Aligning L&D with Business Goals: Pharmaceutical

One of the chief priorities for leaders in the pharmaceutical industry is upskilling their organizations’ analytic capabilities. A data science-based skill set provides value across all disciplines of the organization—such as sales reps navigating conversations about medical trials data and market performance, or researchers better evaluating the efficacy of a drug during testing.

In this business goal alignment post, we’ll discuss two major challenges facing this industry and how training departments can help to remedy them.

Challenge 1: Sustaining growth as the global pharmaceutical industry volume moderates

As always, an overarching issue will be the performance of the global pharmaceutical industry—which is expected to see positive growth, but at moderating levels in 2017 and beyond.

According to an analysis by Quintiles IMS, total spending on medicines is forecasted to reach $1.5 trillion by 2021. That's up 33 percent from 2016 levels, but down from recent high growth rates in 2014 and 2015. Issues of pricing, market-access pressures, lower volume growth in emerging markets, and further generic-drug incursion will contribute to the lower growth rate.

The competitive advantage for maintaining or growing market share may depend less on your product, and more on the skills and efficiency of an excellent sales force. That means the skills for selling new products or increasing adoption of existing products must be top notch. Sales training departments can impact these skills by doing a few things:

First, optimize new rep ramp-up with tailored onboarding and resources.

According to SRG, the ramp-up time for new sales professionals is typically six months or more—which means the organization is losing money during that time, while sales leaders feel pressure to fill the efficiency gap.

  • Is new-hire training delivering the resources and guidance reps need when they need it, and in the right context? Instead of a “drinking from the firehose” strategy, implement a strategic ramp-up program with your sales leaders based on what works.
  • Are unconnected systems causing a disorganized flow of content and resources? Integrate training systems—such as content management systems, coaching tools, sales enablement resources, and CRMs—to support an end-to-end sales execution strategy.

    This not only provides performance support for reps during the time of need, but also provides visibility to sales leaders and L&D departments into what’s working and what’s not. The easier it is to identify how training, skills, and performance impact business goals, the more likely it is to intervene and make course corrections.
Next, identify the competencies exhibited by top performers and develop those skills in the rest of the sales force.
  • Are there specific areas of field performance that are related to meeting product or sales objectives?
  • What skills (e.g., effective questioning, product knowledge, solution selling, etc.) are needed to excel in those specific areas?
  • Which types of training delivery (e.g., coaching, performance support materials, online course, simulation) related to those skills are most effective in knowledge retention and performance?

After investigating these questions, you’ll have the ammunition needed to develop or enhance your strategic sales training program.

Challenge 2: Navigating healthcare regulations while developing real-world evidence to show value

Healthcare reform is an overarching issue for the global pharmaceutical industry. One of the biggest concerns with policy and regulation is the financial impact non-conformance can have on an organization.

From 2010 to 2017, companies in life science industries paid the federal government more than $22 billion to settle legal cases. And pharma companies paid the most, accounting for almost 80 percent of penalties.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported a $2.5 million settlement against a mobile health services provider, which exemplifies how misunderstanding HIPAA requirements creates risk.

So how can L&D help reduce the risk, and, consequently, the financial impact of regulatory fines?

Well, for starters, focus on ensuring employees really understand how their actions in the real world could result in instances of non-conformance and violate laws and regulations. As discussed in the previous post on the healthcare industry, identify the most common areas of misconduct and develop better training around those areas.

Where can training have the biggest impact on the business?

Targeted training programs can help improve the organization’s abilities of showcasing treatment benefits, so stakeholders feel comfortable with their respective prices and purpose. Pending FDA requirements for quality metrics will promote modernization of the pharmaceutical industry and prompt companies to use data analysis to drive process improvement.

Mitigate resistance from physicians, consumers, and insurance companies by creating a dedicated team of data scientists focused on advanced, exploratory analytics, which can be shared throughout the organization.

However, companies that hope to improve profit margins by adopting data analytics strategies are constrained by a lack of big data talent. And it's projected that by 2018, demand for this type of deep analytical talent in the United States could be 50 to 60 percent greater than the supply of people who have these skills.

The organization, and L&D specifically, must invest in developing the existing workforce in analytics capabilities to meet the growing demand for data.

If corporate management establishes practices and processes that’ll ensure rapid access to critical data, L&D must ensure the workforce is equipped to rapidly disseminate these findings while also managing potential risks, such as:

  • including breaches of medical records,
  • breaches of confidential competitive data, and
  • the misinterpretation and misuse of information.

Up Next: How to foster working relationships for stakeholder buy-in

The next part of our business goal alignment series focuses on gaining L&D buy-in within your organization. And our first post will discuss the importance of fostering relationships to build trust across departments and teams. Be sure to subscribe to Watershed Insights to have the latest posts sent straight to your inbox.

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And the learning measurement survey says...

See how global changes have affected the world of learning and development by reading the results from our sixth annual survey with LEO Learning. It shares an evolving picture of L&D’s relationship with measurement and business impact—including real-world examples and extended commentary.

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