Tag Archive | CPD

3 Smart Tips for Evidencing Competency

With the introduction of the new Accountability Regime, the need for effective training and robust processes for evidencing competency has never been greater. Here, we share 3 quick top tips about how to get ahead under the new accountability regime:

Dark leather desk with a computer keyboard and pen on it overlaid with 3 top tips text
1. Microlearning changes behaviours

Changing behaviours is about embedding good practice in people’s day to day activities. Don’t view training as a one-off event; give your employees a variety of easily-digestible learning activities all year round to provide reinforcement and continual improvement

2. Recognise that ‘one size’ doesn’t fit all

Your employees will have differing levels of knowledge, skills and expertise, so don’t treat them all the same the same when it comes to training. Use diagnostic assessments to identify individual knowledge gaps and provide tailored learning pathways to maximise employee engagement and minimise wasted time.

3. Introduce firm-wide CPD

Try introducing a formal Continual Professional Development (CPD) scheme to provide a practical framework to ensure development is addressed in a structured way.  Enabling employees to track all their learning activities against the CPD scheme gives visibility of personal progress, improves motivation and provides a comprehensive audit trail.

Got your own smart tips for evidencing competency? We’d love to hear them! Leave us a comment below…

Top 10 Highs Of Unicorn’s Record Year

Unicorn smashed through the £6m sales mark for the first time ever in the last financial year (2015-16), a new record in any 12-month period and £1m up on our previous financial year best. These are our top 10 highlights of our record-breaking year (in no particular order)…

White text on a pink backdrop 'Unicorn: A year in numbers'

1 SkillsServe ranked the World’s top LMS for financial services (again)

You’ve probably heard of Craig Weiss? He’s widely considered to be the most influential person in eLearning in the world. Every year Craig produces his Global Top 50 LMSs Report and for the second year running, in January 2016, our learning and performance platform, SkillsServe, was recognised as the world’s best in our field.

dean_collage_med2 Unicorns who completed The Big Issue Foundation ‘Big London Night Walk’…

…in addition to the number of other Unicorns who did amazing stuff supported by our Fundraising Team. This included Dean, Tai, Katrina and Simon all completing multiple distance and endurance running challenges raising money for The MS Society, Macmillan Cancer Support, Macmillan Caring Locally and The Samaritans, while Sam and Xiomara pounded the capital’s streets in the wee hours in their quest for The Big Issue Foundation.

3 Million+ course activities were completed on SkillsServe

Off the shelf courses, user-generated content and eCreator courses, CPD recording, Training and Competency (T&C), on-the-go learning and Apps, you name it and SkillsServe has probably helped the financial services industry achieve it.


4 the position SkillsServe moved up to in the overall LMS global rankings

You know Craig Weiss’ LMS report we just mentioned? As well as maintaining top spot for financial services, SkillsServe also moved up a place overall from fifth in 2015 to fourth this year. In the report Craig said: “New User Interface, expansive features. I love that they have a CPD mobile app. Regulatory is strong which is a must since their target vertical is Financial Services. An overall, top tier performer.”

NSASECTOR_Logo_Col3D_CMYK(9) [Converted] [Converted]5 the number of key areas Unicorn was assessed to receive Service Excellence accreditation from the National Skills Academy for Financial Services

This means Unicorn has demonstrated its dedication to high-quality, professional customer service and commitment to consistent improvement in service and staff training. With Helpdesk now 11 strong, 4,000 more calls were dealt with last year compared to 2014. This is reflected in an SLA of over 95% between March 2015 and March 2016. Already in 2016 Helpdesk have dealt with more calls month-on-month than 2015. What does this mean? Quicker and more effective issue resolution for our clients and happy customers ☺

6 Million – the company’s sales for the first time ever

It was looking good at the end of the calendar year, when we reported sales exceeded £5.6m ($8.5m), but we are delighted to report continuing strong organic growth in our core business streams, culminating in sales crashing through the £6m for the first time.

logo_116ISO 27001 – our information security standards certified at the highest level again

We first received ISO certification in 2011, but 2015 saw Unicorn transition to the new ISO27001:2013 standard from the previous ISO27001:2005 benchmark. The new standard reflects the changing demands of IS security in the face of challenges that didn’t exist in 2005. To maintain ISO27001 certification requires monthly security audits and an annual British Standards Institution (BSI) assessment.

peterp_headshot8 where Unicorn Training CEO and founder, Peter Phillips, is ranked in the Top 10 of the UK’s most influential people in corporate eLearning

Now in its seventh year, the 2016 annual lists of the ‘Top 10’ most influential people in the corporate eLearning sector – in the World, North America, Europe, the UK and Asia-Pacific – saw Peter break into the top 10 for the first time ever as one of four debutants in the UK rankings.

