Pharma sales training has to be intensive, up-to-date, and made to "stick," because of the detailed and continually evolving nature of the subject matter involved. In addition to sales skills, reps have to possess the technical knowledge necessary to converse with highly trained professionals.
Typical study programs may include home study, coaching, virtual learning, role playing, and field observation. An intensive training session lasting several days is also not uncommon. Educational experts are discovering that the usual "training journey" can be far from ideal in terms of effectiveness. Some learning sessions may require that trainees learn and retain an overwhelming amount of information, which can cause problems later when learners need to utilize that information in the real world.
Shortcomings of Lecture-Based Instruction
Lecture-based instruction goes back several centuries, and when it first came about, it made sense. After all, if there's only one copy of a source text, it's only logical that an instructor will essentially read it aloud to students. But lecturing has held on long after books became available to the average student, and even today when we have a marvelous array of learning technologies to select from.
Unfortunately, studies have repeatedly demonstrated that lectures aren't that effective as instruction modalities. In fact, just about anything other than lecturing is more effective, to a statistically significant degree. What does work is a more dynamic and participatory classroom, and one paradigm for this is the AGES model.
History of the AGES Paradigm
AGES stands for Attention, Generation, Emotion, and Spacing, and this learning model has been found to make a strong foundation for understanding and retaining new information. These four elements are essential for people to recall ideas so they can build effective practices based on them. When the concepts of attention, generation, emotion, and spacing are used as a framework, instructors can find creative ways in which to present information and be more confident that it will make an impact and be useful. Studies a few years ago by the NeuroLeadership Institute found that how well learning "sticks" has to do with activation of a part of the brain called the hippocampus during the learning process. AGES helps ensure that activation takes place.
How AGES Works
- Attention: If you don't have your students' attention it doesn't matter what you do, because they won't learn. Improving attention requires use of narratives, creative themes, and even games during training.
- Generation: Learning experiences should include opportunities for learners to make personal, meaningful connections with the information they're learning by applying it to problem-solving.
- Emotion: Positive emotions support learning. Fortunately, many training modules today employ positive techniques like gaming that reinforce skills acquisition through fun and practice in a "safe to fail" setting.'
- Spacing: The brain can only absorb so much information in one learning session. Spacing out information so that trainees have time to "digest" and incorporate concepts allows more information to be retained.
Other Suggestions for Improving Learning and Retention in Pharma Sales Training
The dynamic classroom that offers opportunities for interactive adaptive learning is an effective classroom. The more transfer of information that can occur before class (through assigned reading, for example), the better able the instructor is to reinforce that information in meaningful ways. The use of technology in training (such as a simple quiz app on trainees' smartphones) can help both students and instructors understand what information is being absorbed and what information students are having difficulty with. Use of multiple learning techniques, like projects and group problem-solving can be highly effective at reinforcing information trainees are required to learn.
For a long time it was taken for granted that the traditional "lecture" model of learning was the best way. Now, however, researchers understand that the lecture alone doesn't result in retention of information. Technology is becoming widely available and allowing new, more effective learning modalities to develop. When a variety of techniques are used, and when students are able to make an emotional connection with the information, they're far more likely to retain and use it correctly. To find out more about making use of new, effective training methodologies, check out this blog post on gamification in training.