As Founder and Chief Executive Officer of uStudio Inc., Jen Grogono leads company vision and strategy for a new generation of media technologies for the enterprise, transforming training and communications using podcasts, on-demand video and live streaming.Follow Follow
Storytelling About uStudio With Jen Grogono
Welcome to the Use Case Podcast, episode 171. This week we have storytelling about uStudio with Jen Grogono. During this episode, Jen and I talk about how practitioners make the business case or the use case for purchasing uStudio.
Jen is an expert in all things strategic technology and marketing. Her passion for helping businesses use streaming media to modernize the way they communicate really comes through during the podcast.
Give the show a listen and please let me know what you think.
Show length: 29 minutes
Enjoy the podcast?
Welcome to RecruitingDaily’s Use Case Podcast. A show dedicated to the storytelling that happens, or should happen, when practitioners purchase technology. Each episode is designed to inspire new ways and ideas to make your business better as we speak with the brightest minds in recruitment and HR tech. That’s what we do. Here’s your host, William Tincup.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup and you are listening to the Use Case Podcast. Today we have Jen on from uStudio and we’re going to be learning all about uStudio, the use case, business case, et cetera, or why people work with uStudio. Without any further ado, Jen, would you do us a favor and introduce both yourself and also uStudio?
Yeah. Thanks for having me.
Excited to be here. My name is Jen Grogono. As you said, I’m the CEO of uStudio. We have a platform that allows enterprises, corporate businesses to have their own podcast and media streaming network.
I love this on many levels in so far as, A, I love audio content and also just think that this is a great way to train and to teach people and bring some institutional knowledge, especially in the environment we are in now, but even pre-COVID. It’s a great way for people to share what they know. Let’s jump into that. Like you could have done anything with uStudio. Why did you, or how did you see the need on the corporate side?
Yeah. Well, increasingly our customers that were companies, usually multinational companies, Manulife, Nike, companies like Keller Williams that have big worldwide offices and employees, were asking us to provide an audio streaming application that looked and felt more like a Netflix and we never created the content, right? We always enabled a platform for companies to create their own videos primarily, some audio clips, but primarily videos.
Then we allowed them to take that content and publish it in embedded media players, video players on their websites or their private intranets. While that was good business, it didn’t really create an environment or an experience for the end employee or the workforce, or the partner or customer, whoever the audience was they were serving, to get in and explore and determine what content they wanted to consume and to play it back, again, in an environment and an experience that felt natural to their everyday lives.
It really wasn’t until, gosh, mid-2015 or so where the Serial Podcast had come out and podcasting, which had been around forever, was sort of enjoying a Renaissance period. Our customers started pushing us on not just we want to do more audio, but can you create something that helps us just out of the box organize our content into shows and episodes? We thought, “Huh, shows and episodes for corporation sounds a little bit odd.”
But when you think about content, training content, corporate communications content, it naturally falls into a topic and then individual episodes. You might have town hall meetings from the CEO and that might be a show. Every month the CEO may do, may be a video podcast, might be an audio podcast, but some recording that gives employees an update on what’s happening in the company.
We’re also all familiar with sexual harassment videos, and these days increasingly more diversity-oriented minded videos and audio content that companies are asking their workforce to consume. You have not just the cultural content, but also some of the content required from a governance perspective and compliance perspective. Then just your general training, right?
We use, again, that Netflix setup to really enable companies to organize their training content as well and it falls quite nicely into that format. Yeah. Go ahead.
Folks have historically had kind of an LMS that has handled … learning management software that has handled learning content. It started really in compliance 180 years ago. LMSs in general have failed because they basically don’t have the content and don’t have a way to put content in and so they’ve not been used as much, outside of compliance. They’ve not been used to their fullest potential.
With uStudio, it sounds like you’ve created a place where they can create their own content, which is great, and they can share their own content. Like for the user, where do they get the content? Is it in another LMS or is it somewhere else that they have access to as employees, or is it through uStudio?