9% higher knowledge retention in those trained via video games…

…according to a University of Colorado Denver Business School study (2010). This is a snippet from our 2016 White Paper ‘The Future of Game-based Learning’ (produced with our games partners, Amuzo). Games are still BIG news in learning and, in its first year, this partnership has helped clients, existing and prospective, really understand games aren’t just fun they’re effective and it’s mobile technology shaping this.

The_Future_of_Game_based_learning-_front cover_med

10 (+1) the number of our commercial, trade and professional industry partners

These relationships are invaluable in underlining Unicorn’s long-standing position as the solutions provider trusted by the financial services industry. As regulation tightens, having our partners’ expertise in helping inform the direction of the learning and supporting the development of appropriate learning tools, makes Unicorn the only credible choice. A great example is the work we’re doing with FSTP and the BBA to develop ComplianceServe in response to the FCA’s Accountability Regime for banks, building societies, credit unions and designated investment firms.

Top 5 Things We Learned From Our Spring Client Forum

CivIhQSXIAA7bWI.jpg-largeYesterday we welcomed some 60 guests from across L&D, Training T&C and Compliance to the Oval for our 2016 Unicorn Spring Client Day.

But what particularly tasty morsels did we all leave to chew on? Here’s a quick look at 5 things we learned…

1) You don’t need to be Walt Disney to include animation in your learning

With an A3 pad, a few Sharpie markers, an iPhone recording on a two-second time lapse, a tripod and a fairly simple bit of editing software it was demonstrated how it was possible to bring a learning storyboard to life through simple hand drawn animation.

Animation can bring a different, often less polished and more ‘authentic’ feel, to a scene you’re trying to set, perhaps as an intro at the start of a learning programme or induction.

Using hand drawn imagery and limiting text to the use of a few key words, the pictures creates an instant, meaningful connection with the viewer and will linger much longer in the mind than being forced to read a 1,000 word flat text document explaining the same thing. Why PDF it when you can animate it instead? Your learners will thank you we’re sure 🙂

2) How many ‘mobile moments’ do you have in a day?

Apps were a big discussion point. There was a very apparent appetite to give learners ever increasing flexibility in taking ownership of their own learning and mobile technology was seen as the answer.

Fortunately we agree! This is why we’ve introduced our SkillsServe app in addition to the CPD app and the forthcoming Learning Lounge app.

Mike Hawkyard, Amuzo Games MD, explained how our day is now made up of mobile moments and that society’s behaviour in this country is now to pull your phone out of pocket for 2-3 mins at a time, all the time.

Mike Hawkyard shows us our daily mobile moments

Mike Hawkyard shows us our daily mobile moments

People tend not to sit there for 30 minutes using their phone so when your learner is sat on a train or bus faced with so much choice as to which app they are going to open how do you make sure it’s yours? Mobile learning app games, embedded with one core message, can be a very powerful solution.

3) The best learning games are when games are the learning

Everyone knows games and gamification are probably the the hottest issue in learning right now but understandably the fear of the unknown still remains, especially in the financial sector. You don’t want your learners playing car racing games all day when they should be working, do you?

Peter Phillips, Unicorn CEO, showed examples of how game principles can really enhance engagement in learning but, critically, how you stop them tipping into the distraction zone.


Peter said one of the really important things about getting best out of games for learning is that the learning IS the game. The very best learning games have the game and learning the same thing. Using a matrix with ‘learning’ on the vertical axis and ‘engagement’ along the bottom he showed that where you get great learning and great engagement you get great learning games.

Have you read our ‘The Future of Game-based Learning’ white paper? Download it here now.

4) Client feedback helps drive platform development 

Ok it sounds all a bit fluffy but we genuinely couldn’t keep evolving SkillsServe in the way that keeps it at the forefront of learning and development delivery if you didn’t tell us what you think, good and bad.

As Mark Jones, Unicorn Commercial Director, highlighted as he ran through the ‘what’s new’ and ‘what’s coming’ bits, many of the features that have been developed or are in development have come about because as a sector you’ve told us you want them.

