Basic Training: Trends in Learning & Development Departments - Pharmaceutical Executive


Basic Training: Trends in Learning & Development Departments
Educating employees has put big companies like GE and AT&T into leadership roles—and padded the bottom line. What is pharma doing to get the training wheels off its potential?

Pharmaceutical Executive

In addition, more companies—27 percent of those surveyed, up from 7 percent two years ago—are looking to demonstrate that training can have an impact on sales force retention. Again we consider B. Braun Medical. Exit interviews in 2003 revealed that two of the top-three complaints among salespeople were learning related: Reps said they didn't get enough training and didn't have defined career paths. The organization's board of directors decided to resolve these issues by investing heavily in training. While other departments were asked to maintain or reduce existing expense levels year over year, the training department received increased headcount and discretionary budget in 2004, 2005, and 2006. At the end of 2006, turnover was 7 percent, down from 16 percent in 2003.

Trend 3: Trainers Cope with "Senior-itis"

Trend in Learners per Trainer
When a new rep comes on board, companies dedicate an average of 62 days to training during the first year. After the first 12 months, training significantly drops off—to about two days a year. However, some companies are taking a new look at their training for tenured salespeople.

One example is Allergan, with a sales force that has increased in recent years due to product launches and new indications. "Senior reps influence so many people and shape the culture of a company," says Jim Trunick, senior director, corporate training and development. "The question is, How much advanced training should we do?" Trunick and his team, like those at other organizations, are still trying to answer that question. Currently, Allergan is revamping its leadership-skills-development programs so that tenured representatives can better lead in district team scenarios. Allergan also offers a one-week, in-house training program for senior salespeople that includes role-playing and other exercises designed to improve skills around negotiations, presentations, and coaching.

Carol Wells, Genentech
It seems counterintuitive, training directors say—but the more that representatives learn on the job, the more likely it is that they might stay. That's been shown in other industries. For example, technology and learning giant IBM has conducted studies linking learning and employee retention. Employees involved in learning programs are 79 percent less likely to leave the company after three years.

Other companies are looking at expanding their training for tenured sales staff—beyond the classic, corporate-university format. One midsize company is considering introducing pharmaceutical-education credits—similar to a doctor's required CME credits—that all tenured reps would need to earn each year. Completion of credits would be tied to bonuses or end-of-year increases.

While training directors express a desire to do more training of tenured salespeople, they recognize reality. These advanced programs are often the first to go when upper management asks for a budget cut.

Trend 4: Experimenting with Technology

Technology is also helping trainers follow through on classroom training. For example, a training department may distribute a Web-based training program to field sales teams 30, 60, or 90 days after a representative completes a course. But L&D departments are also moving to new offline options: Companies like Genentech and B. Braun are piloting programs using or have equipped their sales forces with iPods, allowing trainers to efficiently distribute video or audio podcast courses with relative ease.

Another technology that many training organizations rely upon is a learning management system, or LMS. These systems can help track course completion, enroll learners in classes, and, in some cases, analyze training effectiveness. Three-quarters of the companies surveyed use an LMS or plan to implement one in the next year.


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