Life Sciences Learning Trends in Focus

Posted by Amanda Holm on Mar 3, 2015 11:15:00 AM

There’s no denying that changes in the world economy are having an effect on every industry. And the Life Sciences industry is feeling the effect like everybody else. As budgets for learning and development get battered from all sides, the savviest Life Sciences learning organizations have realized a simple truth: it isn’t about doing more with less, it’s about fundamentally rethinking the way learning and development gets done.

Stott & Mesch, 2015

PDG’s Ann Stott and Rich Mesch recently published an article in Focus Magazine, the journal of the Life Sciences Training & Educators Network. Titled Learning in Changing Times: 5 Trends in Life Sciences Learning, the article focuses on how changes in the Life Sciences industry are changing the requirements of an effective learning function. The learning trends covered include:

  1. Rethinking Product LaunchesFocus_Magazine_Cover_small

  2. A Return to Shared Services

  3. Demand Planning and Flexible Learning Resources

  4. Building Long-Term Sales Team Success

  5. Increased Focus on Informal Learning

Click here to read the article for free online. For more insight into the changing world of Life Sciences learning, read Ann Stott’s series on The Changing Face of Life Science Product Launch:

The Changing Face of Life Science Product Launch

The Changing Face of Life Science Product Launch, Part 2: The Launch Toolkit

The Changing Face of Life Science Product Launch, Part 3: The Role of the Learning Team




Ann Stott is the Vice President, Global Accounts at Performance Development Group. She leads the life sciences practices, focusing on pharmaceuticals, health care, biotechnology, and medical devices. Her extensive consulting experience is used to grow the PDG advisory services capabilities. Ann is an accomplished, respected, and energetic leader with more than twenty years of experience in the corporate training environment.



Rich Mesch


Rich Mesch is Vice President, Customer Engagement at Performance Development Group. A frequent contributor to industry events and publications, his most recent article was Taming the Learning Demand Curve: Using Supply Chain Methods to Manage Your Learning Function for Training Industry's online magazine.




Taming the Learning Demand Curve, 4 Smart Steps to Lower Cost and Higher Quality in Corporate Learning

Topics: Business Issues in Learning, Organizational Change, Informal Learning, Sales Training, Workforce Development, Flexible Resource Management, Product Launch, Life Sciences

Driving Real Business Impact: Leah Minthorn of Iron Mountain

Posted by Amanda Holm on Jan 14, 2015 10:35:00 AM

LeahMinthornThis is the first of a series of stories about PDG partners who have demonstrated strong and unique leadership in driving business results through learning. Leah Minthorn is the Director of North American (NA) Operations Learning at Iron Mountain, where she has been instrumental in driving organizational change. She and her small team of 11 learning and development staff are consistently reaching strategic business goals through innovative programs. Leah shares how she and her team continue to support the business goals and drive change at Iron Mountain.

After working at Iron Mountain for over 10 years, Leah Minthorn has developed a knack for listening. “I feel it is important to get out in the field and listen to what employees are saying," says Leah. "Companies want a solution to a problem, and rather than listening to employees, they often come up with solutions before really understanding the problem,”  Her tip is to go to the source directly to find out the why behind the problem. Often the problem is not the employees but a process that needs to change. “Staying connected to the employees who are on the front line can make a big difference in driving organizational change.”

Being connected to her learning and development staff has been vital to driving organizational change at Iron Mountain. “My staff is like a family. I have never worked with people before who are so much like brothers and sisters.” The people in her department understand the business at Iron Mountain because they immerse themselves in the field to hear their internal clients’ needs. Her department plans to increase the use of technology used for learning to give employees more control over their learning and to increase self-directed learning. They will continue to use e-learning and on the job training, while increasing the use of videos, online webinars, “six second learning,” crowd sourcing, and social media.

Leah’s team uses on-the-job reinforcements and peer coaching to help meet strategic business goals. Their program currently uses a mapped curriculum of e-learning, coach-led hands-on training, regular feedback sessions, job aids, and knowledge and performance assessments. This model works well for Iron Mountain; the coaches reinforce organizational changes and what is required for employees to transform and grow.

