Written by Jess Ingram and Francisca Costa on Friday 31st January 2020
Empowering and equipping medical affairs teams to embrace an ever-expanding remit
Is your team ready?
Medical affairs has always been an exciting and rewarding place to work, but the role and remit of teams is evolving at an unprecedented pace across the industry, whether you are an MSL or working in a country, regional or global head office role. This is great news; it is a time full of opportunity for personal and professional development, as well as increasing the potential of medical affairs teams to deliver improved outcomes for their company and, ultimately, patients. However, it is certainly not without challenges. As change becomes perhaps the only constant, teams need to embrace the concept of continuous learning to meet the demands of an ever-more varied role. A robust, dynamic and effective internal training programme to support this is absolutely crucial.
So how can you deliver this to equip your teams to be ready for new challenges, and empower them to thrive in this environment?
A winning formula for internal training and development
Traditional training programmes often focus on increasing the knowledge of medical affairs teams. These then sit alongside what is usually a separate work stream of skills training. It is also usually heavily weighted to initial on-boarding training and offers limited opportunity for continued development beyond data updates and ad hoc activities. Without a clear structure and opportunity to map their own personal development plan, learners can quickly become disengaged.
I passionately believe an effective training programme needs to be designed to address knowledge and competencies hand-in-hand. But there is a further element to consider – confidence. Do learners feel equipped to implement what they have learnt into their day-to-day activities and future plans?
Addressing the learner’s needs
To develop an internal training programme that delivers enhanced performance, it is important to start with establishing the strategic priorities of the team – not just what the team needs to know, but what they need to be able to DO. This can be achieved by gathering robust data on baseline levels of knowledge, competencies and confidence. The initial stage of scoping and analysis distils the specific requirements for an internal training programme and allows you to implement a blended programme that directly meets the needs of the learner.
We know that better results are achieved by building programmes that are practice and outcomes focused, whilst putting learners at the centre. Your team are already highly educated and skilled – therefore, they are much more likely to embrace and apply training opportunities if they are able to self-direct their learning plan.
Digital technologies give us fantastic opportunities to deliver learning in exciting and effective new formats and also measure impact like never before (more on this below). However, it is important to keep in mind that digital is never the full solution to any training challenge and there should always be a blend of different strategies to create an effective learning environment. Certainly, for competency-based aspects and for improving someone’s confidence, face-to-face training remains powerful. This is best used alongside digital tools and platforms which offer a brilliant opportunity for bite-sized, dynamic learning and visual mapping and tracking of learner progress.
Improving adoption and engagement
Regardless of shiny, digital technology, there are always times when a team doesn’t engage with available training. To tackle this, we first need to identify the barriers to engagement. It might be the format of the training is not appropriate; therefore, how can you make sure the programme is being delivered in the right way? Could you offer more digital formats to make the learning bite-sized, or do you need to go back to face-to-face training? It could be that the content is not addressing the learner’s needs; 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 relevant.
Additionally, the platform might not be intuitive, which can very quickly lead to frustration and low usage. Once the challenges are understand, we can then look at the solutions to get the platform right, whilst ensuring the content is relevant. Spanning across this, I have found that the most important factor is to explicitly communicate learning outcomes. If we show people why learning activities will directly benefit them, then the engagement and impact follows.
Insight into the behaviours of a team can be provided by digital tools and this can be useful to assess their baseline performance before designing new training and reviewing change post-training. One of the most powerful tools is to ask five questions per day and monitor confidence levels alongside the responses — this is not only valuable for the learner, but gives clear metrics to use for further programme development.
Crucially for long-term success, programmes should be actively monitored using a range of measures beyond participation rates; if people feel they are getting value for the training they will keep coming back for more. However, it is important to maintain a balance of quantitative and qualitative measures – stats shouldn’t replace ongoing dialogue with the team about their training and development needs.
A checklist for effective learning 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
RELEVANT and APPLICABLE
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 learning activities
Can you deliver this?
Clearly there is a lot to think about, but actually there are some very simple practical tools and tips that can make this straightforward to implement and drive enhanced performance very quickly.
Getting your learning and development programme right could be the most significant step forward in making sure your team truly is ready to embrace the opportunities that abound across medical affairs.
Find out more about OPEN Health’s Learning & Development methodology
At OPEN Health, we design training programmes with outcomes in mind so your
teams have everything they need to perform to their maximum potential. We use our own
advanced methodology, based on a series of adult learning theories, together with compelling
and relevant content, delivered through effective, blended programmes.
For more information contact: Jess Ingram, Managing Director
+44 7464 985 126