Life on the Fast Track – Accelerated Learning

I noticed in the PF Company Perception, Motivation and Satisfaction 2003 Survey that development appeared as one of the top four answers to the question, “what motivates you?” Representatives also stated that they thought their development was one of the three top motivating factors that they were ”least satisfied with.”

DEVELOPMENT ALSO APPEARED as one of the top four motivating factors for Key Account Managers, NHS Liaison, and First Line Management, yet it seems that this does not have the same priority for their employers. Often, if there is a development programme in place, it consists of mainly product training rather than personal development So, perhaps it’s not surprising that in the PF survey, the top of “most satisfied with” response was Belief, i.e in the present products sold. Having spent over twenty five years in the pharmaceutical industry as a Medical Representative, Regional Business Manager and Training Director, I thought it was about time I ventured into pastures new to research, re-energise and reassure myself of my belief. That is, that you need to develop people as much as you need to ensure that product knowledge is in place, before you can expect to see an improvement in business results.

I spent a year working for a London consultancy, and during that time worked in a number of different business sectors, including Advertising, IT and Architecture and Design. This experience opened my eyes regarding the amount of time that pharmaceutical companies spend training their people on their products, and how little time they spend helping their people direct that knowledge in front of their customers. So, I wonder how much pharmaceutical companies invest every year in product training versus people skills development? I hear from many representatives, that whilst some companies are doing a good job, others offer little, if anything, in the way of personal development. However, it’s not enough just to offer a development course. Unlike product training, which is knowledge or skills based, personal development requires behavioural change, and that can be difficult to bring about. Traditional training courses simply do not work very well. Why is that? Often it is because the training isn’t followed up in the field, but more often, it’s because the training offered doesn’t capture imaginations. I’ve been trying to answer the question “what else can be done?” I thought about my own children and their learning. Frankly, I was rarely able to help them with their homework, as it was too hard for me! They seemed to be able to cope, in fact, they usually learnt better when I wasn’t involved – learning to drive being a classic example. I decided that was because I was too serious and task focused. They learnt best when there was no pressure, they were having fun and they didn’t feel they were letting me down by not knowing how to do something. We don’t like to be sold to, but we like to buy. Similarly, we don’t want to be taught, but we like to learn! I took this approach whilst working in London with customers outside the industry, as this gave me the opportunity to try new ideas, and I found that my beliefs were reflected in an approach known as Accelerated Learning.

So what does Accelerated Learning mean?

Accelerated Learning adds fun and colour to learning – this produces better results, as people learn faster and can apply these skills more quickly. It means that we can:

  • Cover more content in less time
  • Make theory easier for delegates to understand
  • Give plenty of opportunity to practice
  • Make learning memorable
  • Facilitate learning by spending time on application to the job
  • Have fun Accelerated Learning involves learning techniques that keep everybody involved, enthusiastic and interested throughout the experience. Lectures usually only keep ones interest for 20 minutes, and that is why we adopt the approach of participation throughout the programme. Accelerated Learning means that the following must be delivered:
  • Well researched and tailored programmes to ensure that content is appropriate and based on the needs of the delegates and the company
  • Management support is elicited in order to follow up these programmes
  • A variety of stimulants, e.g. music, movement, and hands on exercises!
  • Accelerated Learning takes into account the demands of a rapidly changing and increasingly competitive environment, where companies need innovative employees who generate breakthrough solutions to business challenges. Accelerated Learning recognises that people have a wide range of learning styles, and there are many effective techniques available to meet these different needs. A recent survey showed that delegates want:
  • to be entertained
  • to be shown how to apply learning into their actual job
  • activity (but not conventional role play)
  • to have a trainer who is good at their job
  • to have fun
  • not to work too hard -or it seems so
  • a good environment – a nice lunch, fruits and treats
  • a fast, lively pace
  • a trainer who is truly enthusiastic and inspirational
  • to be challenged, but not embarrassed . Last year, I set up The Portland Partnership with Mark Murphy. We share the view that you need to offer strategic people solutions and then deliver them in an exciting and enjoyable environment to optimise people’s business performance. We have applied all these principles when running courses with our customers, and we have seen some great successes, most notably whilst working with In2Focus on a Foundation Management Programme. It is important that the company we work with has the same shared beliefs, and that they genuinely believe in giving their people the best possible personal development, which, through Accelerated Learning, produces both accelerated results in the field and career progression, through the In2Focus Accelerated Development Programme.
  • Let’s take a look at some of the results

