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Bayer Onboarding: Interactive, Virtual & On-Demand

By December 14, 2022January 9th, 2023Focus On Training

COVER STORY – By Jim Cross

How could Bayer L&D create a new-hire experience virtually?


Remember when your new-hire training modules arrived in binders at your doorstep? Recall the hours you spent on the phone with IT trying to find your hardware, log into your email or register for your benefits?

Classic new-hire onboarding was changed by necessity – cost, efficiency and, oh yes, COVID!

“That necessary change was accelerated by the rise of digitization,” said Tracey DeSilva, vice president, learning and development (L&D), for Bayer US Pharma. “Digital portals have allowed organizations like ours to alter the employee experience, from the moment the employee signs their offer letter.”

Research from Gallup found that 70% of employees who rate their onboarding experiences as exceptional also feel they have the best job possible and are 2.6times as likely to be immensely satisfied with their workplace.  Additionally, according to research done by the Brandon Hall Group, organizations with a robust onboarding process increase new-hire retention by 82% and productivity by more than 70%.

Getting onboarding right is truly a win-win scenario.

Building the Business Case

Matt Sample, senior director of franchise and medical L&D at Bayer US Pharma, recognized that the data served as the foundation for a business case. He built a proposal, brought in stakeholders as cocreators and constructed a plan to launch Bayer’s Onboarding New Hire Experience (ONE).

Bayer ONE was designed to both welcome and activate new team members. Sample’s original version was an in-person experience, where new hires would be flown to Bayer’s corporate headquarters in New Jersey to engage in a multi-day experience that included meeting executive leadership, touring the building and learning about Bayer culture.

Mere weeks before the launch of the program in the second quarter of 2020,COVID arrived. Everyone’s world stopped. Time stood still, but it couldn’t freeze forever. The Bayer L&D team got to work.

Going Virtual

The solution was to find an external partner who could realize the L&D team’s vision for onboarding in an interactive virtual environment. Shared experiences connect team members with their community and foster a culture of both inclusivity and innovation. The question was, how could Bayer L&D create the same experience and achieve the same outcomes with a virtual approach – how could they make a virtual approach feel like Bayer?

“With COVID, we were put in a position where we wanted to find a way to bottle up a lot of the passion from our live classes and create memorable experiences in a virtual world/platform,” Sample said. “ONE allowed us to lead interactive sessions around who we are (culture), what we do (leadership, compliance and platforms),who you are (DiSC), and what you do (engagement and presentation skills). We’re focusing on our people and the broader organization before zooming into our territories and our products.”

In collaboration with MC3, Bayer created an enterprise-wide platform to host Bayer ONE. The platform was in wide use by many of Bayer’s life sciences teams as a virtual event portal to securely deliver branded, user-aware, on-demand content, activities and engagement.

When Sample looked at the platform, he saw a greater opportunity. He saw a 360-degree branded, on-demand, onboarding solution, and approximately two months later the L&D team proudly launched their new virtual Bayer ONE onboarding program via a custom-designed portal.

“Our main objectives were really to educate and more so inspire,” Sample said. “You’ve joined this great organization and we wanted to make it more of a networking opportunity, which again, is why the platform really allowed itself where you could kind of explore on your own when you felt comfortable, but then you could go out into a breakout group and build your network or community from day one.”

Transforming Onboarding

The Bayer ONE portal sits at the center of new team members’ onboarding curriculum, where it offers a combination of synchronous and asynchronous activities and resources. It provides on-demand content that meets team members where they are, guides them along learning pathways and enables them to review and complete training at their optimal rate.

Team members can review documents, watch media, complete interactive micro-activities and explore as they see fit. Synchronous activities such as web conferences are just a click away and can leverage all enterprise platforms such as Teams, WebEx and Zoom.

The Bayer ONE portal transformed the onboarding program from an in-person event to a virtual experience. To date, Bayer ONE has been shared with more than1,200 learners through 27 classes.

“We wanted to elevate orientation and make it a true onboarding experience, andwe knew that early satisfaction leads to retention and impact,” Sample said.

What once was considered a temporary COVID stopgap has become a long-term solution. Bayer’s L&D team runs Bayer ONE onboarding 11 months of the year and it continues to be received with real appreciation across the enterprise.

Never ones to rest on their laurels, the L&D team consistently invites participants to provide insightful feedback that helps tune the curriculum, activities and content for maximum effect.

Building on Success

The success of the Bayer ONE curriculum was truly the start of something great. Sample and his team quickly realized that a similar solution could also redefine newhire training for Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceutical’s therapeutic teams.

“Then we started having the vision for where we wanted to go,” Sample said. “If we did it for onboarding, how could we do it for selling skills? So, we started building a virtual engagement warehouse portal to focus on skills needed to navigate the virtual platforms and environment, and then we built another portal for our customer engagement strategy, and we said, ‘Well, if we did it for onboarding and skills, why wouldn’t we do it for our clinical content?’ Right?”

Each of the therapeutic teams at Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals has unique learning objectives; however, they all share one strategic objective – get the team ready for the field! To these ends, three of the therapeutic teams have designed and deployed their own multifaceted curricula with a custom-designed portal right at the center of it.

The results are impressive.

“We’ve transformed learning for our field force, giving them more control in a simplified and engaging manner,” said Kristi France, senior director, program curriculum lead. “In addition to content, the portals house activities providing learners the ability to apply what they’ve learned.  From the L&D side these portals provide metrics, giving us insight into the areas of focus for our live classes, and provide learner snapshots for leadership.”

The Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals L&D team has proven on both the enterprise and therapeutic levels that delivering an interactive virtual curriculum via a centralized portal can do more than achieve learning objectives – it enables people to start something great.


Jim Cross is chief creative officer for MC3. Email Jim at Jim.cross@mc3.com.

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