White Paper • August 21, 2023

Case Study:  Salience Learning Capability Academies

Eurekos cover about Salience

In August of 2023, Salience Learning, along with partner, Eurekos, won a Brandon Hall Gold Award in Learning and Development for our Capability Academies.  These academies help develop must-have capabilities for professionals working in the life science industry.  They are available in role-specific versions and include:

The Capability Academies are blended learning programs that use the latest in learning science and incorporate e-learning, micro-learning, instructor-led components, practice plans, and social learning.  Underpinned by Eurekos’ LMS platform, they are part of biopharmaceutical companies’ Learning and Development offerings to help upskill and reskill their team members for success.

This downloadable case study was developed by Eurekos with input from the Salience Learning team.  It provides an inside look at the academies, their approach to delivering role-specific content for easy learner application, the innovative LMS system that underpins them, their impact on learners, and how results were measured.

This is the third time our Capability Academies have been associated with a prestigious award. Previous awards acknowledging Salience Learning’s work include a Brandon Hall Gold Award in 2022 for Technology Excellence (awarded to one of our partners, DominKnow) and being recognized as an LTEN Excellence Award Finalist in 2023 in the Industry Partnership category.

Podcast • June 7, 2023

Your Brain On…Podcast Ep. 35: A Conversation with Crystal Hawkins of dominKnow Learning Systems, part 2

An abstract cover for the podcast episode.

Salience Learning’s Amy Parent is joined by Crystal Hawkins, Director of Sales Development with dominKnow, to discuss her firm’s recent recent success, winning two Brandon Hall awards (both Gold), as well as the latest in learning and development. This is the second installment in a two-part series.

Access the episode here.

Podcast • May 16, 2023

Your Brain On…Podcast Ep. 34: A Conversation with Crystal Hawkins of dominKnow Learning Systems, part 1

An abstract cover for the podcast episode.

Salience Learning’s Amy Parent is joined by Crystal Hawkins, Director of Sales Development with dominKnow, to discuss her firm’s recent recent success, winning two Brandon Hall awards (both Gold), as well as the latest in learning and development. This is the first of a two-part conversation.

Access the episode here.

Article • April 17, 2023

Key Themes from the MAPS Global Annual Meeting, 2023

By Mary Lee, Ph.D., Chirag Ghai, Bill Shimp, Ph. D., Krista Gerhard, and Anjani Patel

A wall mural about music

Nashville, TN (aka “Music City”) hosted the global annual meeting of the Medical Affairs Professional Society (MAPS) just a few weeks ago, March 26-29.  MAPS’ mission is to “advance the Medical Affairs profession and increase its impact across the biopharmaceutical and device industry”  The global annual meeting, the EMEA annual meeting (which runs May 14-16 in Lisbon), and a range of other events are key to MAPS’ mission.

Through those events, MAPS members discuss and share information and best practices about a wide range of Medical Affairs (MA)-related topics.  Last month, we sent a combined team to the MAPS global annual meeting.  This team included people from Salience Learning as well as Blue Matter

After the meeting, members of both teams compared notes to see what each thought were the most interesting or relevant themes that were addressed there.  This relatively short article provides a summary of the combined team’s key takeaways regarding those themes and their implications for biopharma companies.

Read the full article on the Blue Matter website.

Article • April 4, 2023

Three Tools for Optimizing Learning and Development, Boosting Morale, and Reducing Turnover

By Glen Newton

Screenshot of Glen Newton during the video

A lot has changed over the past few years.  Hybrid working has spread dramatically and is now commonplace.  It has driven fast technological change and imposed new ways of working for which many teams feel unprepared. The result?  Well, it’s a mixed bag but a couple of things are for certain: It has made it more challenging for team leaders to maintain team cohesion and morale.  It has also made many team members more likely to explore other job opportunities to find better pathways for advancement and development.

This has led many leaders to work on building (or rebuilding) team culture to create an environment that nurtures lifelong learning and provides clearer pathways for ongoing development.  As a result, many organizations are placing professional development at the heart of their agenda.  However, they often are challenged in identifying where to start.

In this article, we explore three related topics, each of which build upon and reinforce the other.  Specifically, we discuss how to:

  • Identify what your team members should be learning or developing vs. what they could be learning or developing in this ever-changing environment
  • Create clear career paths that showcase your organization’s commitment to long-term career development
  • Accelerate your teams’ ability to learn just the right things at just the right time

Capability Models:  Focus on what team members should be learning

Based on my experience working with pharmaceutical companies, I recommend following a systematic process to define the capabilities that are most critical and will help to future-proof the organization.  This is called a “Capability Model.” But what, exactly, is that?

