Unicorn Simulations and the "New Normal"
With so much focus on the impact of the Covid pandemic on retail and hospitality business sectors, far less has been written about the impact on training and development.
For us at Unicorn Simulations, the impact was immediate. In effect every face to face training event in our diaries for 2020 was cancelled, not just in the UK but for our partners in the US, the Middle East and Australia too.
So, like everyone, we have had to adapt. Unicorn Simulations continue to offer world-leading hands-on training providing realistic, complex, lifelike experiences to professionals across the insurance and business finance spheres, but this looks much different now than it did 12 months ago.
Our ethos is action learning. We create realistic hands-on challenges, with a focus on small group learning, and interaction between delegates and with tutors on the course. How do you replicate that and create as far as possible the same “buzz” when delegates are working remotely? It is quite a challenge.
However, after some furlough, some time to regroup, and some very hard work, we are proud to announce that we are back live and fully operational. There have even been advantages to this rapid change of scene.
One benefit is in cost effectiveness. Our clients no longer have to pay travel and accommodation costs for either the participants or the tutors. We no longer need 2 days' travel to run a course in say Japan or the US; and clients no longer need to hold separate events for delegates in, say, the Americas and Europe.
A face to face workshop is typically 15 to 20 delegates, but online this can be expanded significantly. For example, on a recent event for a major global insurance broker, 50+ participants from both the US and Europe took part in a graduate on-boarding simulation event, that last year ran as two separate events.
Another benefit is that we are able to gather our tutors to collaborate on courses from their home locations around the globe. For example, on a workshop this month for a Japanese client we had tutors in Sydney and Bournemouth facilitating the same programme. We will draw a veil over the 6am start for the UK tutors!
Conferencing software such as Cisco's Webex have proven to be reliable and sufficiently flexible tools to enable us to run our simulations entirely remotely with confidence. Teamwork does lose some of the human factor when each individual is working from home, but on the other hand we have found teams to be more focused on the task, and to make faster decisions in this new format.
There is also scope for more flexibility in the format of the learning activities in the “new normal” world. The Japan event referred to earlier took place in three 3-hour sessions spread over 8 days, allowing time for reflection and consolidation between sessions.
As a more extreme example, we also run a simulation activity for a major business school that involves upwards of 800 students each time, from 100+ countries, making five sets of business decisions over a period of five weeks (representing 5 business years). Not necessarily a template for executive development, but this example does illustrate the flexibility of running our simulations remotely.
The discipline of achieving and maintaining our CPD certification with the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) as we have moved on line has been very helpful in ensuring that we remain at the top of our game, providing fully certified value-added learning to clients.
We still believe in the unique benefits of face to face training. The engagement, interaction and peer driven learning that comes in a live simulation workshop cannot be fully replicated in an on-line setting, and we are looking forward to the time when we can return to the classroom. But at the same time, the past 12 months has opened up new opportunities, new ways of working, and in some cases significant benefits.
Overall, while 2020 hasn't looked how any of us expected or planned, we're grateful for the opportunities it has afforded us to improve our services even further. Here at Unicorn Simulations we look forward to a 2021 full of exciting new opportunities for delivering our simulations to more industry experts around the world!