Article • July 2, 2021

Learning & Development Recommendations for Small Biopharma Companies

By Anjani Patel and Jodi Tainton

A woman writing on paper next to a computer.

Do you work for a small affiliate of a large biopharmaceutical organization or perhaps a small startup that’s eager to hit the ground running? Are you looking to provide development opportunities that allow your team members to grow professionally and gain new experiences?

If you answered yes to both of these questions then, welcome.

In today’s dynamic environment, it’s no secret that more organizations, big and small, are investing in Learning and Development (L&D). From employee satisfaction and retention to protecting your bottom line and withstanding the tumultuous nature of business, investing in effective L&D programs is shown to prepare organizations to succeed in the future. Consider these figures:

  • Nine out of 10 millennials rate professional or career growth and development opportunities as a major consideration in job satisfaction.[1]
  • Organizations that have made a strategic investment in employee development report 11% greater profitability and are twice as likely to retain their employees.[2]
  • Technological advancements are shortening the shelf life of employee skills; a typical business competency now lasts about five years.[3]

To compete, organizations need to quickly adapt to new business realities by empowering their people to build new skills before they need them. Investing in L&D is no longer a nice-to-have but an economic imperative.

However, small businesses may not have the resources or budget of larger competitors for L&D activities. Yet, to grow and expand their business in a world of continuous change and disruption, L&D programs are needed to upskill, reskill and build capacity for employees to navigate the ever-changing marketplace.

But how do you create an effective L&D program for your small business? Where do you start? Here are a few practical steps to help you get started establishing an L&D program:

  1. Clarify the business’s goals: Effective learning programs align to the business’s goals. Collaborate with cross-functional business leaders to understand their goals and define the behaviors individuals and teams should start, stop, and continue to achieve those goals. Establishing a strategic partnership with the business at the onset of your program will secure L&D’s role at the table and be seen as a value-add.
  2. Conduct a needs analysis: Once you have identified the business’s need and key behaviors, assess the current state and identify opportunities for L&D. This can be accomplished through stakeholder interviews, simple observation, or employee surveys.
  3. Develop a set of capabilities: As the marketplace evolves and the rate of demand for new skills is faster than ever, the workforce is pressured to reskill and adapt. The needs for transferrable knowledge and skills, adaptability, and enduring capabilities are critical.Capabilities are defined as a collection of knowledge and skills that an individual applies across various situations. Using the L&D opportunities identified from the needs analysis, identify transferable knowledge and skills that can be organized into overarching capabilities. These capabilities will enable your workforce to endure evolving conditions through application of transferable knowledge and skills to new domains and contexts.
  4. Draft a plan: Since resources are often limited, the key for small businesses is to use them as effectively as possible. First, develop a plan that articulates focus areas and goals. Then, identify what resources you currently have and identify the gaps. A thoughtful plan can also help gain buy-in from stakeholders and can be used to communicate what resources are needed and when.
  5. Exercise change management: Inciting behavior change is difficult, but a structured approach to change can make it easier and have a far-reaching impact on the organization. That said, implementing and communicating change is more than a simple email. Gain leadership endorsement and identify opportunities for buy-in from the workforce; change agents are your greatest champions. Set success criteria, keep articulating your plans and provide continuous support through reference materials, coaching, and training opportunities. The development of new learnings is only as powerful as change adoption.

We recognize that these efforts require an investment that an individual or small team may not be able to implement alone. In these situations, quick wins or low-investment, high-impact initiatives can still be attained with some help.

In these cases, we suggest taking the following approach to help you deliver impactful learning:

  1. Refresh, reuse, repurpose: Often, help is closer than we think. Invest time to investigate what resources are currently available in your organization. Once materials are identified, assess the gaps and focus on curating new content as needed. This process enables you to utilize existing training and resources to deploy more relevant learning faster.
  2. Join an industry group: Great ideas are only a click away. Joining online industry groups allow you to stay informed on the latest insights, find and reuse publicly available resources and develop your skills by learning from communities of practice and other leading professionals.
  3. Invest in yourself as an L&D professional: In smaller organizations, L&D teams often play multiple roles––content developer, project manager and facilitator––while also balancing high workloads and competing business priorities. Professionals that invest in their development can become more effective in their roles and gain the confidence they need to maximize their value proposition. Programs like Salience Learning’s Trainer Academy aim to help L&D professions build skills to efficiently design, develop and deliver impactful training that empowers teams to learn new skills in fresh and engaging ways.

Regardless of what stage your organization is in, establishing an effective L&D program will foster growth not only in your workforce but your business as a whole. We encourage you to assess what stage your L&D program may be in and dig deeper to explore the learning gaps or needs of your organization. These initial steps will get you started on your approach to an L&D program that gives you, your employees and your organization the desired results.

[1] Rigoni, B., & Nelson, B. (2020, October 20). For millennials, is job-hopping inevitable? Gallup.

[2] Ratanjee, V. (2021, March 1). 4 ways to continue employee development when budgets are cut. Gallup.

[3] World Economic Forum. (n.d.). Skills stability. The Future of Jobs Report.