First, it’s important to differentiate capabilities from competencies:

  • Competencies refer to the knowledge and skills needed to perform in the present.  For example, clinical operations competencies might include specific tasks related to conducting clinical research trials.
  • Capabilities define the knowledge and skills needed to adapt and flex to meet future needs and are broadly transferable including things like critical thinking, problem solving, insight generation, and strategic planning.

Figure 1:  Competencies vs. Capabilities

An illustrative breakdown of the content on the page.

A capability model is a clear and concise listing and description of the knowledge, skills, and observable behaviors that individuals need to experience success—both now and in the future—in their specific roles.

The capability model has far-reaching benefits:

  • Leadership Level – It helps to align organizational development, ensuring the function or team members are developing in areas that will future-proof the organization.  It also helps succession planning, allowing leaders to identify the leaders of the future and guide strategic hiring efforts.
  • Individual Level – It allows individuals to rate their own strengths and areas of development to create personalized development plans to achieve their career goals.

At Salience Learning, we have built Capability Academies that take a team’s critical thinking, the ability to generate insights, and strategic thinking to the next level.

To learn more about our Capability Academies, visit the links below:

Critical Thinking

Generating Insights

Strategic Thinking

To see a video on Capability Models, click here.

Career Paths: Help team members see the path forward while demonstrating your organization’s commitment to long-term career development

A capability model isn’t just some document that sits on a shelf.  Teams should use them to help guide each team member as they chart their career path.  However, the idea of a “career path” has gotten a bit more complicated in recent years.

Many reports, including one from Harvard Business Review indicate that more and more organizations are flattening their hierarchies by removing middle management positions and moving toward more agile networks of project teams.  The goals are to promote autonomy and innovation, and to drive efficiencies.  While that’s a welcome change, it also brings an unwelcome side effect.  With a less visible hierarchy, employees can be left wondering what path their career might take. When they don’t see it, they stop believing in it.

Even in organizations that have traditional hierarchies, how people move from one role to the next may be unclear.  Even worse, it could be perceived as being based on factors other than merit.  Both situations can motivate your top performers to leave the organization.

Creating clear and visible Career Paths allows organizations to demonstrate the key experiences that different roles offer and to help individuals think about future roles that they would be interested in pursuing.  Through simple but powerful illustrations, career paths allow individuals to see the skills and capabilities they need to develop in order to move into those roles.  They should provide clear examples of professional development opportunities and other career steps that enable them to gain these capabilities. Career paths unlock powerful career development discussions, allowing employees to focus on the skills and capabilities they need to develop to move to their next role.

INSERT FIGURE 2 (in development):  Genericized Career Path

Visual breakdown of all of the content.

At Salience Learning we have seen clients investing in critical thinking, strategic thinking, and insight generation because they are transferable capabilities that employees can deploy in every role they hold over their careers.

It’s important to help employees understand that following a particular path won’t guarantee their promotion.  Other factors, such as whether the next job opportunity exists at a given time, also have an impact.  However, if they use the career path, coupled with the learning path that we will discuss below, they’ll be perfectly positioned to seize opportunity when it arises.

To see a video on Career Paths, click here.

Learning Pathways: Guide your team’s development efficiently

As mentioned above, a career path is most useful when coupled with a Learning Pathway.  A learning pathways is a structured series of learning experiences that narrowly direct learners along the most efficient route to gain and apply new skills and capabilities. They can be structured by role, subject, or business goal.  Perhaps a better name should be “Learning Highway,” because the goal here is efficiency and speed!

A learning pathway combines a variety of learning activities such as formal training, on-the-job learning, mentoring, and self-directed learning.  A good learning pathway is typically sequenced from simpler to more complex concepts and skills.  Ideally, the design uses carefully spaced repetition of retrieving and using the content to strengthen the memory of that content, enabling it to be built into skills through practice.  

A learning pathway considers the learner’s current needs along with their career aspirations. When a cohort of learners go through the same learning pathway together, they gain the additional benefit of cross-pollinating ideas for applying it on the job.

As an example, a learning path for a newly hired Access Marketer might include their onboarding and role-specific training. While they will already have knowledge of the pharmaceutical industry, including regulatory requirements, drug development and approval processes, they will need to know the processes and standards used in their current company to ensure they stay within the rules of engagement.

