Dare we say it, 2017 has been a pretty good year for us here at GP Towers.

We’ve expanded our team and welcomed many new clients from around the globe. Having first-class products is absolutely fundamental to what we do, so product development has had plenty of love and attention over the last 12 months. Our tech and content teams are at the heart of this work - they’re a real ‘power couple’ at GoodPractice.

Alongside many bespoke client projects, they’ve been super busy collaborating on exciting new product enhancements and innovations. The result is that our award-winning toolkit and our e-learning continue to offer organisations and their employees a great learning experience.

As Christmas fast approaches, we take a look at some important developments to our products and share news of updates in the pipeline for 2018.

Artificial intelligence

First up - AI. Don't worry, we're not about to be replaced by robots, even though these ones look quite cute.

AI is one of the biggest innovations to hit the L&D profession in recent years, and we’re excited by the potential it offers. This year, we’ve launched an exciting new AI-led feature. Our Recommendations AI uses the latest AI technology to drive toolkit usage by providing recommended content, intelligently tailored to each individual user's interests.

Our Recommendations AI works by collecting information on:

- what specific content is being accessed

- who is accessing the content

That information is then used to:

- learn how people are using the toolkit and what topics, particular subjects and types of content interests them

- recommend content based on what it has learned

- improve recommendations over time

Each night our AI uses the previous day's information to learn more, and so improve its ability to predict what content will interest each particular user. These recommendations are then served up on the toolkit homepage in the ‘recommended for you’ section and in the weekly email. All clients now have the option to switch on this feature.

New animations

30 brand new animations have been added to the toolkit, covering a wide range of topics. 

These include how to make the most of your induction, tips on developing future leaders, winning the war for talent, effective coaching conversations, understanding unconscious bias, adapting your communication style, business storytelling, using the SARAH feedback model and virtually perfect meetings. The team have produced these using lots of interesting new styles and production techniques to keep things fresh.

They’ve developed animated poems and songs, created character animations and dabbled with motion graphics and papermation. All this work has paid off, as two animations were nominated for a creative award (The Story of SARAH and Virtually Perfectly Meetings). [1] Video content has also proved to be a hit with our users, as it’s one of the most popular types of content in the toolkit.

Improved accessibility

We want our performance support toolkit to be as accessible and useful as possible for everyone. That’s why we partnered with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) earlier this year to run a full scale accessibility audit of the toolkit. [2] Their recommendations were invaluable, and are helping us meet the standards introduced by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) - the industry benchmark for making websites and online resources like ours useful for everyone. [3]

All our infographics, audio and video resources (including animations) now have full transcripts available to aid accessibility. We’ll be following this up by including subtitles on all videos and animations in 2018.

Full refresh of toolkit content

15 topics across the toolkit were given a refresh and general update this year. This work focused on some of our most popular topics including Change Management, Career Management, Performance Management and Leadership. Here’s what we did:

- Improved the imagery and diagrams for each topic.

- Re-ordered content within each topic to aid usability.

- Updated written content where necessary to bring it up-to-date.

- Retired older content.

- Merged some resources to ensure topics remain relevant, ensuring they continue to meet learner needs (as well as preventing the toolkit from getting too large).

- Responded to client feedback and requests for additional content, whether that's to include mention of a particular model within an article down to, dare we say it, the spotting of a very rare typo!

Getting ready for GDPR

The General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) will come into force in May 2018. We started work on this early, and will be fully compliant well before we are required to be. [4] We’ve already audited all of our user data and developed a new privacy policy.

In typical GP style, we aim to make the driest of topics interesting, so we'll be delivering the details of our new GDPR policy in a number of ways, including a lovely infographic. We’ll also implement some important changes to our toolkit before the May deadline, so that it’s crystal clear to users what data we have about them, who has access to it and what happens with it.

E-learning developments

This year, the e-learning team delivered courses on topics as diverse as academic honesty, banking ethics, physical security and - their old favourite - health and safety. The trend of moving away from hour-long courses continued, as the team delivered many shorter modules that fit into instructional campaigns, and worked with our technology partner Appitierre to further improve our responsive HTML5 capabilities. They have also started revamping our Management 101 E-learning Suite, ready for release in the New Year.

Improving toolkit engagement

As part of our ongoing drive to make the toolkit easy for users to find and access within their organisation, we’ve introduced some improvements to our Single Sign-On (SSO) functionality. [5] All organisations we work with have the option to provide us with additional data over and above the minimum required fields needed for SSO. [6] Doing this means we can offer them enhanced reporting on toolkit usage, and ultimately use that data to drive AI.

Although we strongly recommend SSO, we realise it’s not right for everyone. For non-SSO clients, we’ve improved both the toolkit login and password retrieval pages to make it easier for users to access the content. We’ve looked at the approach taken by popular websites and e-commerce sites like the BBC, Amazon and Netflix, and developed our own version, which is already seeing improvements. We’ll continue to monitor these pages and make tweaks, as needed, in the future.

Topical content

The content team are an exceptionally talented bunch of editors and writers. Nowhere is this more visible than in the topical content that’s published to the toolkit on a weekly basis. This year, 40 new topical articles were added, highlighting a range of current affairs, workplace initiatives (e.g. National Customer Service Week, Wellness Week, Stress Awareness Day) key dates - all aimed at driving engagement with the toolkit by encouraging regular visits.

11 Leadership and Management digests were also added. On a monthly basis, these bring together a curated selection of not-to-be-missed leadership and management news and updates.

In addition to these regular updates, the team support clients by producing specific articles and content for their toolkits. This helps to promote various initiatives such as competency frameworks and organisational values, support managers and employees with the performance management process as well as raising the profile of employee engagement and wellbeing initiatives.

The team are also dab hands at creating bespoke content for clients. These have included a suite of 100 videos for Standard Life, 10 infographics for Estee Lauder, an infographic on Performance Conversations for Manchester Airport Group and animations for CBI. If you are looking for additional content for your toolkit or ideas about how bespoke content can support initiatives you've got planned in 2018, we can help.

Coming soon

There’s lots of work going on to introduce many more exciting changes in the New Year. Here’s a taste of what's still to come in 2018:

- Improvements to the design of the toolkit content pages to make transcripts easier for users to locate.

- Redesign of the CPD area of the My Profile page, with a view to making this more visually appealing for users, and to include the option to download this information and share it with others.

- Complete re-design of the weekly email, which will deliver highlights of ‘what’s new’ and ‘most popular’ via an enhanced design which looks as lovely on your phone as it does on your desktop.

We’ll share all the news on these developments soon. If you’d like to know more about any of the topics we’ve mentioned, please do get in touch.

[1] Our animations were nominated in the Illustration/Animation category at the Scottish Creative Awards 2017.

[2] You can find out more about the work of the RNIB here: http://www.rnib.org.uk/.

[3] Full details of WCAG 2.0 are available here: https://www.w3.org/WAI/WCAG20/quickref/.

[4] Full details of the GDPR and what they mean for organisations and how they use data is available here: https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/guide-to-the-general-data-protection-regulation-gdpr.

[5] With SSO, employees have one set of login credentials to your network rather than separate usernames and passwords for each system. With SSO, if someone is logged into your network, they’re automatically logged in to the toolkit too. SSO is our preferred method of toolkit access. It makes things much simpler and far more convenient for your employees by removing the barrier of signing in every time they want to use it.

[6] Standard data for SSO includes first names, surnames and email addresses. With this additional functionality, clients can send additional data, allowing them to report on geographic location, department, role etc.