You can read the full list at our live Client Day blog here – Unicorn Spring Client Day – but if we tell you graphical reporting and an MI dashboard, multi-language reports, diagnostic tools and a SkillsServe app are all recent additions, you can get the sense of the kind of stuff we’re talking about. Stuff that really makes a difference to your everyday working practices.

Don’t forget the SkillsServe blog where all the latest updates and roadmaps are posted – SkillsServe blog

Commercial Director, Mark Jones

Commercial Director, Mark Jones

5) The 21st Century still hasn’t arrived in some firms

We get super excited about all the cool ways new technologies can help us to deliver more effective, engaging learning experiences, but client day served as a timely reminder there is still a huge discrepancy in what some firms are able to deliver that others aren’t.

Whether it’s down mindsets, IT or a combination of both, while some firms can’t wait to bring the latest in learning technologies to their employees others have a reticence to step outside of the traditional. Despite the compelling evidence for the use of video in learning, for example, even getting that allowed is a battle some are still yet to win.

We know there are dedicated people in L&D, T&C and compliance working to educate and inform key individuals further up their company food chain as to what’s possible and how it can impact, but for many this remains a delicate, softly softly approach sometimes involving whole cultural change.

In the meantime we have to keep delivering what they need in the way they need it too.

NEWS: Handle Emotive Issues With Care Warns Financial Services Training Expert

Helping staff stay on top of their regulatory and ethical responsibilities around such emotive issues as vulnerable customers and financial promotions must remain a priority for the financial services training industry.

That is the view of Simon Mercer, Unicorn Training ComplianceServe Product Manager, speaking ahead of the BCCA Annual Conference in Derbyshire on Friday (27 November).


The BCCA is a leading trade association for the UK’s alternative lender market, and they have teamed up with Unicorn to offer online compliance training to their members for the first time, through Unicorn’s ComplianceServe training solution.

Last month BCCA CEO, Jason Wassell, revealed their relationships with vulnerable customers are part of “nearly every discussion” he has had with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

vulnerablecustomers_nov15This followed the FCA’s challenge to firms to review their approach to consumer vulnerability, with some customers being confronted by a “computer says no” response when they seek assistance and support from firms.

Meanwhile, financial promotions for consumer credit are amongst the issues also under scrutiny from the regulators, with both a high-profile media and political focus on the advertisement of high cost, short- term credit products.

Simon will be on the Unicorn stand at the BCCA conference, speaking to delegates about their approaches to staff learning and development on these and other credit industry topics. He insists when staff lack the knowledge, empathy and ethics to deal with such issues effectively, the consequences go way beyond being purely financial.

FCA_VC_feb15“It only takes one bad news story to destroy a firm’s reputation; one customer who has been treated unfairly, one ad that is viewed as exploitative, appearing on the news or held to task by the consumer advice media.

“The regulator will make its own judgments on penalties and sanctions for companies found in breach of its standards, but realistically it can be public condemnation and PR impact that can prove more damaging long-term.

“Having a training approach where such issues are included as part of a firm’s wider ethical business culture, and not treated in isolation as a ‘tick box’ exercise to appease the regulators, can go a long way to avoiding such reputational damage.”

Earlier this year, Unicorn Training joined forces with FSTP to introduce the enhanced, sector-specific compliance learning solution, ComplianceServe, which includes integrated T&C guidance and CPD management.

FSTP_logo-2As two of the UK’s most prominent financial services training providers, this partnership brings a more targeted, streamlined approach to compliance, to help regulated firms embed the genuine cultural and behavioural change needed to deliver better outcomes for customers.

FSTP was recently named ‘Business Partnership of the Year 2015’ by the Debt Resolution Forum (DRF) and Debt Managers Standards Association (DEMSA), while in January Unicorn’s learning and performance platform, SkillsServe, was ranked top LMS for financial services, and fifth overall, in the global Top 50 LMS Report 2015.

Unicorn has been creating L&D and compliance solutions for the UK’s ever-changing financial services sector for over 25 years. FSTP provides first class training and consultancy services across all sectors of the financial services industry.

For more information about ComplianceServe visit www.unicorntraining.com/complianceserve and for further details about FSTP visit www.fstp.co.uk

Pssssssst Heard What’s Coming Soon?