Other elements might include shadowing an experienced team member to start building an internal network for collaboration and taking on stretch assignments to develop further skills.  Combined with effective coaching from their leader or a mentor, this path can speed time to performance and drive new levels of effectiveness for the team and the individual.

To see a video on Learning Pathways, click here.

If you’d like to learn more about developing capability models, career paths, or learning pathways, or if you’re interested in our Capability Academies, then please contact us here.

Article • January 30, 2023

2023 LTEN Excellence Award – Critical Thinking Academy

This video discusses the Salience Learning / BMS Critical Thinking Academy for first-line leaders. It is a component of the 2023 LTEN Provider-Partnership Excellence Award Nomination.

Article • January 9, 2023

Keeping Motivation High & Turnover Low When Many Team Members Work Remotely

By Dr. Irene T. Boland, Director of Learning Strategy

A man working at a computer at home.

In mid-2022, Pew Research Center reported that nearly 1 in 5 workers are actively looking for a new job while in their current role, a rate we haven’t seen since the 1970s.

One key reason for leaving?   They feel they have no opportunities for advancement.

With the large increase in remote work, many people feel like they’ve lost their connections to their leaders, the purpose of their work, and their opportunities for growth.

But there is hope!  Here are three integrated strategies for addressing this challenge.

Strategy One:  Make Career Paths Clear

By talking to tenured team members about how they advanced through the organization, you can create a single-page Career Path document for each role.

Career Path documents show current team members their potential paths forward.  The Career Path can also help attract new talent who may be looking to move up, and thinking two or more roles ahead.

Learn more about Career Paths in this video.

Contact us to learn how we can help reinvigorate your teams and reduce turnover.

Strategy Two:  Use a Capability Model to Guide Team Member Development

Well-written job descriptions are pretty good at helping you hire the right person. Job descriptions age rapidly, and are not great at providing guidance about how to do the job well after a person is hired.  

That’s why a Capability Model is so important.  A Capability Model is a concise yet robust statement that describes what a person needs to know and be able to do to excel in their current role, grow into future roles, and meet the demands of a rapidly changing marketplace.

Combined with a Career Path, a Capability Model provides excellent guidance for any team member to develop and advance with confidence.

Lear more about Capability Models in this video.

Contact us

Strategy Three: Put a Capability Model Into Action With a Capability Planner

While the Capability Model outlines what a person in a given role must know and be able to do, a Capability Planner helps each individual assess where his or her skill level is at the present time, clearly identifying areas of strength and areas where more development is needed.  Then, the individual and their leader can create development goals and action plans that support the individual’s career goals and the company’s performance goals.

Regular development conversations between the manager and team member are essential to keeping things on track. To support your leaders in driving meaningful development conversations, we recommend our leadership guide which provides support that deepens conversations and identifies specific actions leaders can take to support their team members.

Learn more about Capability Planners in this video.

Salience Learning’s team of biopharma industry veterans and learning experts is here to help you build a motivated, productive, high-performance team. We help our clients boost performance with concise Career Paths, effective Capability Models, and actionable Capability Planners and Leadership Guides—built for specific teams and roles. We also design engaging and impactful learning experiences that drive development in individuals and teams. We can do the same for you.

Contact us

Article • October 25, 2022

How Capability Development can help biopharma companies navigate the “New Normal”

A screenshot of Anjani from the video.

In this video, Anjani Patel describes the difference between capabilities and skills. She also outlines how “capability development” should be a top priority for biopharma companies, and why it can be critical to individual and organizational success.

Article • October 18, 2022

How has the pandemic affected the biopharma workforce?

In this video, Anjani Patel describes how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the biopharma industry. In particular, it changed the way biopharma companies interact with their customers and it also altered how they attract and retain talent. Anjani also provides some guidance for biopharma companies who must attract, train, develop, and retain top talent in a challenging new environment.

Article • February 8, 2022

Do your learners need “Storytelling Skills”? Not exactly…

By Karen Foster, M.Ed.

An open book with lights on it.

Fads and fashions tend to come and go. For a while, a certain thing is all the rage and then, after a time, it tends to fade away, only to be replaced by something else. This is true of clothing, television programs, music, and more. But it’s also true in learning and development. As an L&D professional, you’ve no doubt noticed this.

Well, I don’t know if this is a fad, but my colleagues and I have been noticing something of late. More and more we’re hearing clients say something like, “Our teams need to tell better stories,” or “If only our teams’ storytelling skills were better.” In addition, I’ve also seen learning programs popping up that claim to teach learners how to become top-notch story tellers.

