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Qstream was delighted to host an LTEN webinar with two of our customers in the pharmaceutical space, Tara Leahy, Director, Commercial Training & Development, Daiichi-Sankyo and Kevin McBride, Associate Director, Learning Technology & Digital Learning at Horizon. Both are tenured training professionals who bring a wealth of knowledge to the table.

The panel-style session was aimed at addressing the expectations and challenges of today’s hybrid workforce and why a fundamentally different approach is needed to engage, train and empower employees. Tara and Kevin candidly shared their challenges, triumphs and lessons learned as their organizations pivoted during the pandemic and how they continue to refine L&D programs today. Here are a few key takeaways and actionable tactics from the event.

The pharma training landscape was already changing…and then came COVID-19

Even prior to the pandemic, Tara, who focuses primarily on commercial sales, explained her organization was asking themselves, “How can we train people faster? How do we quickly get them from day one into the field?”

So when COVID-19 hit, her organization had to answer these questions very quickly, as well as address this new fully remote piece of the puzzle.

“I think that trend of quicker, faster, easier had started before the pandemic, and it just absolutely continued through the pandemic,” she explained. 

Tara and her team knew from the start that training people virtually would take longer than in-person training with people spanning different time zones. “Your day becomes shorter and we also have to be conscious of screen fatigue,” she said. Even though Daiichi-Sankyo has since resumed live training, they are still conscious of that shorter, faster approach to everything they do. 

In retrospect,Tara said, the pandemic really kicked their efforts to adapt and meet their learners’ needs through blended modalities and individualized learning into high gear. “I think that trend also causes my team to look at things differently. How do they do independent learning differently? How do we bucket our materials differently?”

Kevin’s team had a similar experience with regards to a shift in their approach to learning. However, he and his team supported a hybrid workforce prior to the pandemic and used a blended approach to learning, creating journeys for each individual employee. 

Still, the pandemic did strip them of the face time that they did get with their reps. “That person to person interaction is crucial. I don’t think anyone’s going to argue that it’s not very important to have,” he said. 

Since the pandemic has loosened its grip, Horizon has committed to working these in-person connections into their holistic learning strategy. “How are we reaching that hybrid audience, and creating this blended learning approach? The pandemic has made us more strategic,” Kevin explained, “I think we’ve learned over the years and we’ve gotten smarter.”

He also recognizes the need to remain agile and evolve their approach over time. “We’re not just creating four-hour virtual workshops virtually anymore. That’s very painful for a learner,” he said, “We were very much in a reactive state at the start of the pandemic and now we are fine tuning…it’s a continuous cycle. I think we’re constantly going to be assessing ourselves, and enhancing those strategies, when it comes to building out that blended learning approach.”

The tech boom is providing unprecedented data…but what you do with it matters

The shift to hybrid environments has really accelerated digital transformation, whether it’s in learning and development, employee engagement and HR functions. One could even argue that these tools give us more data than we can wrap our minds around. That’s why establishing the metrics that matter most to your business and continuously tracking them over time is critical.

“How is the data we look at tying into our short-term and long-term strategies? How do those metrics or insights tie into the overall strategic imperatives to our organization or that department? We’re not collecting data to collect data.” Kevin explained. 

He gave an example of his organization’s upcoming Plan of Action (POA), where the organization is rolling out a new Interactive Visual Aid (IVA). During the event, they will be sharing messaging and resources to help drive adoption and usage of this new sales tool. Kevin’s team is responsible for ensuring that this messaging is understood and can be applied in the field. He lays out two scenarios for how one might handle the launch:

Scenario 1: The status quo

Learners go through POA & practice their scenarios One week later, they are assigned an hour-long e-module with videos A couple days later, they are sent an assessment to measure what was learned

Scenario 2: What’s possible today

Learners go through POA & practice their scenarios   One week later, his team pushes out a Qstream microlearning course  Bite-sized concepts gets repeated over time using algorithms that are specific to each learner  Microlearning analytics expose knowledge gaps; microlearning algorithms correct them and promote long-term knowledge retention

“The data in scenario one is good but we’re really only collecting completion scores with that e-module and capturing that overall proficiency via the tests,” he explained. “How can we elevate that? There’s more opportunity there.”

