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PDMI: Building a Learning Culture

“With Continu, we have a dedicated platform ready to go where we can create training content, assign it, and track it. With our previous HIPAA training, it was all through spreadsheets and email.”
Jessica Minotti, Marketing Manager

The Context

The pharmaceutical and insurance industries are highly regulated, with mandated trainings on a variety of compliance issues, including HIPAA. And beyond those required trainings, PDMI employees were eager for more career development.

But the company lacked a dedicated training department, so teams across the organization had to fill the gap to create training content and oversee training events. Training administration took time and focus away from their main responsibilities—and would benefit from a streamlined process. 

The Challenge: Meeting Employee-Driven Demand for Learning

PDMI is committed to continual improvement and strives to become a world-class employer. To that end, the company undertakes annual strategic initiatives designed to help take them to the next level. The initiatives are led by a cross-functional Strategic Operations team.

As Marketing Manager Jessica Minotti explains: “Strategic Operations provides an avenue for high-potential employees to take on leadership opportunities outside of their regular role and gain exposure to different leaders and areas of our business where they otherwise might not have visibility.”

Early in 2020, as a proactive effort to prevent attrition, the company conducted an employee experience survey to evaluate whether they were providing an ideal experience. In the survey results, employees identified development and training as a critical gap. 

At that time, there were some trainings available, but they were typically very specific to departmental needs or new departmental processes and a patchwork of LinkedIn or Udemy online courses. There was no formal training program.

The Strategic Operations group pulled together a tiger team to focus on training and development. Ultimately, they presented the need for a dedicated learning and development program and manager to the executive team. And in November 2020, Allana Bowman joined PDMI as Training & Development Specialist.

Launching a training effort: risks & rewards

“Early on, we established goals of increasing employee engagement, increasing employee retention, and creating a path for upskilling and reskilling PDMI employees,” says Bowman. “The company had grown a lot, so we had an opportunity to break down some of the internal silos and help people to learn outside of their box,” Bowman continued.

Despite employee’s reported interest in training and development, there was still a risk that they would not adopt the new learning culture or actually take the time for development. 

The core concern was whether PDMI had the in-house ability to build out trainings, in terms of time, engagement, and cost. 

As Bowman notes: “Nothing was organized, so there was a risk of pushback from our management and leadership team on providing time for employees to dedicate toward learning, whether it be mandatory compliance, career development, or specific learning.”

Choosing a learning management system

Bowman knew that developing a world-class training and development organization would require an investment in the right tools. While she had extensive experience with various LMS, LXPs, and training content providers, it would be a significant project.

“I was lucky to have a team of five to help research, prepare, and organize in the initial year—I was blessed to be able to build my own Strategic Operations team to help with the effort and they were phenomenal! We looked at 15 different content providers and a number of LMS, LXPs, and open source options,” says Bowman.

The team started by creating a detailed and prioritized checklist of capabilities.

“My top criteria were reporting for compliance and the ability to bring in our own materials—I had to be able to bring assets in from YouTube and from different areas—but ultimately, I wanted a single central source for all learning within our organization,” says Bowman.

After a thorough evaluation process, the team chose Continu as that central source.

The Continu Experience

Bowman notes that the Continu implementation and onboarding experience was excellent: “The base camp setup was incredibly organized and the step-by-step implementation. The process that the Continu team set up was the reason that it went so smoothly.”

“Creating recorded training content has just been a really smooth process,” says Minotti. “I haven’t used other LMS for content creation, but I can’t imagine it being any easier. And it is super helpful having a place where employees know that all of our internal recordings and a great library of external trainings are available.”

“With Continu, we have a dedicated platform ready to go where we can create training content, assign it, and track it. With our previous HIPAA training, it was all through spreadsheets and email,” Minotti continued.

Establishing training benchmarks

PDMI’s initial new training content has been very well received so far and Bowman is excited about how her team can use Continu data and reporting to establish benchmarks and uncover useful insights.

“Measuring against KPIs will be very important, but we are just starting to build that data so that maybe we can find a correlation between what trainings departments are taking, what skills and competencies people are seeking out, and maybe compare it in future. We can also look at course engagement and see how it contrasts with retention and promotion,” said Bowman.

Improving the employee onboarding process

To introduce new employees to PDMI’s learning culture from day one, Bowman has created a series of automated training tracks for new hires in Continu. 

“When a new user is added to the system, they're automatically assigned a 30-, 90- and 120-day curriculum. It starts with critical getting-started details, moves into industry-specific knowledge, and then, by 120 days, the information becomes very department-specific—for example, for our call center agents, it's a lot of customer service trainings,” said Bowman.

The Initial Results

Bowman notes that employees have taken to the new learning program very well because she’s made a concerted effort to not just focus on soft skills, but to work with the teams to develop content on technology, areas that employees consider important, and “to really meet people where they are.” 

And she’s seeing employee engagement with training and development beyond just the training content itself. “We see a 74% read rate on our learning and development newsletter, which to me is just a phenomenal thing,” says Bowman.

Meeting compliance requirements

Continu provides PDMI with both a centralized repository for mandated compliance trainings and reporting that tracks whether it’s being completed on time. Bowman is happy to note that the company is meeting requirements.

“We have 100% usage of our system and that is because we met with all of our departments to standardize and implement quarterly requirements, in line with compliance requirements. We created the courses with them and aim for 100% compliance per quarter,” says Bowman.

A professional development mindset shift

Today, PDMI employees are going beyond mandated trainings and are seeking out professional development opportunities—though Bowman notes there were some hurdles:

“People have a hard time stepping away to take time for themselves. It requires mindset change: training doesn't mean that you have to do more work or that you're wasting time. People are starting to see that it's beneficial to their development as a whole, and to the organization as a whole.”

Bowman adds that the mindset shift is occurring across a wide swath of PDMI’s employees:

“Last month, about 20% of our employees voluntarily completed a course that was not mandatory or even recommended by their manager. It’s a broad spectrum of employees across 80% of our departments. That tells me that we're starting to get a much broader acceptance of the Continu system, the content within it, and that we're providing benefit and competency development to the entire organization.”

Leaving training to the experts

With PDMI’s Training and Development function well established and Continu adoption rates high, Beth Ann Tabak, Communications Manager at PDMI, is very happy to be focusing on more traditional corporate communications once again.

“It’s been wonderful to watch the evolution from when I was first here and we had a lot of required info sessions for things like SOC-II compliance that we called ‘trainings’—because we didn’t know what else to call them—and we just made monster PowerPoints. Having a platform like Continu has truly revolutionized that process,” says Tabak. 

She notes that Continu has helped PDMI standardize the communication of training points across the company and significantly streamline their operations. 

For example, Tabak recently needed to create internal awareness about a new client resource portal, so she leaned on the Training & Development team to create content in Continu, which greatly streamlined the process.The time she gains back is spent on strategic communications.

Next Steps: Partnering to Support a Learning Culture

Bowman really values the partnership between her Training & Development department and PDMI’s Marketing and Communications teams, noting the great strides they’ve made as an organization in building the culture of learning.

“We're going to step back a little bit from some of the more soft skill courses and start a deep dive focusing on specific skills and competencies for each role within the organization so that people can look at succession and movement within the organization,” says Bowman.

She sees the next step in the company’s learning culture as building opportunities for employees to upskill themselves, to deliver that ideal experience that motivates valued employees to stay and grow with the company.

Key Integrations

The Results:

“We have 100% usage of our system and that is because we met with all of our departments to standardize and implement quarterly requirements, in line with compliance requirements. We created the courses with them and aim for 100% compliance per quarter,” says Bowman.

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