With all this talk about storytelling, it prompted me to think critically about it. Why all the fuss about storytelling? What need is driving it? Is “storytelling” even the right solution? Do learners in the professional workforce really need storytelling skills…or is the real need something else altogether? 

If you’ve thought about storytelling or think your learners might need to build those skills, then read on.  The rest of this article may help you get to the core issue and save you time and resources when it comes to acquiring or developing a learning solution for “storytelling.”

Don’t call it storytelling

First, it’s helpful to define “story.” Oxford Languages dictionary defines a story as: an account of imaginary or real people and events told for entertainment. The skills necessary to create great stories include defining story elements (like characters, settings, conflicts, and resolutions), applying language to express and explain those in an entertaining way, and (as most writers would attest) an immense amount of patience. So, when our clients and other colleagues in the life science industry say they need their teams to tell better stories, is this what they really need? I respectfully disagree.

In most cases I will argue that what clients are really saying is that they want their learners to be able to communicate information to an audience in a way that gets that audience to do something. Professionals are not telling stories for entertainment. They’re telling stories to drive action: action in the sense of physical movement or, as is more often the case in the knowledge economy and life-sciences industry, action in the sense of thinking movement, like changing opinions or conclusions. 

Account Executives communicate information to move a payer’s thinking that a therapy does not have value to the conclusion that it does – and then putting it on formulary. Marketing leaders communicate information to move a corporate leader’s thinking that a certain program isn’t essential to the department’s success to it being essential – and then securing the appropriate budget.  In either case, the information is communicated to generate movement.

If it isn’t storytelling, then what is it?

The solution is NOT to train learners to create interesting characters in unique settings where they resolve conflicts all tied up with a good nail-biting ending. The solution is to improve learners’ abilities to craft an argument: not an argument involving fisticuffs, but “a reason or set of reasons that someone uses to show that something is true or correct,” as defined by Oxford Languages. That something is the desired future state either as a thinking state (“This drug actually does have tremendous value”) or physical state (the drug is placed on formulary).

Being able to craft and deliver an argument requires two foundational capabilities: Critical Thinking and Effective Communication. It also requires Emotional Intelligence and a few others, but we’ll stick with these two first.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is defined as the effortful and continuous analysis of the validity of a conclusion. Think of a five-year-old asking, “Why is the sky blue?” “Why does milk come from cows?” “Why don’t I have a baby brother?”

Before communicating anything to an audience, one needs to ask “Why?” and think it through to identify the reasons an audience should move physically or thinkingly.

First, one would ask questions and gather information:

  1. Who is the audience?
  2. What is the desired future state (what is the “ask”)?
  3. What are their needs and motivations and perspectives?
  4. What are the grounds, causes, rationales or reasons that justify the desired future state? What data, information or evidence supports those statements?
  5. Filter the total population of statements in #4 to identify those that are compelling based on #3.

The output of this thinking process is then crafted into a logical sequence of statements to make the case for the ask. Logical and reasonable sequencing take critical thinking to then continually question the rigor of the step-by-step argument assembled. “Would I move based on this?” “Would this move someone to action? To change their mind?” If no, then back to #4 above.

It’s not storytelling, its thinking.


When it comes time to deliver an argument to an audience—whether it’s via a presentation, video, paper, or some combination of things—it’s important to do so in a way that gets results. First and foremost, that means not arguing! If you find yourself arguing while delivering an argument, go back and think critically. Then ensure that you have:

  1. Accounted for power differentials and cultural differences – meaning, include the “ask” in an appropriate way.
  2. Ensured verbal and non-verbal signals are aligned – meaning, if it’s a serious decision, dress appropriately.
  3. Minimized cognitive overload – meaning, give time to process and don’t read from slides.

When these attributes describe how you deliver an argument, it becomes persuasive…and persuasion yields action. 

What now?

As an L&D professional, if your internal customers say they want to develop storytelling skills—or if you are thinking about acquiring a storytelling curriculum—the first thing you should do is think critically. Why do they need to tell better stories? What outcome do stakeholders want? What’s making it difficult for learners to do that now? Once you’ve identified the core need, you’ll be in a much better position to select the right learning solution.

The second thing you should do is find that solution. Chances are, you won’t really need a curriculum that focuses on character development, settings, and conflict.  It might be better to look for a solution that empowers learners to assess their thinking process, question conclusions and gather evidence (one that helps them argue better, not tell better stories).

As an aside, this entire article was an argument, and not a dragon or damsel in earshot or a single fist thrown. That said, it did take a lot of patience.