Iron Mountain has received a great deal of industry recognition for Sentinel, their innovative peer coaching program for front-line employees. They have made the Training Top 125 list for the past two years, won a Gold CLO Learning in Practice Award, and a Corporate University Best-in-Class (CUBIC) Award. Recently it was announced that the NA Operations Learning team won a Best Practice award for the Sentinel program from Training Magazine. Leah’s team is currently working on designing a new Sentinel management training program to continue the professional development of front-line operations managers and supervisors.

Iron Mountain has integrated the learning organization into all strategic planning activities, providing them with a ‘seat at the table’ to take part in the organization’s decisions. With an in-depth understanding of the organization’s direction, the learning group has the perspective needed to provide the tools and support that Iron Mountain needs to reach their goals. For example, when CEO William Meaney decided to address cultural and leadership change, the learning group developed a strategy to support his three-year plan. “We recognize that at least 50% of our employees have Spanish as their first language. This creates a greater learning curve and employees are not able onboard as quickly if the training is not in their native tongue,” observes Leah. To support their North American employees from diverse backgrounds, the learning organization is engaged in a project to translate their learning programs into Spanish and French Canadian.  Her team is also supporting their growing business by developing methods to onboard new employees more quickly, leveraging their overall strategy to use technology to deliver more self-directed learning.

Because they have a small staff of 11, NA Operations Learning tries to leverage internal and external business partners to reach their goals. They rely on subject matter experts in the field to help with messaging. Recently they adopted Iron Mountain UK’s tools for transportation, using telematics in company vehicles to measure their employees driving.  Leah’s team also relies on key relationships with preferred vendors. “PDG is a long-term preferred vendor of ours who I enjoy working with because they understand our business. PDG understands our design aesthetic and can translate what is in our heads into a properly articulated design.” These are just a few of the ways Leah and her team is able to support Iron Mountain’s business goals and to continue to drive real business impact through organizational change.

Iron Mountain is a storage and information management company, assisting more than 156,000 organizations in 36 countries on five continents with storing, protecting, and managing their information. Iron Mountain employs almost 17,000 professionals and an infrastructure that includes more than 1,000 facilities and 3,600 vehicles.

For more information about Iron Mountain or for additional interviews with Leah Minthorn click on the links below:

Chief Learning Officer: Special Report: Metrics and Measurement

Chief Learning Officer: Special Report: Learning Technology

Training Magazine: Paths to Success: Responsibility Vs. Promotion 

HRO Today: Out of Recession, Companies Turn to Training


 Driving Workplace Safety

Topics: Client Focus, Business Issues in Learning, Organizational Change

The Business of Learning: Top 5 Things Your CEO Wants From Your Learning Capability

Posted by Amanda Holm on May 2, 2014 9:12:00 AM

Based on research, what do top executives value?

  1. Performance - CEO’s don’t value learning they value the increased performance that learning can bring.

  2. Business Results, not Learning Results - Instead of measuring learning, measure the results learning brings. Skills and knowledge are the fuel that takes the business where it needs to go.

  3. Drive top business initiatives - Most businesses have a small number of top-priority initiatives each year. Demonstrating how learning helps drive those initiatives creates a clear picture of how you are driving value.

  4. Manage your demand and supply chain - Business needs change over the course of the year, and business expect departments to be responsive. Planning for your learning demand and having a supply chain in place to respond to change helps guarantee to you will drive business goals.

  5. Return on Investment –Measuring the return on the investment in learning programs validates why it is important to build the skills and knowledge of the organization.

PDG has a number of white papers and case studies with examples of programs that drove top business goals for our clients. They include: 




Amanda Cushman Holm is the 
Sales and Marketing Specialist at 
Performance Development Group



Topics: Measurement, Business Issues in Learning

Using Process to Fight Fear on Learning Initiatives

Posted by Julie Flanigan on Oct 31, 2013 10:20:00 AM

fearIt’s Halloween, so it seems like a good day to talk about fear.

One of my clients shared with me that she has been doing a lot of thinking about the influence fear has had in her professional life. She pondered the questions “What if I had spoken up in that meeting when my gut was telling me that the path the team was going down would lead to a dead end? What if I simply said no to a request I believed was not aligned to the company’s true goals and mission?” 

