Cover Story – By Marcus Calendrillo, Vicki Colman, Karen Connolly, Diane DeVincentis, Jen Dougherty, Mercy Indyk, Varetta Manlove and Chris Thompson
The Eisai commercial training and development (CT+D) team cultivates continuous learning and empowers one another to fulfill the Eisai human healthcare mission through exceptional preparation by providing the right training at the right time. We strive to support our sales professionals throughout all stages of their careers, ensuring they have the knowledge, skills and resources needed to make an impact with customers.
So, when we received feedback from sales professionals that their new hire learning experience was like “drinking from a fire hose,” it was clear our current training approaches were simply not hitting the mark. Given the expansion of Eisai’s product and indication portfolio and the growth of the sales force, the CT+D team took this feedback from our sales colleagues as an opportunity to ask ourselves some important questions:
- Where are we now?
Where do we want to go?
- And, perhaps most importantly, what are the implications of sticking with the status quo?
We sought input from sales leadership, training directors and product trainers(among other internal stakeholders) to answer these questions. Comparing our “desired state” to our “current state” of training at Eisai revealed that:
- There were too few formal and informal training touchpoints with sales professionals throughout their careers; training should be a series of integrated events, not single or stand-alone events.
- New hire training classes were sometimes only one or two people; class sizes should be increased to enhance the experience with opportunities for peer-to-peer learning.
- The amount of information covered during new hire training was overwhelming; training on different topics should be delivered when sales professionals are better prepared to receive it.
The Eisai Learning Journey
The results of this needs analysis laid the groundwork for development of the Eisai learning journey.
At the highest level, our learning journey is a career-long, multi-phased continuum of learning that delivers the right training
at the right time in a sales professional’s tenure. The learning journey helps us strive to avoid the experience of being a “class of one” — we position the onset of new hire training so that individuals can begin their learning journey as part of a larger class.
A cohort-based approach facilitates peer interaction, collaboration and support. These cohorts can process information with one another and share their insights and experience over the duration of the learning journey.
The Eisai learning journey is structured into sequential phases, progressing to more tailored learning over time. (See Table 1.)
A Spotlight on Mastery
We are excited to see the positive impact the Eisai Learning Journey is having on the growth and development of our sales professionals, particularly the new mastery phase. We believe that this phase has and will continue to effectively prepare sales
professionals to develop and implement strategies to drive business while furthering our human healthcare mission.
The structure of the mastery phase addresses the needs identified through the internal analysis of our previous new hire training curriculum and incorporates best practices generally used to elevate learning and development, including:
- Training delivered at the right time; sales professionals enter the mastery phase only when they have achieved a certain tenure.
- Training built on formal learning interventions (e.g., backgrounders, virtual workshops) but more importantly informal learning and cohort/peer-to-peer learning opportunities (e.g., group discussions, manager-led coaching sessions and field trainer office hours).
- Training that emboldens a growth mindset and offers a safe environment for learners to freely participate, absorb, apply and share their own insights and experiences with one another.
An integral component of mastery for each learner is the development of a business case study that focuses on a selected account in their territory. The case study involves a deep-dive analysis into the account and requires sales professionals to apply their clinical acumen, business acumen and Eisai selling skills and knowledge.
The mastery phase culminates in mastery — where sales professionals gather together and present the details of their case studies to peers within their cohort, along with managers, field trainers and MSLs. After each presentation, sales professionals receive feedback and recommendations from colleagues on new ways to deliver impact with their account.
We believe mastery serves as a critical touchpoint for sales professionals to synthesize their real-world experiences in the field with the knowledge gained from self-directed learning, and then discuss the insights gathered from this synthesis with their cohort. In doing so, individuals complete the mastery program and return to their territories with new strategies and tactics they can use to continue to make impact with their respective accounts.
These learnings also serve as the basis for “action plans” for the months immediately following mastery to ensure that sales professionals are executing on key strategies. Sales professionals and their managers then collaborate to measure the progress of goals outlined in the action plans at 30, 60 and 90 days.
The feedback we have received from sales professionals who completed the mastery program has been very encouraging. (See Table 2.) And though we are excited to see how this phase of the Eisai learning journey can help our sales professionals grow, we know that it is not the “end of the road” when it comes to training touchpoints.
Our CT+D team is committed to the development of all our sales professionals throughout their careers, even beyond mastery. As we continue to support our sales professionals through the learning journey, we are designing opportunities for continuous learning so that individuals can explore more advanced topics and further refine the knowledge and skills they have developed throughout their tenures.
Our Journey Continues…
For our CT+D team, the ongoing implementation of the Eisai learning journey has been, and will continue to be, a journey in itself. Along the way, we will roll out new approaches to training, gather feedback from our sales professionals and make refinements accordingly.
But we recognize that, over time, this new learning journey will eventually become the “norm” here at Eisai. And when that time comes, regardless of the improvements and efficiencies that have been brought to bear, we should not be afraid to ask ourselves the same questions that led to the creation of the Eisai learning journey in the first place.
Where are we now? Where do we want to go? And what are the implications of sticking with the status quo?
Written by members of the Eisai commercial training &development leadership team: Marcus Calendrillo, Vicki Colman, Karen Connolly, Diane DeVincentis, Jen Dougherty, Mercy Indyk, Varetta Manlove and Chris Thompson. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the position or views of Eisai.