Spotlight interview: 15 minutes on learning and development

Written on Tuesday 17th September 2019

1. What makes a great internal training programme?

Internal training programmes need to start by having a strategic view of what we want to achieve, and what makes the biggest impact. We want a happy team, one that’s well supported and knowledgeable in the therapy area in which they work. Beyond that we also need to understand the strategic imperatives, what the team is focused on and where their activities will make the most impact. This is where we start whenever we design a learning and development programme because this helps us develop a programme that’s targeted at improving the knowledge and confidence of the team in those specific areas. We also go through a process of understanding the team’s current strengths and weaknesses, ensuring the solutions we put in place are really targeted to those areas.

Every programme is focused on three key elements:

  • Developing the knowledge team members need (regardless of their role) to be a credible partner for healthcare professionals
  • Ensuring they have the right competencies for that role (such as customer engagement, objection handling, insight gathering, KOL profiling, strategic planning etc)
  • Achieving confidence — you can be knowledgeable but without the confidence to apply it, you won’t see an effective outcome.

This can be expressed as a winning formula for learning and development:
knowledge + competencies + confidence = enhanced performance.

2. Is it all online these days?

Digital gives us fantastic opportunities to engage with people; it is a powerful tool to drive change and doesn’t mean having to take much time away from your day job. I don’t think digital should be the full solution to any training challenge, there should always be a blend of different strategies to suit different styles of learning. Certainly, for competency-based aspects and for improving someone’s confidence, face-to-face training remains powerful. However, some digital tools out there are fantastic and offer a brilliant opportunity for bite-sized learning. This enables people to stay on top of the latest data that’s being released, embracing opportunities to learn around their day job, as well as having dedicated time for more significant learning and development opportunities.

3. How do you tackle low engagement?

There will always be times when a team doesn’t engage with the training being offered and there are several reasons that may be happening. When we talk about how we are going to tackle this, the most important thing is to understand why the engagement is low in the first place. It might be the format of the training is not working for people, so we need to make sure the programme is being delivered in the right way. Do we need to offer more digital formats to make the learning bite-sized, or do we need to go back to face-to-face training? It could be that the content is not what they need; it may have been designed based on the latest data but if it doesn’t reflect the strategic imperatives, they won’t find the content valuable and engaging. It might be the platform being used is not user-friendly which is frustrating for the users and can very quickly lead to low engagement. We need to understand why there is low engagement and then look at solutions to get the platform right, whilst ensuring the content is relevant. Our experience proves that if we show people why learning activities will directly benefit them, then the engagement does follow.

4. How do you know if the programme is working?

It’s always difficult to measure, however digital tools provide great insight into understanding the behaviours of a team. This can be useful to assess their baseline performance before designing new training, and looking at the change after the training has taken place to see how it has affected behaviour. One of the most powerful tools is the idea of asking five questions per day and looking at confidence levels alongside the questions — this is a great gauge and gives clear metrics to use going forward. However, this shouldn’t replace the ongoing dialogue with your team about their training needs. We would also look at things like participation rates, if people feel they are getting value for the training they will keep coming back for more. Finally, we always want to hear from our participants on what they need and what they want next, respecting that different people need different things.

5. What makes OPEN Health Medical Communications a great partner to develop internal training programmes?

It comes back to the initial stage of scoping and analysing the situation. We go through a rigorous process to understand what is needed for an internal training programme and work with the team to design and implement a blended programme. The programmes that we design are built on our OPEN Health methodology for advanced internal training design, based on a whole series of adult learning theories, particularly ‘Constructive alignment’ and ‘Connectivism’. We focus on their knowledge, competence and confidence, and we truly believe that when these three things are put together, you can significantly enhance performance. We use our background in wider healthcare communications to ensure that everything we develop contains compelling content, which is of the highest quality and relevant to daily clinical practice in the real-world setting. All in all, our programmes are highly bespoke and developed based on a robust process, tailored to the specific challenges of each team and always with a clear line of sight to the desired outcomes.

A checklist for effective training programmes

    Based on identified needs and objectives to ensure your
    teams get exactly what they need to deliver their goals
    Motivating and empowering the learner to maximise their engagement and tailor their experience
    Using a range of the most appropriate techniques to deliver
    and reinforce the content
    The right content at the right time, with guidance about implementation into real-life scenarios
    Practical solutions and formats that allow the team to fit professional development into their day job seamlessly
    To demonstrate the impact and improved performance
    of your team, and inform future training


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