What Does It Take to be a Global Leader in Training

May 01, 2005

Ed Yavuz
Each year Training magazine ranks the world's top 100 training organizations. It's an impressive list, headed off by IBM (with an $825 million training budget and a training staff of more than 1,300) and Booz Allen Hamilton (which this past year delivered to employees 32,000 days of training and 9,000 completed self-study courses). Only two pharmaceutical companies made the list this year, Pfizer, at number three, and Wyeth, which continued its steady rise through the rankings—it was number 17 three years ago, 14 last year, and 12 in the 2005 edition.

"It means a lot to us just to be in the top 100," says Ed Yavuz, Wyeth's vice president of sales training and management development. "It means that in the world of training—be it pharmaceuticals, hotel management, or companies like IBM or Verizon—we're really doing the cutting-edge things we're supposed to be doing to ensure that our employees have all the tools necessary to do the job."

Yavuz heads a team of professionals, ranging from an instructional design team to classroom trainers and virtual classroom trainers. The cross-functional unit serves as a shared resource for training and development for marketing and sales worldwide, and it takes a cross-functional approach that includes sales training, management development, marketing development, and career advancement and development, as well as compliance training.

Pharm Exec Senior Editor Sibyl Shalo recently talked with Yavuz about Wyeth's learning strategy, the company's core curriculum for both reps and managers, and the relationship between training and retention of key employees. What follows is an edited transcript of the conversation.

Pharm Exec : What are you working on currently? Yavuz: We have four equally-important key objectives this year. First and foremost is developing people. We have a dual obligation: We develop people in the organization through our courses. But we also have a dynamic organization and training that is really dedicated to teaching them to train others. We rotate a lot of people through our training organization, and it becomes a development ground for future talent in the organization.

Our second goal is increasing productivity. Whatever we do, the litmus test should be: Does it improve productivity? If not, we shouldn't be doing it. Training should always have a bottom-line result.

Our third objective is reducing costs. We constantly look to reduce costs, not just in how we do training, but across the organization.

The fourth objective is ensuring compliance. We are the training and certification arm of the commercial compliance committee. We do the training, certifications, tracking, and all the other things necessary to ensure that all of our marketing and sales employees are compliant with Wyeth and industry policies.

Over the years, you have been developing your programs into a world-leading, competitive force, and you have won awards for this. How can other companies use your strategy as a model?

There must be an unbending commitment to quality and a discipline for proper learning. A lot of sales training organizations are made up of salespeople who do training. But in recent years, many companies, not just Wyeth, have been looking at sound instructional design. We've brought teachers and educators into the organization to advance our training outcomes.

Today, we have a group of dedicated individuals who have really helped shape the product that comes out of our training organization. Not only do they have sales and marketing experience, but they also have backgrounds in education, instructional design, and the new field of learning technology.

This team has developed a Wyeth learning strategy that we have employed globally for marketing and sales. The strategy is a mixture of competency-based training and a solid technology infrastructure—because you need technology to drive the courses, capture the results, and so forth. We have developed competency profiles for the individuals we train; we know the things they need to be competent in, and we have developed a curriculum to improve their skills in those areas.

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