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Icarus Simulations enables excellent Employee engagement in a post-Covid world.

Employee engagement in a post-Covid world

One of the toughest challenges facing HR and L&D professionals is how to maintain and reinforce company culture and employee engagement when so many are working from home and only meeting via Zoom, Webex or Teams.

There are of course direct parallels in higher education, as universities and business schools face up to the challenge of the loneliness of the long-distance learner.

Business schools have an advantage though in that they have been running learning at distance for several years, including distance MBAs where networking between students is an important part of the experience.

So what inspiration can we draw from these remote on-line programmes that can be transferred to the commercial world?

Since 2016, we at Unicorn Simulations have been working closely with the University of London, to develop and deliver a strategic business simulation experience on two masters programmes. For the purposes of this article I’m going to focus on the UCL Masters in Professional Accounting (MPAcc).

MPAcc is a very successful programme, which runs twice a year, with typically 800 or so students per cohort from over 100 countries across the globe. UCL use our “Icarus” business simulation as a core element of the programme. Icarus models an international airport, and the simulation runs over five weekly decision rounds, each representing a year in the life of the business.

The students who make up a team of five will not typically be in the same location (although we do try to put them in the same time zone). So interaction within teams as well as with the wider cohort is virtual, rather like so much remote working under Covid restrictions.

Participants work in teams of five, taking on the executive roles in their business, exploring alternative strategies, planning and decision-making in a changing competitive environment. The experience is particularly effective because the learning is practical, hands-on, and collaborative. The element of competition between teams enhances engagement and leads to memorable experiences for the learners.

The teams have a simulation model, which they use to plan, make decisions, explore alternative scenarios and to collaborate. The model can be used on a Windows desktop but crucially also on Apple and Android smart devices, downloaded direct from the public Store. Using a mobile App enables the students to work flexibly and to communicate with their teammates using social media tools built into the App.

While the learning objectives are centred around commercial acumen, financial management and decisions making, they also encompass teamwork, negotiation skills, co-operation and a shared fun experience no matter how remote the working locations of the students.

Feedback from participants has been excellent. One of the challenges of distance education is to keep students fully participating when they don’t have the benefits of the on-campus community support and peer pressures. But using a world-class simulation to engage and motivate is producing remarkable results. In the most recent cohort for example, with over 80 teams, every team completed all five decisions years and participation within teams was consistently strong.

Transfer this to a corporate context, and you can see how, despite lockdown issues, there is the opportunity to engage and enthuse your employees, create networking opportunities, while improving their commercial skills.

Of course, you don’t need to have 800 participants to take advantage of this learning approach. Simulations like Icarus are equally (arguably more) effective with small groups. Pre-Covid, face to face events would typically run with 3 to 5 teams, over one or two days, depending on the learning objectives, and the same approach works well on line.

A recent on-line event run by Unicorn provides a good case study. In one case a large multinational uses one of our insurance company simulations for graduate induction. Traditionally this involves an event in London and another in Philadelphia. This autumn they were able to combine both the US and UK graduates to run the simulation on line. This more than halved the costs, with no travel and hotel fees and one event instead of two, while having the added benefit of enabling them to create mixed teams of participants from both sides of the Atlantic.

Another client has opted for our “train the trainer” service and plan to run another of our simulations in house for all their “tier 1” staff in several events across the year.

Importantly, all our simulations can be easily tuned to create different commercial environments and challenges so that no two runs are the same, and the simulation adapts to real world circumstances.

Unicorn offers a range of award winning CPD accredited simulations. If you are looking for opportunities to engage and enthuse your employees while delivering effective memorable CPD Accredited training, then have a look at what business simulations can offer.

Whether you are interested in a demonstration of any of our simulations or just would like to discuss where this approach might fit into your training plans. We are always happy to share our experiences.

To view the full brochure for the Icarus Simulation, head to

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