    Chris Smith joined In2Focus back in April 2002 having spent a successful and happy 8 years at Sanofi. Chris had worked in a variety of roles, which helped him develop others, such as training and coaching. Looking for new challenges when he joined In2Focus, he soon expressed his interest in moving into regional management. Chris followed the Management Development Career Pathway within In2Focus and to support his development plan had been given additional responsibilities in the team by his line manager including, recruitment, training and coaching. In April 2003 Chris took part in the first In2Focus Foundation Management Programme, which is a classroom based training module. The course is split into two parts, an initial three-day module, followed quickly by a two-day module. Management is all about achieving results through the efforts of others, and the course is carefully designed to provide the new manager with the practical skills and abilities to manage a team effectively. “What a fantastic and really fun learning experience this was” says Chris.

    “This was by far and away the best training course that I have ever attended. The superb blend of presentations and practical exercises seemed to work perfectly. The course was fun and a real buzz, and, for me, had just the right balance of theoretical and experiential learning. It gave me the insight into the regional managers job that I needed, and provided me with practical real life scenarios to cope with.” Shortly after the training was completed, Chris was appointed as an RBM for the In2Focus Otsuka team. Reflecting on the usefulness of the course, Chris said, ”This aspect of my learning has proved to be truly invaluable in my experience as a Regional Business Manager so far. The course and the ongoing advice and support framework provided by In2focus has set me up to succeed in handling the challenges of line management both positively and effectively.” Kate Wilkey joined In2Focus as a nurse advisor in late 2001. Kate had previously worked in the NHS in several major hospitals and also had 15 months experience as a nurse advisor. Kate had been promoted from Nurse Advisor to Senior Nurse Advisor, then to Principle Nurse Advisor and just recently to Nurse Liaison Manager. Kate said “I have been extremely fortunate and have been given lots of opportunities to shine and progress. My role as Nurse Liaison Manager seems like the perfect job for me and I was well prepared for line management by the Foundation Management Programme and my manager’s developmental input. The Foundation Management Programme itself was a great course. I came away having learnt so much. The trainers were fantastic; they made the course so much fun and used so many different teaching mediums including videos, presentations and lots of role-play. Good constructive feedback helped you see the areas you were good at and the areas that you needed to work on. The whole course made me really take a step back and think carefully about what kind of manager I really wanted to be and taught me to think carefully about my responsibilities to others as a manager. This was truly the best course I have ever been on.”

    It seems that from the experiences of Chris and Kate that Accelerated Learning works well in developing people to reach their career goals and allows them to learn quickly in a fun progressive environment. To ensure the programme and training provided is of a high quality, the Institute of Leadership and Management sit in on sessions run by The Portland Partnership. In recognition of the high quality programme being delivered, they offer membership to delegates who go through the structured Accelerated Development Programme, and offer employees ongoing support through their management careers. So if personal development is top of your priority list and you want to learn and grow in a new and exciting environment, then Accelerated Learning is the way forward. Certainly my experiences to date using these new techniques show that if you can be entertained, have fun, be challenged, be active and work in a progressive environment the results can be amazing. So my advice is try it, it may be the best thing you ever do!

    Susan Glenn is a Director of The Portland Partnership, which specialises in offering people skills programmes, using accelerated learning techniques. For further information on the range of services offered by The Portland Partnership, contact Susan on susan@portlandpartnership.com or Mark Murphy on mark@portlandpartnership.com or call on 01494 670264