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The need to prioritize digital skill-building companywide.
The digital makeover pharma received thanks to COVID-19 was inevitable. It didn’t matter if companies were tech-savvy or digitally deficient; they all faced new technologic challenges that required an investment in training. In February 2020, a McKinsey Global Survey indicated that 87% of executives were experiencing skill gaps or expected them within a few years. It also pointed out that less than half of respondents had a plan to address the problem. Every exec said closing those gaps was a priority, however, only one-third said they were prepared to address potential role disruptions. This was just a month before lockdown began.
Reskilling and upskilling workforces is now a nonoptional priority. A recent report from GlobalData reveals that a lack of specific skills and talents (46%) is the main obstacle in pharma’s digital transformation. According to Urte Jakimaviciute, senior director of market research, “As more companies turn to digital, a number of innovations covering every possible process in the pharmaceutical value chain is only going to increase. [Success] will heavily depend on employees being on board and adapting as digital transformation is a never-ending change.”
Since the pandemic began, people have been introduced to many new technologies and channels. They’re seeing the potential of products including wearables, connected TV, and voice activation. They’re also realizing that new ways to employ established technologies is also important.
“The ability to work within some of these platforms and find meaningful ways to affect communication is endless,” says Renee Marotta, executive director of marketing at Esperion. “We need to better understand all of the offerings, if things can be custom built to suit our needs, and find a way to help solve our current business questions and problems.”
Even basic applications, such as everyday videoconferencing platforms, could be better utilized with an investment in instruction. While everyone jumped onto Zoom calls in the spring, many first-timers only had time to learn the basics. But figuring out how to ask polling questions, use breakout rooms, and integrate Zoom with programs such as Slack to receive automatic meeting reminders and Otter to download transcripts can boost productivity.
“Digital transformation is not the same as adding new applications and updating the company’s infrastructure,” says Jakimaviciute. “Understanding and applying new technologies requires specific skillsets, as technologies will fail to add value if people do not know how to work with them.”
Even though more training programs might be required, virtual instruction saves time and money previously spent on travel and live events. Esperion realized this during its planned launch for its first drug, Nexletol, last spring. With training scheduled for the week of March 23, the company had to pivot to virtual training. According to McKinsey, programs focused on recreating the best of in-person learning through live video and social sharing allow for more cost-effective and personalized learning, ultimately resulting in greater effectiveness.
When it comes to deciding what technologies to focus on, Marotta says there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Offering a variety of platforms can improve interactions with healthcare professionals (HCPs). “It’s listening and pulling together based on the need,” says Marotta. “We don’t have the time to pull things through or push things out that aren’t going to land and be effective. So listening—not only to the field but our HCPs—and customizing are key to making sure we don’t miss the mark.”
Even if certain technologies aren’t right for a particular business, it’s important for everyone to understand them. Of course, the type of training should be tailored by role. Marketers should focus on the messaging and tactics and need to understand all the aspects of the technology. Reps and training teams should concentrate more on understanding the tools and technologies that affect customer communication. Sales managers should be trained at a much higher level, so they can provide assistance to sales reps.
“Not everybody is savvy with all technologies,” says Marotta. “You have to take things down to an individual level. As tough as that may seem, it’s possible. Getting down to a granular level and ensuring that everybody is tracking and on the same page is absolutely doable.”
Now that companies have learned the power of technology, there’s no turning back. Investing in training will be a necessary part of business into 2021 and beyond.
Elaine Quilici is Pharm Exec’s Senior Editor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.