Yeah. That’s a great question. I’m going to take it in two parts. The first one is why has the traditional LMS not been massively adopted? It’s funny, I was at a meeting up at Amazon in Seattle. The gentleman we were speaking with has the unenviable job of training hundreds of thousands of truckers and delivery agents worldwide once a year. As you can imagine, that spike goes way up with holidays, et cetera.
He said, “This is the first learning system that I have seen that doesn’t impose a tax on the end user.” I said, “Well, huh, tell me more. Why do you think that?” He said, “Because there’s nothing about it that is any different from Spotify or Netflix or any other media streaming app that everyone uses on a daily basis. There’s no training required. There’s no I have to find my course.”
LMSs were traditionally set up to be a lot more pedagogical and academic, and of course they were largely text-based to start. Many of them have moved into streaming, but even those that have added video and audio aspects are just created the as an add-on. It’s still secondary to a lot of reading that you have to do. The second part of your question, which is where do people go? Where does a Nike employee in Europe go to consume corporate content?
Well, they use a uStudio app that is exactly like a Spotify or Netflix style setup. They download it from the app store and they log in with their email or employee number, if it’s a massive company that has lots of hourly employees, but they authenticate themselves. They log in with an account just as you would with any media streaming app.
Then once they’re into that account, all of their company’s content, especially that content that’s been made accessible by them, right? That content is set up with rules and functions so that not everybody gets everything. Based on who I am as an individual, I’m being presented a series of boxes with artwork that tell me that that’s a show or a series. If I click on it, it shows me all the episodes. There are also playlists that you can create.
You might not have time to consume something now, but you want to listen to it later, you can create a playlist. You can browse category. The entire experience feels exactly like a consumer experience, but the content itself is of course corporate content. I think that’s one of the major advantages of taking a consumer habit that’s entrenched and moving it into the enterprise, you just don’t have that tax imposed on the end user. It just feels [crosstalk 00:08:42].
Well, there’s a couple of things that I want to peel. One is the content itself, obviously they can create their own content. Can they also subscribe to other services that are content creators and bring that content in and then give that access to their employees?
Yeah. A number of companies have chosen to take some outside publicly available content and make it available to their employees. You can do that by creating a playlist and pulling in episodes of different public shows. There’s also a move afoot to create community-sourced content from a company. A large company like Novo Nordisk has federated content management, where they’ve allowed groups and teams to create their own podcasts.
Then the podcast themselves are access control to only certain audiences. One of the nice things about companies is they’re already organized across groups and teams and so taking advantage of what, the IDP, right? The identity provider backend system has, we can allow companies to use what’s effectively a DL list, a distribution list and access control content. That allows for, I think, more democracy.
I don’t think we’re going to see companies allow anybody in the company to create a podcast and share it with anybody. I mean, I think that becomes more like what we saw with Jive and some of the internal social media practices and companies that just never really took off. It just created a lot of many-to-many conversations and noise.
This is really designed so that companies can communicate effectively with their workforces, management can communicate with teams. Of course, if teams want to create their own content, you have access controls and different governing practices built in.
Right. One of the things I explored a little while back was developing people skills and learning in this way that basically says, “Okay. Here’s your job. Here’s what you do for the company. Here’s all the things that are available to you to develop your skills and to help you learn to do your job better.” Great. Fantastic.
But one of the things that in researching that, I also discovered that that’s great and some people will use that. Some people are into wine tasting and coin collecting and all kinds of things that are outside of work but it pulls them into the learning environment. I talked to a lot of learning leaders about this like, “Okay. Why wouldn’t you let them have access to things that are not necessarily about their job?”
I’ll ask you a similar type of question because, what do you see with your customers? If you’re just giving people straight up corporate content, I can see that being cool up until the point where it’s not cool.
Yeah. No. I think that’s right. I think there’s this connection between your life and your work and finding ways to have more fluidity there is an interesting trend. I think increasingly with what everyone’s calling the great resignation, companies have to pay even closer attention to it. Companies like Panera, which is a customer of ours, that do wonderful things in the community through their foundation have started a podcast that just talk about that, right?
Oh, that’s cool.
