and it’s effective because the shared experience builds connection and trust. In the workplace, employees understand the unique issues they face and how to overcome them better than any outside coach or mentor could.

The Failure Stories

What if you could learn from someone else’s failure so you don’t repeat the same mistake? These stories can be just as valuable as successful ones. As a growing team at Reach, we created Spokn welcome messages to help new team members get more acquainted with us. One question we asked: “Describe a failure and what you learned from it?”

Many of our failure stories occur in common situations that our new team members will soon encounter, and now they have insight on how to avoid potential pitfalls. I also heard stories I did not before, even though I have worked with some of my colleagues for nearly a decade. Audio enables a level of vulnerability and authenticity that other communication channels don’t — and for some it’s easier to have a natural conversion and let your guard down when it’s just you and your device.

These are just a few examples of how companies can use the power of podcasting and storytelling to engage and develop their team. We are excited to see other use cases emerge as Spokn pioneers a new frontier at the intersection of podcasting and learning.

If you are interested in joining Spokn on this incredible journey, check out their current job openings.