In the second scenario, Qstream gives them a baseline proficiency and a final proficiency once the course is completed to offer peace of mind that the most important information has been retained by learners. “For example, we can see that initial proficiency was at say 70%, confirming that forgetting is already taking place post-event, but at the end of the 4 weeks, we can see that it sits somewhere in the 90% range,” said Kevin. “This is where the learning and development industry is going, we’re understanding that we can get more strategic with those data insights.”

The data in Qstream is broken down by geographic location, team and individual so management can coach and develop those that need additional training. “You’re able to add specific data tags to the questions, and specific user tags to an individual, whether they’re in an area, territory, region, or brand, job title, you can manipulate those dashboards to get exactly what you want,” said Kevin. 

Kevin uses these Qstream analytics to share the success of his efforts with leadership. “I can take the data to them, and say, ‘We’ve identified the gaps, and we’ve closed them,”’ he said, “We can show the impact, or the ROI, of our training initiatives. We know as trainers, that’s a really difficult thing to do, but we have that capability now.”

His team is also using the data to evaluate and refine not only questions they are asking via Qstream but the material presented in other training initiatives. Was that in-person session helpful? Was the information shared in the e-module understood? Qstream helps to assess the holistic L&D strategy.

“Now, we’re starting to get into this cycle. We’re using tools and technologies to identify what these gaps are. We’re setting up those coaching experiences with the reps, or whoever our audience is, and we’re closing those gaps,” he said. “You assess, you close the gaps, you reassess, you close the gaps, and so forth.”

Tara says she was thrilled to see how proactive management was with the Qstream data. “We had district managers and regional directors contacting us on the side, and saying, ‘My team isn’t doing well here. They need some refresher training. What do you have in this space? I want to push it out to them,” she explained. “That was a great thing. They were reaching out to us to supplement what we were already doing and they wouldn’t know that, we wouldn’t have known that had we not had the data that comes out of Qstream.”

She also finds the ability to drill down and diagnose trends at a regional and team level helpful when strategizing. “When we took that data, we could see very clearly where the particular district or region was lagging behind, and we were able to tailor what we gave them to build their knowledge base in that very specific space,” Tara explained. “It’s a very helpful tool, as we were all learning to pivot on almost a daily basis.”

Grabbing learners’ attention & keeping it in an increasingly digital world

Keeping employees engaged with learning has always been a challenge, but we’ve definitely become more acutely aware of the problem during the pandemic with the rise of screen fatigue, Zoom burnout or whatever we choose to call it. Not to mention, the world is digesting content in smaller, quicker formats.

“A multi-modality, blended learning approach is really important in today’s society,” Tara explained. “Whether we like it or not, our ability to stay focused on one topic, I think, has shrunk exponentially since social media has started, and we really have no choice but to get on that bandwagon.”

Tara describes what this approach means to her organization as the ability to blend independent learning pieces and instructor-led training in the right way to reach those with different learning styles. Her team frequently asks themselves: “How do we keep it new and fresh?”

“Qstream has definitely helped us keep things new and fresh,” she said. Particularly, the friendly competition via team and individual leaderboards have been instrumental in keeping her learners engaged during the pandemic.

“Our sales reps were used to being on the go all day and now they were sitting at home,” Tara said. “We were able to use Qstream to keep the juices flowing, and create this competition between districts, regions and sales forces because when you put a leaderboard in front of salespeople, they’re going to take it from there.”

Tara says her team remains agile and is always evaluating their learning programs, asking questions like “Does this content need to be covered in these three or four pages, or can it be better covered in a two minute video, a whiteboard sketch, or an interactive learning?” she explained. “Since there are a lot of other ways to teach that same material, we have taken our modules and pulled out concepts that are better suited for microlearning, or what I would call independent learning, and we’ve been able to build a very diverse curriculum.”

She says this diverse curriculum has gone over well with both learners and leadership, who relied heavily on Tara and her team to keep reps informed and engaged during the pandemic. “The ability to create independent learning pieces, as well as instructor-led training, and be able to blend those in the right way, so that you continue to be able to reach those with different learning styles, has all come into play with today’s training groups.”

I’d like to thank Tara and Kevin for joining me for this valuable discussion. It sounds like you two have done a fantastic job pivoting during the pandemic and creating a solid foundation to meet the needs of today’s hybrid learners moving forward. If you want to watch the full webinar on demand, you can catch it here. And if you’d like to speak to one of Qstream’s microlearning experts, request a demo

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