7 Challenges Of Learning In The Pharmaceutical Industry - FocusU

7 Challenges Of Learning In The Pharmaceutical Industry

If you have watched the movie ‘Pursuit of Happyness’, you would definitely recall the image of Chris Gardner, hauling a huge medical device – a portable bone density scanner –  from one hospital to the other. He is often running between them and facing some very tough questions from potential clients. 

Phew! It’s not an easy life. 

Imagine one of your best representatives – he is waiting for hours to meet a doctor to introduce a new drug. He has gone through all the details of the drug just a couple of days back and is all prepared to introduce it to the medical practitioners he is about to meet with. He even manages to make a good presentation and walks out a happy man.

However, later in the day, when he meets a colleague for lunch – another rep constantly on the run, he realizes that he has missed mentioning a couple of side effects of the drug in this meeting. Unfortunately, he had missed catching up on the email updates that had come up the day before. 

This unfortunate event (and often v disastrous event) falls under, what is known as ‘stale details’ – where the field force does not have a piece of critical or updated information, just when they need it. 

The pharmaceutical industry is immensely complex and volatile. Rapid advances in technology, healthcare systems, changing patient expectations, continuously evolving government regulations, and intense competition create some unique challenges for the learning and development function.

Need For Agility

The pharmaceutical industry is very knowledge intensive and one which changes continuously. This means that what you teach your employees today, may not be relevant tomorrow. As L&D practitioners, the challenge is to be agile and provide learners with content which is relevant and meets their current performance needs. 

Lack Of Time


The example of Chris Gardner mentioned earlier clarifies this point. Medical representatives are constantly on the run, from one Doctor to the other, often spending a lot of time in waiting. The challenge here is to design learning which does not occupy more than 10 minutes of their day – and definitely allows them flexibility.   


With the airtight schedules, would you consider inviting all your medical representatives for regular classroom sessions to update them on the various offerings? That too, when you know that the training content may not be relevant in the next week. The challenge here is to remember that you don’t need the learners to be available where the training is, rather make the content available where the learner is and that could be someone’s waiting hall, even.


The regulatory changes in this industry calls for regular compliance efforts. The challenge here is to be able to create simple compliance content, design scenarios to check understanding and application and use push notifications for simple reminders. Having an analytics dashboard would be an added boon!

Cost Savings

Continuous change in content would means continuous edits to the training content, and this in turn leads to higher costs. And if the content is eLearning based on SCORM, it would require further edits in scripting, voiceovers and integration time. The challenge here is to provide the most relevant training content, in the minimum time possible and at the lowest cost possible.   

Engagement & Completion Rates

With continuous stimuli that impact the attention of the sales forces, it is difficult to hold their attention to learning for more that a few minutes. The challenge here is to design learning to ensure that it fits into this brief time frame and achieves its objective of aiding performance. 

Measure Learning Effectiveness

While it is easier to check for learning effectiveness in the classroom setting, how do you do it for a workforce which is continuously on the move? How do you gauge their level of confidence on using the multiple updates that keep coming in. The challenge here is to design learning, which easily flows into their work and provides opportunities for retention and application.

Are there ways to address these challenges in the pharmaceutical challenges?   

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