Training is an important activity, particularly for the field organization in a pharmaceutical company. Some of the key issues to be kept in mind when organising a training programme are:
What’s the purpose?
What would you like the participants to gain from the training programme? Formulate your objectives and plan the programme accordingly, deciding on the methodology, and allocating more time and emphasis to the issues that matter most.
Choose a venue that is suited to the needs of the programme. Comfort, not luxury, is what’s needed. And cut out those interruptions! The office conference room, with its add-ons, such as frequent phone calls from suppliers and others, may not be the best venue. A classroom-style seating arrangement accomodates more participants, but a conference-style arrangement could facilitate better participation.
Who are the participants? What are their strengths and weaknesses? Get answers to these and other questions to help you understand the needs of the group and plan the training programme. The programme itself should be adjusted to the right level. And what about the number of participants? Of course, the larger the number, the less will be the personal attention to each individual. Generally speaking, a batch of 20-35 participants is optimal for many pharma training modules.
Train the Trainers!
It’s not just the trainees, but the trainers too who must do their homework! Each training session should be planned to ensure that it contributes to achieving what you have set out to do. Watch out for weak links in the programme. Include sessions to facilitate consolidation.
A training programme is not just a collection of individual training sessions. A coordinator or a resident trainer can play a crucial role by helping ensure continuity between individual sessions, monitoring progress and helping weak trainees. A coordinator could also help steer emphasis towards the needs of the trainees.
The right wavelength
Ensure that your talk is adjusted to match the trainees’ ability to grasp it. Use language that can be easily understood by the participants. Rephrase sentences and repeat key points to facilitate registration.
Training is not about what you (are trying to) impart, but rather, about what the trainees imbibe. You will therefore need to regularly monitor their progress throughout the programme. Encourage active participation to facilitate better communication and understanding. Quizzes and presentations by the trainees can help gauge progress and serve as an active form of learning. For training programmes focussing on product knowledge, a daily quiz with multiple choice questions covering the previous day’s topics could be a good form of evaluation. Presentations by the participants could include detailing sessions, group discussions, debates, case studies and the like.
Surely, your training programme must have a timetable. Now stick to it! If the timetable was prepared with adequate thought, unplanned deviations from the agenda will only result in a disproportionate emphasis on one subject at the cost of another. Watch out for sessions that drag on beyond their allotted time, sessions that do not start on time, or worse still, sessions for which the trainer does not put in an appearance at all. Remember that there’s a whole batch of trainees who will be losing out there!
Blackboards, whiteboards, charts, slide projectors, overhead projectors, microphones, tape recorders, video cameras, films and computer based multimedia -- all these can improve the effectiveness of the training. Use them as appropriate. Slides or transparencies are the commonest aids, and if used, should be made for the benefit of the audience and not primarily for prompting the speaker. The slides should complement the talk but not become the substance of the talk itself. Slide text should be brief with the main points immediately evident. Use visuals liberally.
Watch those faces!
Check out the trainees’ body language. During a lecture, see if they are listening attentively, comprehending, daydreaming or dozing. Readjust the pace of the session to sustain interest. Work at making the sessions lively; reinforce important points through repetition and seek participation to break monotony.
So you’ve organized a great training programme! What next? Ensure that the knowledge and skills are indeed utilized, of course! You can follow up on classroom-based training with training material sent by courier or mail. These could include updates and quizzes. Or perhaps, in this internet age, you would like to use the internet to keep your staff at multiple locations constantly updated. You could consider a password-protected web site for continuing education of your staff. In any case, you would need to look at a whole range of ongoing training activities, because knowledge must be updated and skills will need to be sharpened.
October 2000 Pharma Marketing Page. http://pharmapage.tripod.com/1.html
This article appreared in Pharma Business, October 6, 2000.
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