By Tracey DeSilva
Enter stage: elearning portals, digital content, asynchronous learning journeys and an accelerated time to performance for new hires.
Exit stage: rigid, linear learning overload that strained resources and created long gaps between first day at Bayer and first day engaging a customer.
This has been the scene title for the past 15 months in Bayer’s U.S. pharmaceutical learning & development (L&D) team. Following a Q4 2021 successful business case for investment to build digital platforms and transform flat content, our team set about evolving the way we deliver therapeutic area and product training for incoming sales professionals.
The primary goal was to reduce the time to performance from their first day at Bayer to their first day engaging with a customer without compromising our compliance guidelines or the acquisition of key knowledge needed to be successful in role. We also had a goal to address learner frustration with platforms that are not fully integrated, and that cause learners to move to different locations to access content.
As we began the work on our digital transformation, we first examined the current new-hire class agendas with a goal to prepare them to move from synchronous, point-in-time experiences to asynchronous, learner-centric flexible journeys. This part of the work delivered significant reductions in classroom time as it rebalanced the learner experience to be more autonomous and less reliant on multiple sessions of virtual, instructor-led classes.
Using videos, self-paced modules, podcasts, gamification and a comprehensive assessment, new hires were given the autonomy to learn where and when was best for them. This allowed their previous selling and therapeutic knowledge to impact their pace of learning.
Another benefit was the shift in resource demand for the L&D team. We reduced the hours spent facilitating virtual learning sessions and used those hours in other ways to support the learning experience.
Moving deeper into our transformation, we recognized an opportunity to leverage our portal and redesigned the experience to change the sequence of training and substantially alter a new hire’s learning journey such that they could engage with our customers within their first week at Bayer. This was historic. Our previous data showed that the average time between first day at Bayer and first day engaging customers was seven weeks.
Our opening scene was becoming an entirely new second act!
Act 2 was born and named DRIP learning, an engaging, self-paced way to enjoy learning versus drinking from the firehose. We planned next steps and identified key organizational stakeholders we would need for alignment.
Returning to the industry partner who built our on-boarding platform, we shared our vision for new-hire franchise-specific learning portals and asked them to begin building distinct portals for each therapeutic team, branded in a way that connected a new hire with the market and products they would be selling.
The next stage of work entailed assessing the entire volume of content being sent to a new hire. After the inventory was complete, we set about defining our foundational compliance threshold for a new hire to engage with a customer. We met with stakeholders in compliance, legal, sampling, customer relationship management (CRM), etc., to vet our concept and incorporate feedback.
Next, we took our concept to field leadership for feedback. The primary concern expressed was a desire not to compromise the quality of learning for the sake of speed. Additionally, our field leadership saw the opportunity for L&D to create strong awareness for our end users, so they would be ready to embrace this new approach versus “how we’ve always done it.”
Overall, all stakeholders saw the value in our proposed DRIP learning module, and so we forged onward.
Our new DRIP model was categorized into home study and Phase 1 training. In home study, learners would focus on their product’s label, view pre-recorded therapeutic overviews, complete a review of our CRM and attend a one-hour study hall with our medical team. Additionally, they are required to complete mandatory compliance modules and product sampling instructions.
Upon successful completion of a product information assessment, the new hire would be approved to engage with customers. This engagement is supported by clear compliance guidelines given the new hire has not yet completed Phase 1 training. While the new hire would primarily focus on listening and learning from their healthcare providers (HCPs), the new DRIP model would allow us to reactively sample, provide brochures, set up future appointments and alleviate any concern about gaps in coverage with their HCPs or accounts.
Phase 1 training, what we call CORE (Confidence and Readiness), includes 2 to 3 1/2 days of virtual classroom training where they participate in interactive workshops, moving from learning acquisition to learning application while they begin to verbalize their learnings from home study.
During CORE class, our learners are exposed to brand messages, competitive market dynamics and more. CORE class ends with a final certification built to assess competencies around connecting and discovering with customers while positioning their resources, indications, clinical data and key messages to drive to action.
We selected a recently formed sales force of 600 personnel to pilot the DRIP model, netting us approximately a dozen new hires each month. With two cohorts complete and a third currently in progress, we have data showing a 33% reduction in the home study time, a 30% reduction in CORE class completion time and an 88% reduction between first day at Bayer and first day engaging a customer.
We consider this a runaway success, as do our stakeholders. Now we’ll work to scale the DRIP method to our other franchises and extend the benefits of learning and performing across U.S. pharmaceuticals.
Our transformation journey has been fast and rich with discoveries about instructional design, elearning platforms and ways to innovate the learning experience to drive earlier engagement with customers for our new hires. DRIP learning is here to stay at Bayer. We have seen early successes and grown our own confidence that it is the right thing to do for our learners and our business.
Tracey DeSilva is vice president, learning & development, for Bayer U.S. Email Tracey at email@example.com.