Training for Global Product Launch: Five Tips

By Garry O’Grady
Launching a new product is a complex undertaking involving a range of stakeholders, all of whom must work together in a coordinated manner.  If you really want to dial the complexity “up to eleven,” try launching a new product globally.  Over the years, we’ve had the privilege of working with clients before, during, and after global launches.  During that time, we’ve identified some potential pitfalls for a key player in any launch:  The Global Learning & Development organization.  Here, we explore some tips to avoid those pitfalls.
The Global Learning & Development (GL&D) organization is critically important to the success of any launch.  In a global launch process, training activities begin as early as 36 months prior to the planned launch date.  At this time, the GL&D organization develops its launch-training plan, acquires resources and initiates content development.  Soon thereafter, key roles, such as country managers, brand management team members, and key account managers, should begin receiving training on core topics including disease state, clinical trials, the product’s mechanism of action (MOA), and so on.
From that point on, one stakeholder group or another will be receiving training of some type, driven by the GL&D group.  The process typically culminates about 3-6 months before launch, as local sales teams receive training on the disease, the product and its MOA, key selling messages, and more.
For all this to go smoothly—and give the product the greatest chance of success—the GL&D organization must be operating effectively and using a highly structured approach.  Being structured and systematic will help GL&D avoid the more common pitfalls we’ve seen companies experience.

Tip #1:  Build a Framework for Global Launch Training

Too often, we’ve seen companies that had not taken the time to develop a framework for managing the global launch training process.  Without a proper framework, the GL&D organization will typically be forced into a reactive mode and may feel “perpetually behind schedule.”
At a high level, building a framework entails proactively determining

  • Which roles within the company will need training and educational support
  • The type of support required for each role
  • The proper timing

A good framework serves as a road map for launch training.  It helps the GL&D organization be proactive rather than reactive. It also elevates GL&D’s status to that of a strategic resource.

Tip #2:  Don’t Wait on the Brand Team

This tip is closely related to #1 above.  It’s important to note that global brand teams are often not fully formed 18-24 months before launch.  If the GL&D organization is dependent on the brand team for budget, that can be a problem.
GL&D organizations must proactively lobby for the budget and resources needed well before 18-24 months out.  Otherwise, they may still be waiting for budget dollars, getting further “behind the 8-ball” every day.

Tip #3:  Communicate Early and Often

When a solid framework is in place for the global launch training process, nothing should be a surprise for the GL&D organization or for its downstream customers.  Built into that framework should be structured communications so that various internal stakeholders, including all the country affiliates, know exactly what’s coming and when.
We’ve performed audits for customers that have laid bare the drawbacks of poor communications.  For example, in one case the country affiliates took the initiative to create their own disease state training modules because they didn’t know what GL&D was doing, or when to expect support.  Situations like that result in inconsistent training, and a high degree of variability in launch preparedness.

Tip #4:  Use a Formal Curriculum Design Process

Any training process needs to begin with the end in mind.  Early on, the GL&D organization must work with its internal stakeholders to determine the desired business results, identify the behaviors required to get those results, and design the right curriculum for achieving the required behavior changes.  Too often, GL&D organizations have no formalized process for doing this.

Tip #5:  Develop Design Standards So Content Can Have Greater Impact at the Country level

When developing global training content, it’s important that the GL&D organization ensure a certain level of consistency:  Consistency in design, “look and feel,” quality, and learning impact.  However, each local market is different, and content must be modified to account for those differences.  The GL&D organization must create—and abide by—a set of design standards that will allow for local customizations while also helping to keep materials as consistent as possible.  This keeps costs down, and it makes for more efficient training process.
Two simple—and completely avoidable—examples of “mishaps” we’ve seen companies make in this area include:

  • Designing materials (i.e. professionally laid out PDF documents) with English content, while neglecting to build in enough “white space” to accommodate translation into other languages that typically use more words (and thus, more space) to say the same things
  • Developing documents whose body copy can be edited electronically for translation, but incorporating graphic images whose embedded text cannot be edited electronically

Clearly defined design standards will go a long way toward ensuring a consistent training product while also allowing for local variation.
The key theme running through all five of these tips can be summed up on one word:  Structure.  That’s why this article’s first tip addresses a structured framework for global product launch training.  Within a systematic framework, the GL&D organization can address all the things needed for effective and efficient global launch training: Stakeholders, training needs, timing, communications, a curriculum design process, and materials design standards.

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Bull City Blue is an end-to-end learning agency created to address the needs of training and development organizations within the life sciences industry. Bull City Blue is headquartered in Durham, N.C. and is a subsidiary of BCL, a full-service learning development and consulting agency.
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