Field Trainers and the Future
Feature Story – By Derek Lundsten
The question then is how can learning teams help you be even more successful in the future?
As field trainers, you play a mission-critical role in this fast changing, technologically driven world where we now live and work. You are intended to be the objective eyes and ears on the ground, supporting commercial teams to reach goals and acting as liaisons between corporate and field perceptions of what customers need, what resources managers and commercial representatives can leverage to be successful, and how training must evolve to keep up with the demands of all audiences.
You are ambassadors for everyone: corporate leadership, training leadership, field leadership and individual contributors. Oftentimes the people who are in these roles are rising stars in an organization and have demonstrated the ability to effectively sell, manage others, be strong diplomats, understand market dynamics such as reimbursement, be both strategic and tactical, listen, serve and lead. You should also have mastered or are on the way to mastering these abilities and skills and seek greater levels of organizational responsibility. The question is how can learning teams help you be even more successful in the future?
Like it or not, we live in a technology-driven world now more than ever, and the executive leaders of tomorrow should be equipped to succeed today.
First and foremost, ensure that in addition to your business acumen, you are technologically proficient. We live in a technology-driven world now more than ever, and the executive leaders of tomorrow should be equipped to succeed today. This means providing people with tools, training and latitude to use the technology in your pockets and at your fingertips.
I first spoke at an LTEN conference on the topic of microlearning 10 years ago, and at the time it was still a novel concept: I think there were 12 people in the session. This was when eLearning (60 minutes or more, mind you) and workshops were the two most viable forms of learning delivery. This was pre-virtual classroom, in the early days of social media, pre-mobile apps and customizable learning platforms, and long before all the cool things just now becoming mainstream, including artificial intelligence, virtual reality, augmented reality, voice and more.
Things have certainly changed quickly and are changing even quicker! Many companies have eliminated the computer for their field teams and have gone fully mobile (phones and tablets). We have substantially reduced the number of live meetings in a given year, creating more time in territory, and we are all able to create quality content on our phones, in the form of videos, microlearning courses, games, social learning and more. As field trainers, are you doing this? Do you know how? Have you been given the freedom to create? These are just a couple of examples of types of technological proficiency.
This technological capability and expectation of mastery must be passed on to the field. Are you proactively learning daily? Personally I can’t stand the term Learning Management System (LMS). The very idea that learning is managed is misconceived in my opinion, and at its worst turns learning into a data exercise for compliance purposes. Learning, by its very nature is about trying new things, being exposed to new ideas, being inspired to change and grow, to activate potential, and to retain knowledge and master skills. Training is committing to the regular, ideally daily discipline to practice, adjust and enhance what has been learned. As field trainers, are you being given the mandate to ensure managers and representatives are doing this? Most importantly, does everyone on the team understand and appreciate its importance? Are there platforms and other resources to seek out these opportunities? Are field trainers creating and curating original content to encourage daily engagement?
There is an abundance of quality content available for on-demand usage, and it can be personalized, relevant and fun. Again, these questions highlight the importance of field trainers acting as the facilitator and champion of learning and in turn creating a more engaged, educated and prepared commercial organization.
Leadership must create a culture of open communication to adjust and improve. What is the process to continually enhance the quality of the training content and ensure it is the correct material and formats to meet organizational needs? One of the things that allowed the life sciences industry to be so successful in the last 25 years is the rigor in building processes for everything.
The single biggest skill for the future, both individually and for corporations, will be adaptability. In some ways this flies in opposition to process and/or processes that will need to adapt and be more nimble. This means listening, consuming information, responding and adjusting continually. This is really hard to accomplish without candor and leadership acting upon the realities of what is happening in market. Field trainers are the ambassadors of this information, helping to analyze and triage the critical messages and bridge between the strategists and tactical implementation.
These points underscore the fact we are entering the renaissance of training and education, and the way we have been educated and have been training was for the jobs of a previous time. Technology will completely transform and thankfully improve how we educate the students, employees and leaders of tomorrow.
Within corporations, training and learning is arguably the most underrated and under-budgeted investment in an organization’s future success. Everything is measurable now, and the data provides access to possibilities that seemed impossible only a few years ago. It has been said that high performers have a 25x ROI vs. average. Think about the implications this has on talent acquisition, training and retention.
Field trainers play and will continue to play a critical role to elevate training responsibilities and importance to executive leadership. You should be early adopters and early advocates for both technologies and people.
Derek Lundsten is CEO of Scrimmage. Email Derek at firstname.lastname@example.org.