Every quarter we release a roadmap plan of what is coming soon to our SkillsServe learning and development platform.

Why? Because we want to make SkillsServe work even better for you, with many of the updates and/or new functions coming as a direct result of client feedback.

Although we love surprising our clients, “We didn’t know you did that too!” isn’t an expression we want to hear from you too often……

We want you to know exactly what we’re up to and to be as enthusiastic as we are about the potential the ‘coming soons’ bring to making your work challenges even easier, and yep, enjoyable.

So here’s some of the scheduled SkillsServe highlights for this coming quarter……


We are very excited about eCreator!

The new eCreator is a user-friendly, flexible authoring tool integrated into SkillsServe, which allows managers/admins to create quality learning content quickly, easily and with minimal effort.

All courses created in the eCreator are mobile compatible and can even be created and edited on an iPad.

The early ‘test’ content we’ve delivered for some key clients has been extremely well received and we can’t wait for everyone else to start using it.

Multiple CPD Schemes

SkillsServe’s CPD system is going to support multiple CPD schemes on a single SkillsServe site. Useful hey? This means a range of professional body CPD schemes can be added as well as a company’s own corporate schemes. Users will be able to select their relevant CPD scheme. Changing the selected scheme will recalculate the outstanding time or credits based on the target and scheme rules.

Report API

The finishing touches are currently being made to the SkillsServe report API. This function will enable access to SkillsServe report data in real time from external resources. It will also help us build custom graphical dashboards based on a client’s extended reporting requirements.

Programme Builder and Catalogue Enhancements

The catalogue and content management areas of SkillsServe are being redesigned to make it even simpler to build programmes and register yourself or staff into appropriate learning and assessments. It will also make organising content easier.

Catalogue Library Management

Category_groups[5]We are significantly improving the management and publishing of content to catalogues. This will make administering catalogue structure and allowing different departments to manage their own libraries of content in isolation more streamlined.

Enhanced User Security

Restricting access to users below a particular branch of the organisation tree is being added. This enables specific users to manage their organisation or division but limit their access to confidential information for their peers.

Form Snapshots

Form workflow functionality is being enhanced so each individual within the workflow can easily see the changes made within a form since the last time they received it. We are also adding the ability to see the change history, a really useful function for long-running appraisal periods for example.

We hope that’s whetted your appetite a little bit?

Want to know more? Download the Unicornucopia App on iOS or Android and find copies of our all our brochures and factsheets, which continually get updated.

Not a SkillsServe user yet? Click here for the lowdown.

5 Recent Trends in eLearning

With all the advances in technology and media, eLearning has certainly come a long way. But there’s still plenty more to come to make it even better.

Head of Content Production, David Gristwood, takes a look at some of the buzz words and what’s trending in the eLearning industry at the moment.



Initially a piece of 60s research, 70/20/10 now seems back in fashion. If you weren’t there the first time round, or have missed it since, it suggests learning happens:

70% while we’re working
20% from people at work
10% from courses and reading

So what’s the impact on eLearning? Well, this means people have a greater expectation of learning everywhere, any time, on any device. So, eLearning needs to be in sync with the way people learn from each other, using blended/shared knowledge and experiences, for example user-generated video clips/demos.

The LMS and ‘emotional investment’

We’re seeing the market consider ‘old-style’ LMSs, with their daunting list of courses to select, a ‘cold’ management tool, no longer meeting learner needs for engagement.

The best LMSs are now being made more emotionally engaging and benefiting from being personalised, for example with:

  • Individually tailored learning journeys
  • Diagnostic tools
  • User-generated knowledge sharing
  • Leaderboards and other gamification elements

A great idea recently has been those individual learning journeys, linked to job role and identified learning gaps. The user benefits from an action plan that has selectable parts so they can focus on their individual priorities to improve their skills and job effectiveness.


Tin can/API

Now officially known as ‘Experience API’ (xAPI), this moves us on from SCORM to a standard that enables data to be collected from a much wider range of formal and informal learning activities. This of course has implications for individuals and organisations with the potential for more comprehensive T&C and CPD records, and a portable personal learning record for the individual learner.

So this ties in nicely with the above drive for an LMS with emotional investment. Whether it’s watching a video, doing some other eLearning, attending a face-to-face course, session or whatever, users can see everything they’ve done recorded on the LMS. Meanwhile, managers can benefit from the MI this creates. At the touch of a button they can see, for example, the direct correlation between the increases in H&S training (F2F, ‘e’, etc.) with the decrease in accidents.

