Outsourced Training: A Primer

Published on: 
BioPharm International, BioPharm International-07-01-2013, Volume 26, Issue 7

Five key attributes to look for in a biopharm training partner.

Outsourcing has become an important business strategy for biopharmaceutical companies looking to bring products to market at a reduced cost and lower need for capital investment. Many biopharmaceutical companies gain a competitive edge from outsourcing research, clinical trials, manufacturing, and packaging. Training is another area that can yield big returns when outsourced. For managers who must show measurable results from their training dollars while also meeting day-to-day business demands, outsourcing can be especially appealing. However, there are some key attributes that a training partner must have.

Erkki Goodwin


While in-house training programs may capitalize on how well a company knows itself, in-house development and execution of training programs can drain resources from revenue generating activities, divert attention from necessary day-to-day operations, reinforce institutional bad habits, and remain behind the curve of industry-wide best practices. The right training partner—a formal training organization and subject matter expert—is exclusively focused on industry-specific training. Such organizations carry experience and knowledge from across the industry. These trainers can quickly hone in on a company's needs and they require much less time to ramp-up.

If an outside training organization or consultant is needed, it is important to properly vet the organization and make sure that their qualifications meet the desired needs. Perform the basic checks and common practices such as:

  • Determine and apply a set of criteria for selecting the best consultant (e.g., industry knowledge, experience with similar projects, subject matter expertise, etc.).

  • Provide clear program needs and guidelines—based on needs analysis and initial design specification—when requesting a proposal.

  • Solicit proposals from more than one consultant for comparison sake.

  • Check references—especially if this is the first time working with a consultant.


In today's business environment, talent quality matters more than ever to pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical-device companies. Competitors can always match technologies, processes, and tools, but the creative power of a company's human resources is what will set it apart. An effective training strategy recognizes this fact and starts by taking stock of current talent and then performing a strategic assessment from both an organizational and individual standpoint. It is important to always know where a company's capabilities stand and how they need to grow to successfully meet future demands (see

Figure 1


Figure 1: Successful training organizations look to develop effective and comprehensive training programs by way of key building blocks. One such block, an analysis of current capabilities, is an important foundation for optimizing a company’s success. (FIGURE 1 IS COURTESY OF THE AUTHOR)


Developing effective project management skills is crucial for globally competitive pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical-device companies where every advantage counts and project lifecycles are long. Managing a project-based business is fundamentally different from managing a traditional functional organization. It requires careful rethinking of roles, skills, organizational systems, tools, and metrics to support project performance. Many of today's successful organizations require the type of training that is deeply rooted in project management methodology. Training organizations that engage life-sciences industry experts and certified project management professionals (e.g., PMP or PRINCE2) to develop solutions based on acknowledged standards (such as PMI's PMBOK) and proven industry practices can ignite focused performance improvements with significant bottom-line impact.

The benefits of a standardized project management methodology and certification include:

  • An increased attention towards developing the right project management competencies at both organizational and individual levels.

  • Formation of global project work environments that are populated with people who speak a common language in project management.

  • Improved return on investment from projects that are based on more predictable, consistent delivery.


Solid training organizations offer extensive tools of the trade that effectively address a company's complex and varied training needs. From virtual training and self-study modules to custom curriculum and consultative services, a qualified training partner has right-fitted offerings for pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical-device companies. What's more, training organizations bring with them tried an tested educational materials, broad industry knowledge, the latest training technologies, and dedicated staff and services.

Consider whether the proposed training organization has:

  • Resources to provide the same training material in a variety of media and delivery methods, such as online or classroom-based.

  • Expertise and willingness to customize training materials to suit an organization's specific needs.

  • In-depth understanding of adult learning principles and how to address them in the training delivery.

  • Instructors who are also skilled facilitators—able to manage small to large groups as well as conflict situations.


Having an agile organization that responds quickly to the ever-changing healthcare market to produce innovative products to meet customer needs is the result of high organizational effectiveness. A highly effective and efficient organization achieves the outcomes it intends to produce, specifically focusing on structure and human dynamics as two factors strongly affecting outcome. A long-term, productive relationship with the right training partner—one that focuses on regular assessment and continuous improvement—can assure that a company will achieve and maintain high organizational effectiveness.

Some of the ways an effective training organization will ensure continuous improvement include:

  • Being up-to-date on industry practices, standards, and regulations.

  • Using actual client projects in class exercises to effectively illustrate concepts and allow students to hit the ground running after training.

  • Providing follow-up support to students to ensure that the tools, techniques, and principles of the training are being implemented correctly.

  • Holding briefings with management to share evaluations, provide post-workshop analysis, and discuss next steps.

  • Scheduling regular capability assessments to ensure that organizational skill and knowledge levels continue to increase.

Outsourced training can yield major results for biopharmaceutical companies and help them remain competitive in an increasingly challenging marketplace. The right training partner can help an organization get unstuck, move to the next level, and enhance their entire value chain. The challenge is finding a training partner with the experience and qualifications to address your specific needs. If you take the proper approach, and look for and assess key attributes, you are much more likely to find and forge a successful, long-term relationship with the right training partner.

Erkki Goodwin, CAPM, Customer Relationship Manager, Action for Results (AfR), Inc.