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Is a Learning Platform Really Worth the Investment?

FEATURE STORY – By Kristina Belyea

Can a platform help with retention, culture & learner insights?


Whether talking time or money, training programs and platforms must demonstrate a return on the investment. Education is critical to any commercial strategy, and better execution translates into more successful teams. Commercial learning & development (CL&D) teams ensure that field reps have access to comprehensive training and resources to educate customers effectively. Nonetheless, these technology platforms can have vastly variable impacts on learners.

Life sciences training has undergone an extensive digital change recently. Many trainers have purchased and rolled out new learning platforms and tools; for others, the complexity of implementing a new learning technology can make obtaining that critical buy-in from upper management very challenging.

Is the hesitation valid?

Promoting change, just like marketing any product, means demonstrating value. Consider your starting point with anew learning platform:

  • Does your present system show value by linking learning with performance?
  • How much weight should you attribute to this when evaluating the investment options in learning platforms?

This article will investigate if learning platforms are worth the hype and the money from the perspective of learning retention, culture and the ability to draw insights from data.

Learning Retention

Most research suggests the average person will retain only 50% of what they have learned after 20 minutes. Learning retention is considered one of the more complicated training challenges to overcome. Not surprisingly, most trainers favor learning platforms that can improve overall retention. While team engagement can be high during in-person events, one wonders how much of that learning translates into tangible real-world action back home and in the field.

Learning platforms are about pull-through. They have microlearning modules that can be viewed multiple times and offer resources available to give you the content you need when you need it.

Let’s take a minute to examine what microlearning is. Microlearning is a learning methodology that delivers content in short, easily digestible pieces. It also supports content in various forms to adapt to how the person learns, such as video, written or audio formats.

Its purpose is to engage learners at the point of need, which helps them increase their knowledge as real-world problems arise via precise, accessible and easily referenced content. According to a McKinsey report, product reps given customized training are 1.3 times more likely to outperform their peers.

Based on this, it seems evident that learning platforms make it easier for learners to retain what they’ve learned and allow for continued use of training materials in the flow of work. Learning platforms will provide users with microlearning and resources, but can we distinguish if these technologies cultivate learning?

Learning Culture

Developing a culture of learning has been largely ignored by many organizations. It is simpler and more traditional to take the “check the box” approach to training. But the operating landscape and product life cycle shift rapidly, and training must be adaptive, versatile and scalable to keep pace. The “one-and-done” approach is obsolete.

Learning platforms provide salespeople with the materials they need before, during and after training while promoting compliance. Both systems may be similar in how they update the material. Consideration should be given to reducing friction arising from reps needing to access multiple systems to obtain information: It is critical to minimize your tech stack, and ease of use is key to nurturing a learning culture. A unified platform with cross-team support (i.e., medical affairs and brand teams) can also help do the heavy lifting to ensure compliance.

Creating a learning culture has several benefits, one of which is the ability to allay the fears of field team members concerned about climbing the learning curve and acquiring more skills. Against the backdrop of the oft-heard “great resignation” and many companies working hard to attract and retain employees in a tight labor market, deploying a learning platform signals an investment in the workforce. It sets the stage for employee engagement and, ultimately, boosts performance.

Industry experts agree that teams should be spending an hour or two per week focused on learning to chart a course toward a learning culture.

Data Insights

By design, the software collects data so you have insight into your learners’ behavior and you can better understand the impact of training on performance. Beyond demonstrating the ROI of the platform, you can see learners’ progress, how time is spent, on what training assets and in what contexts (i.e., rep behavior).

Learner progress data allows training managers to understand where reps might be having issues with content. Similarly, identifying how time is spent and on what content gives trainers and sales managers insight into what training is effective, which can be fed back to brand teams.

What you should keep in mind when considering a learning platform is ease of use for the rep and how quickly reps can get to the content and materials needed in the flow of their work.

One of the most interesting data points is the ability to assess rep behavior. Both CL&D and sales managers can identify where on the spectrum their team is and dive deep into the behaviors of both top- and bottom-tiered reps.

The breakdown of rep performance identifies what learning modules and content materials are being used and by whom, to drill down to where knowledge gaps may be. For example, the links between the content use and the success of top reps may indicate a good practice that could be adopted by middle-tier reps to improve their performance.

A better picture of behavior also identifies opportunities for coaching. Managers may be able to intervene earlier when they see signs of a rep struggling, increasing overall team success. There is a bonus given to any platforms that have specific coaching capabilities; however, Facetime and Zoom can also get the job done — you just won’t get the benefits of data analytics.

To Invest or Not to Invest?

In conversations, many life sciences learning professionals cited that the biggest challenge from their experience was linking learning behavior to performance, which allows them to demonstrate the value of training. Most legacy learning platforms lack the learning behavior data to give you that ROI; however, newer platforms prioritize the value of data analytics and insight.
Change management is hard; many can and do take the view that implementing anew platform just means there is something else to learn. Without an obvious gap or urgency in an organization surrounding certification, coaching or resource tools, many CL&D teams are fine to stay the course with how they have always facilitated training.

In a world where data is power, insights into how top reps interact with learning resources and marketing tools can help differentiate a company and drive performance.

When we think of a learning platform, it can be considered a nice-to-have, more so than a need to-have, especially if there is already a system in place that is “working.” Once implemented, it would not be hard to set up key performance indicators to start tracking retention, use and insights, which would paint the picture of the value it can provide to your organization.

In the end, you just need to ask yourself: Does my organization have what is needed to succeed? Are my employees empowered to deliver better value to our customers?

Conclusion

An if-it-is-not-broken-don’t-fix-it mentality can be hard to overcome to get the buy-in needed for the investment, but one must think it would be at least worth the fight for a test run or pilot. Do your due diligence when looking at investing in a learning platform.

As technology becomes more pervasive, companies that value these learning strategies will have a growing competitive edge over those that fail to keep up.


Kristina Belyea is director, content marketing, for ACTO. Email Kristina at Kristina@actoapp.com.

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