Serious games

Many of us know the benefits of the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts, such as eLearning, to engage users. However, a balance needs to be struck here between introducing a fun element or an element of challenge to a course and annoying the user, who may well rather just be wanting to get to the end of what it is they need to do – especially if this is mandatory compliance training!

A solution that harnesses the engaging power of gaming without distracting from the learning is ideal. For example, how about building in aggregate scoring of interactive exercises so the user isn’t forced to do the end assessment?

Making content mobile

We’re seeing the market becoming clear on what ‘mobile’ means. You can move ‘traditional’ linear eLearning to be tablet-compatible. You really don’t want to try that with smart phones. These are much better used for learning support. We’ve seen a big increase in the demand for video – and smart phones are ideal for this. Revision aids are another key use of learning on smart phones.

For example ‘flash cards’ of information, like the old crib cards on paper, can be used on your smart phone. And of course multiple choice questions. All of this can help with the ‘5 Rs of mobile’:  Remind, Refresh, Reinforce, Retain, Reach.


So there you go then: five game changers that are already beginning to take eLearning to the next level, making it a more attractive proposition for employers and employees alike.

Read more:

How will MOOCS and SPOCs effect the eLearning world?

Will the LMS still be a viable platform for eLearning in 2020?

SkillsServe named no.1 LMS for financial services

BLOG – Reflections from LSCon 2014 – do you agree?

Last week three Unicorns headed to Orlando for eLearning Guild’s international Learning Solutions 2014 event. Pretending that we’re not remotely jealous of their sunshine excursion (honest!), the trio of Peter Phillips (CEO), Jackie Kennedy (COO) and award-winning instructional designer, Sam Yates, will be reflecting on the conference over a series of blogs this week.

pip_smileFirst up, Peter gives his lowdown on the overall event and discusses Will Thalheimer’s “Subscription Learning” session.

Attending a Learning Guild conference can be a bit like trying to drink from a fire hydrant. The three day conference starts each day at 7:15 a.m. with a choice from an array of “Morning Buzz” discussion groups, I’m sure these used to be called “Breakfast Bites” and included coffee and pastries, but this year you had to buy your own breakfast.

By the end of the day, you are likely to have attended a key note general session, half a dozen smaller group sessions on a bewildering variety of topics, visited the vendor expo, listened in on a couple of the Learning Stages (shorter vendor-led presentations), and with a bit of luck as you rush from room to room, had time to grab a sandwich, a coffee and a few words with fellow delegates.

All this plus “SolutionFest”, where you can pinch the ideas from over 40 real-life examples of great work by delegate volunteers, including Unicorn’s own Global Giveback award-winner Sam Yates.

I’m not sure how that three-day intensive barrage of content, with relatively little interactivity, sits with the learning principles that our profession espouses, but it certainly provided plenty of food for thought.

The brain’s ability to find patterns was mentioned several times, both positive (an essential learning skill) and negative (thinking biases and how they stifle creativity).

So, for better or worse, here is my attempt to create order from the chaos…….

Learning and Forgetting

One of my first sessions on the morning of day 1, was Will Thalheimer on “Subscription Learning”.Will Thalheimer

At the heart of this session were Will’s research-based learning and forgetting curves. Traditional one-time learning inputs, whether classroom or on-line, have a short term benefit, but the learning quickly tails away if not reinforced regularly.

Subscription Learning, then is about providing learning in small nuggets, pushed to the learner and (crucially) repeating the learning in a variety of formats – varying the message actually increases retention – and so far as possible tailored to the individual and their role.


The session contained plenty of valuable insights into spacing of learning interventions (or Penguins and Ostriches in Will’s visuals), and we will be able to apply much of this in Unicorn’s new CPD learning solution.

For more on subscription learning, I recommend you visit www.subscriptionlearning.com

You might also like to explore Duolingo, an excellent (and rare) example of subscription learning in practice.

learningandforgetting2Those charts of the learning and forgetting curves came up again in several other speakers’ presentations throughout the conference. The research behind them is relevant to how we design and deliver learning content, to the role of the LMS, and to my second theme Tin Can, Big Data and Performance Support.

I will have more to say on these in the next thrilling instalment of my LSCon 14 reflections tomorrow…….