In these turbulent economic times, it seems like fear is part of everyone’s work life. Whether our fear comes from losing a job, a sale, a goal or simply admitting you don’t know the answer, the end result seems to be the same. Often decisions are made based on fear, resulting in wasted time and resources. How do we stop this cycle before it starts? How do we truly learn from these experiences and achieve greater understanding and usefulness in our organizations?

My client’s latest training initiative was two weeks away from being deployed. During a meeting with the CLO, it became clear that her project might be put on hold or cancelled altogether. She shared with me that she was afraid of her project getting cancelled and losing her job. My client had a dilemma: how could she overcome her fear, disagree with leadership and try to save her project? I advised her to take a deep breath, swallow hard and look at the bottom-line cost of derailing a training event; focus on the business issues, not the emotional issues.

The reconsideration/cancellation of a nearly-complete or newly deployed learning solution affects the organization both qualitatively and quantitatively. The cost to the organization is great, including the budget dollars and hours spent on resourcing the project not to mention the project team engagement, motivation and morale. The most significant cost to the organization is inability to realize and benefit from the objectives and goals of the training.  Fear and failure to change results in ongoing costs and prevents the organization from ever seeing a return on their investment.

The first step in resolving the “fear factor” at work is to acknowledge when you are having an emotional response to fear. The twist in your gut, racing heart and that tingle in your fingers is your body having a visceral reaction to fear. It isn’t a pleasant feeling and many of us react by “doing something” about it, and quickly. At times, we jump from the proverbial frying pan right into the fire. 

What we need to do is seek out the business issue not the emotional issue to be resolved. It is imperative to understand not only your own fear factor but also how fear motivates others to react. Once you have identified your fear and understand where it is coming from, you can present the facts. Having a thorough change management process in place is one way to help stakeholders realize the impact their change in direction can have on the organization as a whole. In addition, weekly budget and status updates are key to keeping your stakeholders engaged in your projects and initiatives, and understanding the impact of changes. When leaders are engaged and seeing progress, they will be more inclined to provide ongoing support to your training initiative.


Topics: ROI, Stakeholder Management, Business Issues in Learning

What CEOs want (and it's not what you think)

Posted by Rich Mesch on May 29, 2013 9:59:00 AM

WomanCEOsmallWay back in April of 2010, I wrote this post about taking learning to business, where I basically posted that business doesn’t value learning, it values performance. I recently saw a wonderful presentation by ROI guru Jack Phillips that provided data to support that assumption. The bad news? Businesses really don’t value learning. The good news? Once we understand what business does value, we can take steps to provide it.

See, businesses don’t value learning any more than the driver of a car values gasoline. The driver of a car has a goal; he wants to get somewhere. He has a resource for getting there, the car. And in order for the car to take him where he wants to go, he puts gasoline in it. Having a full tank of gas is not a goal; getting somewhere is the goal, and the gasoline is the fuel that makes the car go, and allows the driver to get where he’s going.

So, too, do businesses want to get somewhere. And skills and knowledge are the fuel that power the people of the business and allow them to take the business where it needs to go. So it’s not too surprising that businesses don’t measure learning; they measure results.

Jack Phillips did a wonderful analysis. He asked the CEOs of dozens of big organizations (Fortune 500 and similarly-sized privately-held organizations), and asked a simple question: what are the metrics that matter to you around learning? Jack wrote a detailed article about it in CLO Magazine, so I won’t replicate all his findings here.

So what’s the net-net? Well, you might not be too surprised to learn:

  • Most of the things learning organizations typically measure aren’t very important to top executives. For example, 63% of organizations reported they measured employee satisfaction with training, but CEOs rated that measure as last on their priority list.
  • Only 4% reported measuring ROI on training, although 74% thought they should be measuring ROI. Most interestingly, ROI was not listed as a top priority. So what was?
  • The number one priority for CEOs was this statement: “Our programs are driving our top five business measures in the organization.” Only 8% said they currently measure it. A whopping 96% said they should be.
What can we take away from all of this? Simply this: business values activity that brings them closer to their established goals. And, we might infer, is willing to invest money in activities that bring them closer to their goals.

Topics: ROI, Measurement, Evaluation, Business Issues in Learning