What Role Does Learning & Development Play in a Future Filled with Constant Change?

By February 21, 2019September 28th, 2020LTEN Bonus Focus
Sixty learning & development (L&D) executives representing major pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device companies attended the 2nd Annual LTEN Learning Executive Forum in Boston on Nov. 29, 2018, to discuss the role of L&D in an environment filled with constant and rapid change.

The agenda, which included research-based presentations, an immersive learning experience, roundtable discussions and a panel Q&A session, provided learning executives with the rare opportunity to connect, exchange ideas, and learn from their colleagues. This article summarizes key concepts that emerged from the day.

A Paradigm Shift to Learning in the Flow of Work

Josh Bersin, the keynote speaker and a world-known industry analyst and founder of Bersin by Deloitte presented compelling research on how the new world of “learning in the flow of work” is revolutionizing the world of L&D. “Learning in the flow of work” involves providing employees with brief and relevant learning experiences that they can easily access during their work day.

This paradigm shift is critical because research has found that other than salary, the ability to stay current is the primary reason that people remain in their jobs. Employees who spend time learning are less stressed, happier, and perform better at work. The paradox is that employees only have 24 minutes per week to devote to learning. Consequently, to satisfy this need for continuous learning – which translates to retaining employees – L&D needs to adopt new ways of providing learning experiences.

What does this new world of continuous learning look like? This model requires companies to anticipate what employees need to know and provide it as microlearning on a multitude of platforms and tools (e.g., Slack, YouTube, LinkedIn, Office 365 and SalesForce) that are regularly used throughout the day, so the information is quick and easy to access. Some vendors are adopting the Netflix model and define learning as a series of playlists or content channels. They publish content and companies can subscribe to channels or interest areas. The content is promoted and recommended, sometimes by AI, to employees based on their job responsibilities and previous learning interests and history.

Note that this new paradigm does not dismiss the need for formal, structured macrolearning. In fact, it’s critical to provide a mixture of both. Macrolearning provides needed value during certain points of a career, such as during onboarding or transition to a new job or role while microlearning supports performance.

The challenge with providing learning in the flow of work in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device industries is how to incorporate the use of a variety of platforms in such a heavily regulated field where all content needs to be formally vetted and approved by medical, legal, and regulatory departments.

Future Technology Trends in Life Sciences Training

The fast-paced evolution and the emergence of new technology raises significant questions for L&D professionals such as how can technology enhance learning, which technologies warrant investment, and which pedagogies provide the most value?LTEN is partnering with Pennsylvania State University to create a foundation of peer-generated and reviewed research focusing on the technology and its impact on education and training in life sciences. The LTEN Seminal Study: Current State and Future Trends of Technology in Life Science Education which is being conducted by William Magagna, Vice President Virtual Education Solutions, Siemens Healthineers, and Nicole Wang, a graduate student at Penn State University uses survey-based research to address three key questions:

  • What are LTEN member organizations doing now with technology in terms of pedagogies and tools?
  • What do life sciences training and education professionals think are the most important and most cost-effective practices?
  • How do LTEN members think technology and its impact may change what they will do in the future?

Preliminary results indicate:

  • The four most frequently used pedagogies are instructor-led training (ILT), virtual instructor-led training (VILT), online readings, and in-person role-plays.
  • Instructor-led training is perceived to be the most used and most important pedagogy for sales people.

Regarding technology and its impact on the future, respondents corroborate Bersin’s vision of L&D becoming a content curator rather than a content developer.

The technologies that respondents perceive as having transformative near-term potential were artificial/collective/machine intelligence, augmented/virtual reality, and virtual simulation tools. Respondents also identified the impact of social connectivity, and making learning relevant, interesting, engaging, connected, and easily accessible, self-driven, and fun.

Immersive Learning Experiences Ignite Passion

The virtual reality and virtual simulation tools mentioned by Penn State Study respondents are already transforming UCB, where they use technology to create immersive learning experiences that bring the patient experience to life.

With access to HCPs becoming increasingly more difficult in a highly competitive marketplace, a motivated and passionate sales force becomes a must. UCB recognizes that giving sales representatives the opportunity to experience the journey of patients and their families first-hand increases their passion which, in turn, motivates them to work harder for the good of the patient. With great success, Lisa Lukawski, Associate Director of Performance Training at UCB, uses immersive training experiences that leverage multi-media technology and sensory experiences to share true experiences of real-life patients and their families, caregivers, and healthcare providers.

UCB recreated two realistic environments of patients:

  • A Thanksgiving dinner (complete with table settings and actual food and food smells) for a patient with Parkinson’s Disease
  • An art studio filled with the paintings and art supplies of a pediatric patient with Epilepsy

By combining these environments with video footage of interviews with the patient and family members, Lukawksi provides sales representatives with the opportunity to get to know the patients and their families in non-clinical settings. During these emotionally powerful experiences, the patients shed their clinical identities and become people with histories, interests and goals, and families. Sales representatives walk away from these experiences with a true appreciation for the challenges these patients and their families tackle each day. This understanding makes it easier for sales representatives to keep the patient in the forefront of their discussions with HCPs.

Virtual reality devices such as the Oculus can be used to capture these environments, thus allowing them to easily be transported to various locations and used repeatedly.

