Roche: Evolving New Hire Sales Onboarding

Think back to when you started at your current company. Do you remember your onboarding experience? There was so much to learn about the organization and the role you were hired to do. Did you feel like you were “drinking from a fire hose”? If so, did you wish someone was there to help you differentiate between the “nice to know” vs. the “need to know”? We did, too!

As we assessed our new hire onboarding program at Roche Diagnostics, we realized we were trying to transfer a great deal of knowledge to our sales new hires. They were trying to learn our organization, their individual franchise, the products they would be selling and the tools we had available to help them understand their territories. They did all this while also trying to learn what the overwhelming number of acronyms meant which can be almost as difficult as learning a new language. Instead of “drinking through a fire hose,” it may have felt more like immersion. That was not the experience we wanted our new colleagues to have!

In mid-2016, our commercial education team accepted the challenge to evolve our new hire sales onboarding program to help our newest colleagues get off to a great start. That being said, we knew we needed to complete several critical steps to ensure we had buy-in across the entire organization.

Here are some of the steps we took to enhance our chances for success:

Engaged senior leadership to gain support on the need to evolve the sales new hire onboarding program. This step was critical! Without the support of our most senior leaders, we would not have gotten the program off the ground. Their support and engagement allowed us to move forward from idea to plan to implementation!

Interviewed first-level sales leaders, top sales colleagues, and recent graduates of the new hire program to get their opinions on ways to evolve the program. While we had a lot of ideas in commercial education, we truly needed the feedback from those currently in the roles and their leaders. This ensured that we were focused on delivering the training that truly mattered to these colleagues. 

Compared the current program offering against the feedback received to determine what should be maintained, what needed updating and what could be eliminated. This was quite eye-opening! While the current program was great at helping colleagues understand the “what” they were asked to sell, there were many opportunities to enhance a colleague’s ability to understand the “why” and the “how” to get the sale completed.

Determined what information could be learned virtually (at home, in the field, with the help of a colleague or their leader) and how to help cement that learning through application during live training sessions. During this analysis, we realized we were spending a good amount of time during live training delivering information that could be learned in alternative sites. We continued to challenge ourselves to determine what information truly needed to be delivered in a live setting. We found most information could be learned virtually, and we needed to focus our live training on helping colleagues with the “application” of that knowledge through practice.


Communicated with the sales organization how this application-based program would truly accelerate their new hire’s ability to make a positive impact in the market. Talk about timing… we launched our new program at the same time our entire organization was evolving our go-to-market model. The good news is our new program was built with the new model in mind. That said, there were a lot of changes happening all at the same time. Helping our sales leaders understand “why” the program changed, “what” specifically had changed, and “how” that would benefit their new hire was critical to our success

We implemented the sales new hire acceleration program in early 2017. The program has received very positive feedback from our nearly 50 graduates and their next level leaders. These newest graduates are better equipped with both the knowledge of what we sell and the increased ability to actually complete the sales process through a very complex and matrixed organization.

While we are proud of the progress made, we still have opportunities for continued improvement in this program. We have also identified the need to evolve the training program for our next-level sales leaders to ensure they are equipped coach and lead their entire sales teams.

We are excited to have been asked to share the additional details on the process we went through to evolve this program at the upcoming LTEN Medical Device & Diagnostics Trainers Summit, Oct. 18-19, 2017, in Baltimore. We look forward to the opportunity to share our experience and have a great open dialogue to learn from other attendees.

Jennifer Muszik is director, commercial education, for Roche Diagnostics. Michele DeMarco is a sales trainer in commercial education for Roche. Email Jennifer and Michele at and

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