Learning and Development Is the Key to Compliance in Life Sciences

Employees must be able to retain information and remain engaged to keep pace with highly regulated industry.

As pharmaceutical companies navigate fast-changing times, staff learning and development (L&D) has continued to play an enormous role in their continued success. Not only is L&D crucial for increasing engagement and productivity as well as retaining staff longer, but it contributes to closing skill gaps that help organizations maintain regulatory and data compliance.

However, one of the caveats of remote work has been ensuring employees are paying attention and retaining information shared during training—a worrying reality considering the importance of compliance in highly regulated industries. Engaging, real-time L&D programs that give employers the ability to measure information absorption are vital for long-term training success.

Establishing strong L&D programs

Training employees is a key component for business success. In the past two years, training has become even more critical across industries in the face of the Great Resignation, managing multi-generational teams, and setting into new remote and hybrid environments. Even in the pharma space, though lab work can’t be completed remotely, many other roles can. Necessary compliance training curricula that were once designed in one way, now must be versatile enough not only for different learning styles but also flexible completion modules.

When it comes to establishing L&D programs in pharma, there are a couple of critical challenges that companies must consider:

  • Risk management – Considering the legal and safety hazards that come with actions in this field, teams face increased responsibility.
  • Changing regulations – Regulatory change happens rapidly in pharma, and companies need to be prepared to react and adapt quickly. The pandemic was the ultimate example of this, where processes shifted to comply with the vaccine rollout, as well as multiple therapeutics.
  • Program evolution – The pace of change for the business may be higher than the pace of evolution in training programs, so maintaining updated curriculums is key.
  • Integration – Many companies fail to integrate L&D into strategic development. Consequently, when it comes time for programs to be executed, they are loosely in touch with what the business is trying to accomplish. For example, when a pharmaceutical sales team is oriented entirely toward the private sector vs. a vaccine rollout where it's both a public and private partnership.

Over the long term, L&D programs must remain consistent with changing regulations and strategies. Once organizers get past the strategic connections mentioned above, they can focus on a curriculum’s efficacy.

Setting the stage for success

Because of the criticality of L&D in any highly regulated industry such as life sciences, keeping individuals interested and engaged is of the utmost importance. However, with dense material and many folks now decentralized, the ideal methodology follows a 70-20-10 breakdown, where 70% of the learning is done on the job, 20% is accomplished under team collaboration, and 10% happens in a classroom-style training.

The first step in establishing new training is assessing the playing field to determine how to best invest resources to train their people. Companies should ask the following questions: What do the individuals within the team already know? What are the objectives of the curriculum in terms of teaching, and what knowledge retention is needed? Are your current tactics effective at teaching? Ideally, the answers will result in understanding if a curriculum is working and where money is being wasted.

Creating engaging programs

Program success is multi-layered, and curriculum modules must meet two criteria: to be both entertaining and repetitious. Through repetition, leaders can ensure that engagement is met through multiple forms. When people hear and see information in numerous ways, they receive multiple opportunities to grasp and retain the information. In addition, organizers get more traction out of changing modules because employees maintain a higher level of engagement.

In the curriculum planning portion, make sure to integrate different content exchange structures, such as Zoom meetings, group projects, and discussion sessions. In addition, invest your money in good graphics that are attention-grabbing and offer bite-sized overviews of the most important information.

The power of integrating the right technology tools

Technology is playing an increasingly impactful role by simplifying the entire process from planning to execution to measurement of retention. Tools can serve many different functions of L&D programs. Leading first is the ability to collect and utilize data compiled during training, for example, tracking enrollment numbers, user activity, assessment results, training experience, etc. Organizing information assists leaders in better understanding training KPIs and ensures they can spot improvement areas for the future.

The post-training phase

Once programs are complete, conducting a post-training evaluation is critical. To assess success, all participants should be tasked with filling out a survey that uncovers the level of engagement achieved during modules, retention levels, and valuable insight of the training from their perspective. The results will give organizers an idea of what employees thought of the course and, most importantly, what worked and what didn’t.

In addition, when it comes to assessing employees after training, division leaders should be watching their teams to see if they're applying new skills, procedures, or thought processes from the program. They should be able to answer “yes” to the following: Are employees implementing what they learned? Is their performance improving? Do employees seem more confident? Has their behavior changed? These responses will help the last step of the process, which is integrating follow-up teachings of the most technical and critical information.

Embracing robust L&D programs for long-term success

Leaders are increasingly aware of the challenges created by the current workforce revolution—and as we continue to navigate new working environments, implementing robust L&D processes are the key to long-term success in the life sciences industry, as well as across all industries.

Large-scale transformation programs can address multiple industry challenges such as staff shortages, cyber risks, regulatory adherence, and patient safety. Modern curriculums also improve workforce efficiency and boost the overall patient experience. As the life sciences space evolves at record speed, it's only natural that we propel employees towards better L&D, raising the standards of good practice in pharma processes.

Robert Graham, CEO, Poll Everywhere