The pharmaceutical industry has always been an important and wealthy market across the globe. In 2014, total pharmaceutical revenues worldwide exceeded one trillion US dollars for the first time, with North America being responsible for the largest portion of these revenues. The rapid evolution of technology has a huge impact on the industry, changing medical technology, the way medicines are produced, how healthcare systems operate, and the demands and expectations of patient.

With this in mind, it is imperative that pharmaceutical employees fully understand these challenges, particularly as technology becomes more embedded within the industry. It could be argued that front-line pharmaceutical employees are the most important – they are your customers’ first point of contact, and are seen as a trusted source, so it’s vital they are feeding back the correct information to your consumer base.

Developing an effective training strategy is key and there are many ways to do this. Bite-sized modules retain better attention from employees, particularly when there’s a large volume of information to disperse across teams. Making learning content mobile-friendly also improves the accessibility of training and fits learning seamlessly within the workday. Another reason mobile training is becoming more favourable is the ease of disseminating new information – employees can be updated in real time about new procedures or the production of a new drug. This will inform their customer service for the better, as they must be able to explain the benefits of a drug to a patient and remain compliant in their practice.

Managing regulatory compliance is imperative for the pharmaceutical industry, as it has come under scrutiny in more recent years. PwC notes that this has been a concern in a number of areas, including ‘sales and marketing practices, government drug price reporting, privacy of patient and/or customer health information, clinical operations, post-marketing drug safety reporting, and in quality control activities around manufacturing operations’.

Due to companies failing to comply to such a high volume of regulations, this has resulted in investigations and prosecutions. Most recently, GPT Pharmaceuticals have come under scrutiny by the US FDA. It’s investigators observed violations in the company’s quality control unit and failure to comply to the current good manufacturing practice (CGMP). This fuels the concern across the pharmaceutical industry, and the need to drive a powerful reaction among companies to implement robust enterprise-wide compliance training programmes is more prominent than ever.

As compliance plays a huge role in the pharmaceutical industry, partnering continual training with assessments will have a huge impact on employee behaviour. Specifically, evaluating assessments with Certainty Based Marking (CBM) is ideal for this industry. CBM requires learners to rate the certainty of the answer they have chosen, from ‘High’ to ‘Low’. This assessment approach cuts out the guesswork that you typically get with multiple-choice questions, where employees can be uncertain of a test answer, guess, and still get it right!

With CBM, your confident learners are highlighted while ‘confidently incompetent’ learners are exposed. Knowledgeable staff will give the correct answer with ‘high’ certainty, whereas unskilled employees will have guessed the wrong answer with ‘high’ certainty, believing they are correct. Having employees who are confident in their insufficient knowledge could have negative consequences in the pharmaceutical industry, especially from a compliance perspective. Therefore, CBM is an effective approach to assessing employees’ knowledge, but also exposing knowledge gaps within teams. This helps to inform future training decisions, as some learners’ knowledge may not be sufficient enough for them to continue onto new topics.

This innovative assessment approach provides more valuable insights to managers, as opposed to the standard multiple-choice test. It allows a team’s knowledge and competence to be measured, especially if this is utilised via pre and post-assessment. The pre-assessment establishes a baseline of knowledge, and the post-assessment indicates progression and how effective the current training is.

The pharma industry has a huge impact on society and is one that employs millions of people. It is facing rapid changes as we move into a digital transformation, and keeping employees up-to-speed with this is a huge challenge for the sector. Effective training can be implemented across organisations to handle the scarcity of qualified trainers, launches of new drugs and changes in compliance guidelines. As compliance plays such a vital part in industries where mistakes can be detrimental, employee assessments alongside training is essential.

CBM assessments offer a novel way to measure knowledge and an employee’s confidence in their knowledge, as they require learners to rate how certain they are of their answers. By stimulating a higher level of thinking, CBM proves to be a more accurate assessment method, and can also prove the ROI of training. It effectively exposes knowledge gaps within teams and informs future training decisions, especially when used in conjunction with a clear reporting tool.

This valuable insight can help learning leaders of the pharmaceutical industry to create more personalised, relevant content and target the employees who are ‘confidently incompetent’. Not only does this save the company from compliance costs in the long term, but it effectively impacts employee behaviour.

Cassie Walker is a marketing executive with Wranx