There’s nothing more to it other than they’ll go interview various organizations that they’ve donated money to, or if they have teams that may volunteer to help a certain organization they’ll include that as part of a podcast. I think there are a number of ways that philanthropic initiatives and movements inside of companies are naturally being pulled into podcast content.
There was also another company that had … they had been mentioned on 60 Minutes as part of a not very flattering story. There were people at the company that were starting to feel embarrassed about working there. This is a massive company, one of the largest in the world. They said, “One of the things we want to do is humanize the employees.” Their podcast idea was to actually go interview employees with interesting hobbies and skills.
And start to humanize, not just the leaders of the company, although that was an important part of it, right? Let’s go seek out leaders who, “Hey, did you know so-and-so is an avid horseback rider and actually was on the Olympian equestrian team in 1975?” Or what have you. But just the guy who might work in the mail room, who you didn’t know had a very specific collection, to your point of, stamps, right?
Just seeking out stories, the stories behind the people who work at companies. I think that’s one way I’ve seen companies get into it. I think helping the workforce further their skills in other areas is a really interesting topic, and one that I think it bears a lot of discussion.
Because if that becomes a strategic … Imperative is maybe too strong a word, but a strategic initiative among learning leaders at any given corporation, I think the idea that you could pull Coursera or LinkedIn Learning, or name your online learning vehicle podcast, right? There are several podcasts on many different topics.
The idea though, that you could pull those into a corporate learning application is a really compelling notion, because what it effectively says is not only are we providing libraries of content for training and corporate communications. Okay. Some is cultural and more philanthropic, but also we are going to allow you and maybe even finance the licensing of content for your hobby, cooking, or again it’s the masterclass concept, right?
Yeah. That looks like engagement to me. We’ve lost a little of that because of COVID and remote work and isolation and all these other reasons. But at one point we’ve got to get back to engaging employees and again, learning is a great way to do it because candidates and employees want to learn. There’s a great desire to get better at whatever you’re doing. That part is great.
I love this idea, again, providing them … meeting them where they are, in an application that they’re very comfortable with, in an environment they’re extremely comfortable with, with things that are … Like pre-COVID, we talked about work-life balance. Now we talk about work-life integration. Learning-
Yeah. Yeah. I love it.
… seems should follow … one would think, follow that trend. Okay. A couple of things. Optimal workflow, which is kind of a overengineered way of saying, what are your customers, or how should your customers think about uStudio when they’re thinking about onboarding new employees and where do they put them on their path?
Yeah. In fact, we’ve got a great customer, Outset Medical, uses our platform primarily for onboarding employees.
When an employee comes in, they’ve got a playlist of content available and ready that they continuously improve and enhance and add more content to. A series of shows and episodes, if you will, that give the employee a way of getting to know the organization and through voice, right? It’s much nicer than a bunch of PowerPoints or stuff or content that they have to go read. [crosstalk 00:17:07]-
Yeah. You can go look at this slide share presentation.
Exactly. I mean, somehow just along the way for the last few decades, we just forgot that the voice imparts so much more meaning than the written word and just people don’t want to sift and read through volumes of content. They would much rather listen if they have the option. That’s a big area of focus.
Jen, one of the things to think about with your customers is I’ve seen a lot of things being moved into pre-boarding. A lot of compliance stuff. The employee handbook and all this other stuff, instead of starting that day one, once the person has signed the offer letter, it’s moving some of that stuff between when they sign the offer letter and when they start.
Yeah. No. That’s-
Yeah. Another way to use audio content to then get them excited about their new journey.
Yeah. I was about to say, and that’s sort of post the offer letter signature. We have a customer in Boston, a very large consulting organization that’s 25,000 employees globally. They are actually toying with the idea of creating a candidate app.
And starting to provide compelling content to recruits.
Oh, I love that.
People they’re trying to recruit out of Harvard or MIT or oh, you know?
Oh, yeah. No, I love that.
Or wherever. Yeah. I think it’s a neat idea and one we haven’t heard.
Well, because in consulting it’s the invisible, you know?
