Training-Related Reflections on PCF’s 23rd Compliance Congress

Part 1:
Off-the-Shelf Training: The Good, the Bad, and How to Spot the Difference

The PharmaCertify team stands ready to greet friends and clients in the Exhibit Hall at PCF’s Compliance Congress!

Welcome to the first of several posts reflecting on the 23rd Annual Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Ethics and Compliance Congress. In each post, I will review some of the key topics covered during the conference and provide my reactions, as well as related tips and suggestions for maximizing the effectiveness of your training curriculum. After all, helping you roll out better life sciences compliance training is the aim of this blog, and it’s our mission at PharmaCertify.

I often find sessions focused on emerging, or early-stage, companies to be compelling because smaller companies face the same risks as their larger counterparts, but with smaller budgets and fewer resources. That’s why two sessions from this year’s conference caught my attention – Mini Summit 9: Compliance & Ethics in Emerging Companies, and Mini Summit 14: General Corporate Compliance in an Early-Stage Company and Shared Learnings for Larger Companies.

Neither session disappointed, as presenters detailed their experiences in overcoming the challenges smaller companies face (e.g., the techniques necessary to gain buy-in and resources from leadership, and the need for “ruthless prioritization” to determine which tasks to tackle first).

While I was pleasantly surprised to hear much of the conversation during Mini Summit 14 to be focused on training, I was dismayed to hear about most of the presenters’ poor experiences with off-the-shelf training solutions. As a result, many were quick to dismiss off-the-shelf eLearning as “too generic to be effective,” or, “not current enough to be relevant.”

The sad truth is there is a fair share of bad off-the-shelf training available to the life sciences industry. And there is no better way to torpedo the effectiveness of training than to roll out outdated training with generic content that is not targeted to your learners. But dismissing off-the-shelf training as ineffective or a waste of money overlooks the advantages of high-quality (and customizable) off-the-shelf training for emerging and early-stage companies.

Let’s review some of the comments from the session:

  • “We were used to seeing off-the-shelf training that looked like it was created in 1992.”

If a training vendor’s demos look like they were created 30 years ago, run (don’t walk) away immediately. Content and design age quickly, and learners evolve. Training, whether custom-built or off-the-shelf, needs to evolve with them to capture their attention and enhance learning results.

Visual design matters and plays a critical role in making learning memorable. Quality training uses a modern and fresh visual design. Beware of the tell-tale signs of poor design, such as the overuse of trite stock photos to portray sales representatives and healthcare professionals. (I call that the “shiny, happy doctor look.”)

  • “Totally generic training just doesn’t resonate.”

Look for training that is targeted to the life sciences industry and customizable to your company’s culture and its risks. Just do an Internet search for “pharmaceutical (or medical device) compliance training,” and you’ll find plenty of options. Considering today’s eLearning development tools, customization doesn’t need to be cumbersome or expensive. Ask vendors about the process for modifying their modules. Can they be easily branded with your logo? Can you add role-specific scenarios? Is it easy to add your policies and contact information? Look for training that is instructionally designed for seamless and easy customization. “Generic” should never be necessary, no matter how the term is defined.

  • “You can use off-the-shelf at large companies, but it doesn’t work at smaller companies.”

This caught my attention because it’s not what I have heard over the last 15 years. As mentioned above, emerging companies face the same risks as their larger counterparts – but with smaller budgets and fewer resources.

Off-the-shelf training, when priced on a per-learner basis, offers an affordable alternative to custom solutions when a company has a smaller number of learners. Even in situations with larger numbers of learners, off-the-shelf training may be more affordable – and it’s far less time-intensive for compliance officers to implement. And quality does not have to be sacrificed. So, if your field force is still small, and you need to train them on the risks associated with HCP interactions, a targeted off-the-shelf training module may be the right fit.


The Interactions with Healthcare Professionals customizable off-the-shelf eLearning Module

Don’t give up. There is effective compliance training out there for life sciences companies. And effective off-the-shelf training works just as well for emerging companies as it does for more established companies. Most importantly, effective off-the-shelf training has the power to help you reduce risk across your company, especially when it is blended with reinforcement microlearning, live workshops, targeted communications, and other components in a continuous flow of learning for your employees.

If you’d like to see demos of effective life sciences compliance training, including our Compliance Foundations off-the-shelf library, contact us at to speak to our team.

Thanks for reading!

Sean Murphy
Product and Marketing Manager

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