“We want the sale force to understand what the patient is dealing with so that when they get shut down during a selling situation, they can be passionate about the “why” behind what they are doing.” Lisa Lukawski, Associate Director of Performance Training, UCB

Building an immersive learning experience requires extensive planning. The objectives and concept must be clearly defined. Dedicated partners who are comfortable working with patients, such as a production company, videographer, and set designer, must be found. Appropriate patients, caregivers, and healthcare professionals must be identified and retained. Interviews must be conducted and videotaped, and sets must be built complete with appropriate props and multisensory experiences.

Round Table Discussions

A series of Round Table Discussions allowed learning executives to brainstorm and share strategies and best practices for a variety of topics. The lively discussions produced the valuable best practices listed below.

Q: How do you demonstrate and communicate the value of learning within your organization?

Responses are as follows:

  • Educate strategic partners (managers, sales, marketing, all leadership) on your value
  • Meet with senior leadership to understand the vision and to educate them on your initiatives
  • Engage sales leaders
  • Participate in the brand planning process
  • Stay current on what’s happening in the business
  • Conduct a capabilities “road show”
  • Implement effective programming
  • Use the 6Ds model for training and development initiatives
  • Use the Six Boxes Model to affect behavior changes
  • Use data to show ROI
  • Report changes in sales volume or in customer or sales rep behavior
  • If you cannot demonstrate return on investment (ROI), report on return on expectations (ROE)
Q: How do you manage decreasing budgets and increasing demands?

Responses are as follows:

  • Develop a strategy and prioritize your budget accordingly
  • Repurpose existing materials (e.g., use snippets of videos to create microlearning)
  • Leverage LTEN assets and resources
  • Purchase off-the shelf modules
  • Share information with colleagues and consult with internal partners (e.g., Medical) to see if they have materials that can be leveraged
  • Ask vendors about working with you on cost
  • Maximize Train-the Trainer events for pull-through
  • Focus training on the science of learning and less on technology
  • Look to academic institutions for information on basic topics and/or writing talent
  • Leverage field-based trainers
Q: How do you evolve training to meet needs in a world filled with volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity (VUCA)?
  • Flip “VUCA” and focus on the characteristics needed to counter effect a VUCA environment: vision, understanding, clarity, and agility
  • Build a learning culture; provide employable skills
  • Cultivate a mindset of curiosity
  • Develop capabilities in problem solving, critical thinking, decision making
  • Teach how to function in the gray instead of in a black and white world
  • Clarify who owns decision making
  • Encourage experimentation and acknowledge failure is ok if learning is an outcome
  • Overcommunicate and have a feedback mechanism so you can understand what managers and representatives are experiencing in the field
  • Put people in simulations; consider “what ifs”
  • Hold 12-min meetings/touchpoints; ban cell phones & computers during meetings and capture plans; implement them, and follow-up
Q: How do you recruit, develop, and coach talent?
  • Identify people with an inherent ability or interest in training and work with them to develop their skills
  • Convey the value of training and of being a trainer
  • Develop a library of training-related books
  • Assess interest/attract talent by providing associate level LTEN memberships
  • Highlight leaders in organization who started in training (e.g., create a video)
  • Create Onboarding Guides for Trainers
  • Leverage LTEN resources

Conduct virtual training sessions; use field trainers and start them on low risk topics (e.g., Veeva)

Q: Preparing Account Managers for the Future
  • Account managers have different roles in small and large organizations
  • In small organizations, train existing sales managers and sales representatives on additional skill sets
  • In larger organizations, bring in vendors for a needs analysis and create specialized training
Q: Managing a Transition from Local to Global Learning Responsibilities

Organizations have varied reporting structures, cultural differences, and political and regulatory differences; must be aware of different rules and regulations regarding how role-plays and testing are done. Strategies:

  • Develop materials centrally and then cascade them to each country for adaptation
  • When there is a centralized learning organization, assemble an Advisory Group to help explain the vision and values of the organization to the different affiliates
  • Most content developed for a global launch can apply to all countries (est. 85%-95%); only certain pieces need to be adapted (typically marketing and selling)
  • Translation and delivery are less expensive when done regionally

Panel Discussion

The day ended with an interactive panel discussion that explored Leading Transformation in 2019. Panelists included Carol Wells, Senior Director, Commercial Medical Government Training & Development, Genentech; David Fortanbary, Head of US Performance Training, UCB; David Nguyen, Senior Director, Commercial Learning & Development, Gilead Sciences, and Megan Sullivan, Head of US Commercial Operations, Shire.

The dynamic discussion touched on several topics including a leader’s role during transformation, how to handle internal conflicts with Marketing, and how is time best spent during transformation.
Some insightful takeaways from the discussion are noted here:

  • “Transformation starts with a vision of the future.” David Fortanbary
  • “The best time to make changes is when you don’t have to, so you can do it in a thoughtful manner.” Carol Wells
  • “You must educate and sell. You probably sell more in the home office than in the field! Educate the entire organization on the value of training. You must be viewed as a trusted advisor and know who the influencers are.” David Nguyen
  • “Have a walking deck that explains what L&D does. People in the organization change so you have to constantly re-educate people.” Megan Sullivan

Amy Fennick is senior instructional designer and medical writer for Informa Training Partners. Email Amy at AFennick@informatp.com.

Life Sciences Trainers & Educators Network

About Life Sciences Trainers & Educators Network

The Life Sciences Trainers & Educators Network (www.L-TEN.org) is the only global 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization specializing in meeting the needs of life sciences learning professionals.

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