Trainers' Task: Do More with Less - Pharmaceutical Executive


Trainers' Task: Do More with Less
A benchmarking study finds that, despite the need, companies are not increasing their training investment.

Pharmaceutical Executive

The Compensation Link
Others are turning to in-house departments to help trainers who are stretched too thin. Some companies tap into their internal resources-such as IT, market research, medical communications, and medical technical affairs-to assist in training efforts, a common strategy at small pharma companies. To be effective, one-person training departments must rely on other corporate departments to help develop and deliver educational programs.

Focus on Managers In the rush to increase the size of their sales forces, companies often promote relatively junior reps, some with only a few years of experience, to managerial roles. A decade ago, district managers typically had five to ten years of selling experience under their belts. By comparison, today's reps lack sales, managerial, and even industry experience.

Technology has compounded the resource problem by turning managers' focus away from the basics, such as coaching and people development.

"Managers have more information than ever before," says Brian Fagan, SPBT executive director and former district manager in the industry for 13 years. "So, for the last few years, managers have been more concerned with data and numbers than people. There's a danger in thinking that tracking data leads to results. You achieve results through people, and managers need to develop their people to achieve their maximum potential."

Study without the sacrifice
More companies realize that without strong managerial leadership, their field force effectiveness diminishes. Survey results indicate many organizations are developing new formalized management development programs. On average, new district managers receive nearly four workweeks, or 19 days, of training during their first year. That is substantially longer than the 12.5 days of initial manager training reported in 2000. Why the increase? Training departments say they need to cover more topics including coaching, hiring, leadership, computer skills, and compliance with regulations, laws, and PhRMA marketing guidelines.

"Today's managers have two or three years of managerial experience, so we need to quickly enhance their skill sets so they can effectively motivate, coach, and train their reps," says Arlene Adoff, executive director of sales training and development at Novartis. "This is probably why more organizations spend training time and dollars with this group of individuals. They can dramatically impact the success of their team. A bad manager can cost an organization millions of dollars in revenue. A great manager can impact performance significantly."

"Given the rapid expansion by pharma companies, training departments have been challenged to keep pace with management development," says Jim Oppold, associate director of global training and capability enhancement at Procter & Gamble Pharmaceuticals. "Without strong leadership from managers, companies are realizing that the effectiveness of their field force is diminished."

Training Tidbits
About three-quarters of P&G's manager program is focused on what Oppold considers the hardest part of the job-the people side. "We realize that the main reason people leave companies is because of their managers, so we hope to prevent turnover by increasing the capabilities of our management group. This includes improving their coaching, leadership, listening, and ability to offer 'straight talk' to reps on tough subjects. And, as a result of this program, we have already seen a significant decrease in our turnover levels and an increase in our overall call productivity."

Advanced training for managers is also a focal point for many training departments.

(See "Training the Experienced," page 114.) On average, experienced district managers receive about four days of formal training a year. In addition to leadership and coaching, training topics include performance management, team building, strategic thinking, and human resources skills, such as dealing with sexual harassment issues.

Some training departments are also getting involved in identifying good manager candidates for current openings and creating a talent pool for the future. In addition, companies realize that sales managers can provide follow-up training that helps bridge the gap between in-house rep training and what happens in the field. This makes rep development more effective, more "real world."

The study found that, although proper training can help boost managers' skills, more may be needed to improve reps' performance. At some point, companies must change district managers' incentive programs to make them more accountable for follow-up sales training. Less than a quarter of companies consistently tie district manager performance in that area to their merit increases. (See "The Compensation Link," page 114.)

Trainer Career Paths
Deciding on Metrics Just a few years ago, trainers believed that ROI was the magic bullet that would prove, once and for all, the value they provide to their companies. In some training departments, employees viewed ROI as a way to "market" themselves to an upper management that still thought training meant classes and curriculums, not strategy and productivity improvement.

Although nearly 40 percent of companies reported plans to conduct ROI analyses in the future, only 8 percent are currently doing so. That's because-even when expertly conducted-ROI analyses are expensive and don't guarantee clear cut results.

Training directors like Andy Gunning at Aventis aren't surprised that his peers are still searching for the best way to measure training effectiveness. He doesn't think companies are moving away from ROI. Instead, he thinks the metrics are changing because companies realize there are too many confounding factors, such as market forces and "mirrored" sales staffs, that affect how "clean" the data are.


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