Editor’s Note (September 13, 2022): this post has been updated to include additional suggestions for foundational, reinforcement, and performance support compliance training solutions.
In its guidance related to the evaluation of corporate compliance programs, the Department of Justice repeatedly stresses the importance of appropriately tailored and risk-based training. The guidance suggests prosecutors should “assess the steps companies have taken to ensure policies and procedures have been integrated into the organization.” I can still almost hear the pleas of compliance professionals wondering exactly how they are going to accomplish such integration. The solution is found in a straightforward formula: foundational + reinforcement + performance support = integration (F+R+PS = I). I know, it’s not as simple as the Properties of Equality we all learned in junior high school, but we’ve seen it work time and time again.
As the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve illustrates, the information humans remember after a learning event drops steeply soon after completion of that event. In fact, that loss of recall continues to increase until it finally flattens around 30-days post event. So, F+R+PS = I to the rescue!
Starting with a Strong Foundation
Let’s start with the first elements of the integration formula, foundational training.
Any successful journey toward integration begins with effective foundational, training. In its guidance, the DOJ instructs prosecutors to consider the form, content, and effectiveness of that training. But what is “effective” foundational training? It begins with relevancy. Does your eLearning feature content to which your learners can relate? Are the scenarios based on interactions and situations your learners are likely to face? Is the content written in plain language? Has the content been vetted by subject matter experts who understand the nuances of interactions with HCPs, HIPAA, or product promotion? For all those reasons and more, broad-based, cross-industry training doesn’t work and is frankly a waste of time and budget. As you know, your sales representatives aren’t benefitting from scenarios featuring ethical discussions between two insurance employees.
Effectiveness also requires a fresh graphic design and user interface. Modern training development tools allow for the use of illustrated images to represent characters such as doctors, sales representatives and MSLs. Let’s be honest, stock photos scream stock photos – or as I call them, “shiny happy doctors and sales reps.” Illustrated characters also offer more opportunity for inclusion of characters that ALL employees can relate to. Your learners want to see representations of themselves in their training.
Finally, effective foundational training is built with proven instructional design strategies in mind. Are the learning objectives specific enough to be meaningful? Is the content logically organized? Are knowledge checks and interactive exercises appropriately woven into the training? Can the questions in the assessment be mapped directly to the content in the module?
This isn’t to say effective eLearning always has to be custom developed. Industry-focused, creative, engaging, and modern off-the-shelf training is a great solution for establishing an effective base. So, if you’re with an emerging pharmaceutical or medical device company with limited time and resources, off-the-shelf training is a viable option. Just do your homework and talk to your peers to make sure it’s the right off-the-she solution. (Shameless pitch – we can help!) Of course, custom development does present an opportunity to take your curriculum to another level with more options for branded training laser-focused on your policies if the budget is available.
Also, don’t fall into the current trap of thinking all training has to be short to be effective. Yes, you want to keep foundational eLearning modules no longer than 30 minutes or so, but if 30 minutes are necessary to cover a comprehensive overview of the topic, the learners can sit through it. After all, if we can binge-watch our favorite streaming series, we certainly have the attention span to complete a 30-minute module, assuming it is relevant and engaging.
Reinforcement Drives Retention
The second element of the formula for more effective training is reinforcement. When strategically deployed following the initial workshop or eLearning, reinforcement solutions in the form of microlearning modules serve to boost learning, reinforce key topics, and help flatten that nasty Forgetting Curve. For example, if gifts and meals are a high risk for your HCP-facing employees, a scenario-based mini module built around a common situation they face in the field, deployed soon after the foundational training on interactions with HCPs, is an ideal way to increase retention of critical information.
Microlearning modules aren’t the only effective tools for making training more effective, though. Reinforcement learning nuggets could include quizzes and games deployed repeatedly over time. Look for games that can be completed individually or in a multi-player virtual workshop. The Compliance JEOPARDY! game from PharmaCertify, for example, is available in both formats and is easily customized with your content. By the way, it’s the only officially licensed JEOPARDY! game on market and it’s an instantly recognizable way to pull learners into an important reinforcement activity. They’ll even thank you for it.
Other reinforcement approaches could include virtual or live workshops with content built around the situations sales representatives are likely to face in the field. Why not create a a virtual escape room, for example, with challenges customized for the situations your learners can expect to face in the their daily interactions? (Let me know if you’d like to see a demo of the escape room we built for a client, which recently won a gold Brandon Hall Award for Best Compliance Training!)
The effective integration of compliant practices and policies requires the continuous deployment of a variety of reinforcement solutions. Government agencies like the DOJ and the OIG have made it clear in their guidance, and recent industry settlements and corporate integrity agreements highlight the need as well.
Supporting Their Performance
We’ve come to the ”PS” in the equation that holds the key to achieving integration in a life sciences compliance equation: performance support. Performance support includes those just-in-time resources that people need when they are in-the-moment and can’t remember compliance guidance.
Digital support tools like electronic banners support compliance training messages and themes. When splashed across the company intranet and incorporated into digital messaging from the compliance department and the C-Suite, they remind everyone of the key messages from the foundational and reinforcement training.
Don’t shy away from the use of video either. Despite what some high-end production companies will tell you, you don’t need to use your entire training budget on a high-end video. You’re not creating Compliance: The Live Action Musical. You’re looking for ways to support your efforts with a creative and engaging video. Tools like Vyond are affordable and easy-to-learn way to accomplish those goals. Many of our clients are developing short (1-3 minute) videos that are pushed out via hyperlink and housed in a library on the compliance page of their intranet. Some even use platforms like Microsoft Stream as an internal YouTube, so that people can rate and comment on the videos.
Finally, materials like quick reference guides support positive behavior and deliver critical reminders when people need them most…as they are about to engage in activities rife with the potential for compliance violation. And other print material like posters and comic books are a great and thematically fun way to drip the learning throughout the duration of a compliance training campaign.
The key to success and “effectiveness” in compliance training, foundational + reinforcement + performance support = integration, will not be remembered among the great formulas in history (rest easy Albert Einstein), but any compliance professional would be wise to heed its power. At PharmaCertify, we’ve spent the last 15 years developing compliance training for the life sciences industry. We have the in-house compliance expertise, along with the instructional design and production skill, to help you implement this formula as a necessary step toward meeting the expectations of the regulators, your peers, and perhaps most importantly, your learners.
That’s why we are planning webinars, video-based chats, infographics, more blog posts, and other resources to showcase examples of how our clients are utilizing each stage of the formula to increase the effectiveness of their training. Subscribe to this blog and follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter to keep abreast of the details to follow as we continue to provide the information you need to help reduce risk through training. After all, it’s our mission.
Thanks for reading!
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