The 2018 Compliance Training Survey Results Are In!

We recently concluded our 2018 Life Sciences Compliance Training Survey, and the results reveal some expected trends and a few surprises about what your peers are doing and planning to maximize the effectiveness of their compliance training. So, without further ado, and in the words of any good compliance training manager, let’s dive into the data.

Industry and Company Size

We began by asking what industry the respondents represent and the size of their companies. 82% work in the “Pharmaceutical/Biopharmaceutical” industry and 18% in “Medical Device/Diagnostic Equipment.” Company sizes vary, with 36% indicating more than 5,000 employees, 22% under 100 employees, and 18% at 251 – 500 employees as the three lead categories.

Training Objectives

Complying with laws and regulations is still a priority for the industry. In fact, 86% chose it as one of their three answers when asked what training objectives are most important to them. 82% added “build or strengthen our culture of compliance” and 55% selected “reduce field compliance risk.” We’re particularly excited to see those last two answers score so high since our stated mission has long been to “help life sciences companies strengthen their compliance cultures and reduce risk” through innovative training.


If you don’t have a dedicated compliance training budget, you’re not alone. 41% of the respondents told us just that, while 27% have under $50,000 to spend and 23% do not have access to that information. A small percentage of respondents fell into the $50,001 – $100,000 range for their budgets. Effective compliance training isn’t necessarily budget dependent, and solutions that stick don’t always dictate astronomical budgets. The key to increasing retention and reducing risk is looking for opportunities to spread learning creatively across an employee’s timeline, no matter the budget.

12-Month Compliance Priorities

Over 95% of the survey respondents selected “enhancing our training” when asked which compliance activities they plan to undertake in the next twelve months. Clearly, your peers are aware of the need for up-to-date and modern training. That’s exciting! Over the last ten years, we’ve watched compliance training evolve, from its beginning in PowerPoint presentations delivered by legal departments, to today’s environment, where trainers realize that a blended, continuous approach using a mix of components is most effective. As we heard at this year’s Life Science Compliance Training Conference in Chicago, tools like microlearning, workshops, storytelling, and gamification are needed to make the training stick. Other choices that finished high in the 12-month activities category include “enhancing the overall effective of our compliance program” at 68%, “rewriting policies and/or Code of Conduct” at 64%, “increasing senior leadership and board involvement” at 36% and “conducting a risk assessment” at 32%.

Targeting Compliance Training

Basically, the question about how respondents targeted their compliance training came down to three answers: based on job role at 59%; we don’t, everyone in the organization is trained on all compliance policies at 45%; and based on risk at 41%. Generally, we recommend a mix of all three. Certainly, everyone should be trained on core concepts, and principles associated with compliance and on topics relevant across the board, like adverse events. Based on roles, and the risk associated with those roles, you need to consider more focused and continuing training related to specific functions. We’ve written a whitepaper on the topic titled, Improving Outcomes: Analyzing a Compliance Training Curriculum to Reduce Risk, which was published in Life Science Compliance Update. Visit the Insights page on our website to download a reprint of the article.

Training Methods

If there is one topic where the answers can be considered “across the board,” this is it. Respondents were asked to select all methods they use in their training curriculum. “Classroom training during onboarding” finished highest at 73% and other answers finished in a healthy mix. “Presentations at POA meetings” was at 64%, “custom eLearning” at 55%, and “individual guidance by compliance professionals” at 50%. In a nod to the power of continuous learning, “email-based messaging” finished at 32%, and “games and/or contests” at 27%. Finally, “coaching and guidance provided by trained field managers” finished at 32%. Tone from the middle counts!

Training Frequency

On the question of how frequently employees complete compliance training, 57% chose “annually” as one of their selections. Based on historical context, I am surprised that number isn’t higher. 38% chose “ad hoc, in response to specific needs,” and “quarterly” and “monthly” each finished with 19%. The industry seems to be adopting the idea that effective compliance training needs to be rolled out more than once a year.

Measuring Effectiveness

Assessments built into eLearning modules or workshops (59%) is still the most preferred method for measuring training effectiveness according to the survey results. Field observations (e.g., ride-alongs) finished a close second at 50%. While I was excited to see 9% of the respondents select “analysis of helpline/hotline data” (the details are in the data), the fact that 23% indicate that they do not measure the effectiveness of the training is concerning to say the least. On-going measurement is a critical component in any successful compliance training plan. As was emphasized at the training conference, you need to be examining the audit data, looking for increases in the hotline reports, meeting with the businesses, and deploying scientifically-sound assessments to measure the results.


Our first Life Sciences Compliance Training Survey provided a compelling peak into the tools and processes some professionals are using to increase the effectiveness of their training. Strengthening compliance cultures and reducing risk is a lofty goal, and while it’s only a sample, the survey results show that companies are taking important steps to think beyond a “check-the-box” mentality about compliance training. That’s an idea that will ultimately benefit the industry, its healthcare professional customers, and most importantly, the patients it serves.

Thanks for reading!

Sean Murphy
Editor, Compliance Training Insights Blog

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