If it’s BCG or Bain or McKinsey or any of those folks, they’re selling the invisible.
They’re doing the invisible. They don’t often get credit for the work because it’s done behind closed doors. So just talking about projects, just taking candidates into … without naming names. Here are the types of projects that we work on, again, without naming names, I think would be just wonderful for candidates to have an understanding of like I’m excited about that.
Yeah. A day in the life of a change management consultant at BCG, right?
That would be-
What does that look like? Here are some examples.
That would be really compelling.
I think it’s a really neat idea. The question of course was, well, do they just do it and put it on the public app store? Do they want it to be specific to the candidate? If they want the stats, obviously, candidate A has consumed 30 minutes of content this month, they obviously need to do it in a more authenticated way.
We’re working with them to determine what the security levels need to be in that and the access control. But suffice to say, I think it’s a brilliant idea. Again, I haven’t seen a lot of other companies have not … present tense, yet-
That’s just smart recruiting-
… to show people in behind the veil. There are so many different jobs in companies. You just don’t know-
… what happens behind the veil. All right.
Well, and you start thinking about my 21-year-old son who’s going, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” If he could sit and listen to a bunch of-
… yeah, day in the life audio podcast from various companies, seems a fascinating way to get-
Something might pop out and go, “Wait a minute. I’d never really thought about industrial psychology.” You know?
Well, yeah, or … Exactly. Or really that person was really interesting to me. I can see myself doing that or I like the … I could see that being thing that I might enjoy doing on a day-to-day basis or what have you. Yeah. I think this whole idea of attracting candidates, to use your term, pre-boarding once they’ve accepted a position at your company, how do you start getting them familiar with it?
Then the third of course is I’m here now day one as a new member of your workforce, how do you make sure I’m aligned and I know what I’m doing?
Right. I mean, obviously you got great clients and I love everything that you’re doing. When you’re talking to somebody for the first time and maybe they don’t get it, maybe they haven’t consumed a lot of podcasts or audio content in general, maybe they don’t-
Oh, we just walk away. Oh, I’m just teasing.
You’re not going to push the boulder up the hill? Yeah. Totally understand. You don’t have Spotify? This is-
Some Sisyphusian work there.
This is … Yeah. It’s a knockout question. Do you have Spotify? Oh, okay.
I mean, yeah. [crosstalk 00:21:25].
Well, yeah, we can’t talk.
No, but will tell you this. It is the hardest part of the job, is dispositioning the buyer, right?
Where are they on the curve? Sometimes we just ask, “On a scale of one to 10 with 10 being the most mature podcast organization to one, where are you guys?” I remember having a conversation with a team at Disney and they said, “Oh, we’re definitely a two.” I went, “Okay. Well-
All right. Cool.
… you’re probably not ready for us.” The reason we say that is if you don’t have an idea for how you might want to invest in content, you don’t have to have content on day one. A lot of companies … Dell came in and said, “We have nothing, but we really want to do this. We’re committed. We want to invest in it.” You have at least have an organizational understanding of how you’re going to create a show, produce episodes on a regular basis and publish the episodes.
You probably need to have somebody that’s looking at stats on a monthly or quarterly basis, which is just giving you the feedback loop and are you doing well? Are you growing? Are people returning? What percent are returning users versus new users? There’s all sorts of insights you can glean from the analytics and the stats. I think the broader question that you’re asking it is a really good one. How the heck do we do it? We use customer webinars a lot.
I know we have a new one coming up with Novo Nordisk I think in a couple of weeks. We ask a handful of our best customers to talk about how they got started. If a company is just thinking about it, we usually work with them to put a business case together and we provide stats and materials and examples, and we call that a discovery part of our sales process. During that, it’s a lot of us providing what they need to build that consensus internally and sell it in.
This is definitely a consensus-driven decision. As a software CEO, many times that’s a bit challenging, right? We’d all love to be able to sell the product that one person in a room by themselves can make a decision on and spend all sorts of money on it. That sounds lovely. But it just doesn’t work that way. When you have a product that offers this much value to this many people, right?
This program touches, in some cases, the entire workforce, in other cases it might be the sales enablement team at HP as an example, which is very different than every single employee. But even so, you’re talking about thousands of people versus 10 people, right? It is consensus-driven and we have gotten very good at not just dispositioning where are you on the curve? The maturity curve.
But also, okay, if you’re here, these are the types of things that you need internally. Not surprisingly, we have our own podcast, it’s called Podcast on Podcasting. We have a show called Tips and Taps. We have a show called Customer Conversations, which is listening to our customers talk about how they got started. We record every webinar. That education process, we do as much as we can to make it efficient for us, but also efficient for the buyer.
Then we really do leave them alone. If they can’t get that consensus decision built or made in a 30 to 45-day timeframe, we typically say, “Don’t worry, sit with it. We’ll send you links to new episodes and you’ll get blog articles and all sorts of things. When you’re ready, come back to us.” It’s amazing. We have probably 25 to 30% of our customers in any given quarter have come from old conversations that started and stopped.
Most sales organizations manage their win/loss, right? Well, we have a disposition called delayed/stalled and it’s probably our biggest bucket. A number of the companies that are in that one to … They put themself at one to four, one to five, a number of them don’t make it past the hump, the discovery and the evaluation hump. We just delay/stall them, but they always come back. It’s incredible.
It’s just they weren’t right … It was a journey. They weren’t right at that particular moment. Then they … And I got two real quick questions. One is the person that you’re generally working with, who’s that peer? Two, is there any myths around fancy equipment and skilled labor and things like that?
Yes. Gosh, I’m going to take the latter question first. So much I think fear of the unknown, is maybe the right way to think about it, I have to buy special microphones and I’m doing this podcast. Well, you and I are doing this on Zoom, and I’ve got an old Apple old school wired in headphone because I couldn’t get the Apple Pro Max to work.
The point is that you can have … Just through your iPhone or your Android device, we can record wonderful audio these days, and the ability to fix that audio in post is unparalleled, right? We’ve never had such good tools for so little money and such little expense. The other thing that’s nice is companies like Zencastr and Riverside.fm, these are $20 a month programs.
If we have a customer that is fearful of what gear to buy, we have a best practice group and a customer success group. We offer all sorts of resources there, but we also will just buy you a subscription to Zencastr or Squadcast or Riverside and have no problem doing that and working with you. We can usually take those fears off the table pretty quickly early on.
I think the first part of the question is, who are we dealing with? The more junior the person, funnily enough, the more sophisticated they are in terms of, “Oh, yeah, I got this. I can create this. This is easy.” Right?
Right. I’m doing TikTok [crosstalk 00:27:34].
Shocking, not shocking.
Exactly. But they don’t have the authority to build the consensus internally.
So we’re usually working with director of VP level of learning or internal comms. Learning might be sales enablement, it might be organizational learning, it might sit in the HR group. It really depends on the company. The type of … Is it a B2B company or B2C? Then you’ve got on the internal comms side, that’s pretty straightforward. But sometimes it comes from the CEO. We’ll often have, “Hey, our CEO really wants to do this and we’re gathering research.”
Oh, that’s fantastic. That’s fantastic.
Yeah. It’s about 50/50.
Well, if you think about it too, most CEOs are pretty articulate present company not included, but-
Right. Right. No. No.
Those are the companies … I mean, we’re talking about companies that-
Did you hurt yourself patting yourself on the back? Oh, my arm.
No, 10,000 plus employees, if you’re the CEO, you’re probably … Yes.
If you’re doing earnings calls for Wall Street-
… it turns out probably you’ve been through some communication courses.
Listen, thank you so much for carving out time-
… to explain uStudio for us and the audience. I absolutely appreciate you.
Well, this has been fun. Thank you so much for all the great questions.
Look forward to listening to it.
Thanks again for everyone that listens to the Use Case Podcast. Until next time.
You’ve been listening to RecruitingDaily’s Use Case Podcast. Be sure to subscribe on your favorite platform and hit us up at recruitingdaily.com.
William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.