Hypothesis: LinkedIn Learning Is The Best Platform for Oxford PharmaGenesis. Conclusion: Yes It Is.
June 26, 2019
Oxford PharmaGenesis has doubled in size over the last 5 years and, like many fast-growing companies, their directors understood that they needed to create a learning and development function to help it scale gracefully.
Founded in 1998, this independent, multi-award-winning HealthScience communications consultancy supports the healthcare industry, professional societies and patient groups. The company continues to grow strongly, and employs more than 260 people in offices in Oxford, London, Cardiff, Basel, Philadelphia and Melbourne.
Iain Hildyard, Director of Learning and Development, was hired in July 2018 to build a L&D solution to organize learning and connect it to drivers of growth, employee satisfaction and retention. Quickly, Hildyard knew that people at Oxford PharmaGenesis wanted and needed formal training programs and an easily accessible online learning platform, to build both commercial and technical capabilities.
“Our typical employee has graduated from an ‘Ivy League’-type university and our writers have postdoctoral experience in one or more scientific areas,” Hildyard observed. “They are smart, self-starting and creative.” Hildyard knew the L&D solution would have to satisfy a demanding and discerning staff.
Challenge: Formalizing An Informal Learning System To Meet All Learners’ Needs
Historically, learning at Oxford PharmaGenesis mainly came from one-to-one mentoring and coaching within each department/team, focusing on technical skills. With the continued success of the company driving growth year on year, formal training was needed to bolster the traditional one-to-one learning, but Hildyard recognized that the platform he chose needed to align with Oxford PharmaGenesis values: commitment to develop professionally, to each other, to clients and to commercial success.
“So the very first thing I did,” he said, “was listen.”
Hildyard wanted to understand “needs, wants and what they think already works. I needed to listen, learn, understand and then synthesize everything.” From his 'Listening Tour', Hildyard identified three main needs of learners.
- Perform better in their current role.
- Learn to progress in their career.
- Be fully prepared for moments that matter in their career, ranging from making a client pitch to conducting a performance review.
He also knew he needed a learning platform that was:
- portable, with an easy-to-use mobile app
- bite-sized, so that content could be consumed as needed, and a learner wouldn’t have to take an entire course to answer a question or learn a new skill
- had the breadth and depth of up-to-date content to meet learner needs across the whole company, while also personalizing the content to individual roles and needs.
Solution: Applying Scientific Principles to Find The Best Learning Platform
Oxford PharmaGenesis employees spend their days working with clients on highly technical and scientific content, so Hildyard knew that the road to learning success was paved with trials and tests.
“Scientists require evidence-based conclusions,” he noted.
So, he created a user trial for LinkedIn Learning and one of its competitors, asking 12 employees from across the company to test both platforms across six dimensions.
- User experience.
- Custom content.
He also invented a test he called Pick Up, Put Down, that asked learners to determine how easy it was to start a course on each platform, pause it, and then return to it later. “We wanted to move learning into the flow of work.”
LinkedIn Learning was the clear favorite. The test group also told Hildyard that they liked the accreditations that came with LinkedIn Learning courses and the potential to include in-house content, and that they were already familiar with and trusted LinkedIn.
“With LinkedIn Learning, so many barriers were removed right from the start,” said tester Tim Koder, a Communications Director at Oxford PharmaGenesis. “We already had LinkedIn profiles, so we were comfortable with the platform, and we could share courses on our online profiles for others to see.”
At the end of 2018, Oxford PharmaGenesis bought LinkedIn Learning licenses for all 250 staff. Hildyard opted for the LinkedIn Learning Pro platform, that enables Oxford to upload custom content for employees to use to maintain company standards, such as writing style and best practice guides for client calls and pitches.
Results: 96% Activation and 50% Engagement as Employees 'Stay on Trend'
Hildyard planned a roll-out to the company for February 14 – “avoiding all references to Valentine’s Day in the marketing,” he noted with pride. In the time between purchase and roll-out, he got busy.
“I spent a lot of time curating learning content in advance of the roll-out because I want users to find relevant content quickly,” he said.
“I want learning to be a partnership with the individual, to empower them,” said Hildyard. “But, I also want to make sure that everything they access is both intellectually robust and practically useful.”
Since going live, they have seen a 96% activation rate, and a 50% engagement rate.
A second key to the early adoption was Hildyard’s decision to walk the business leaders through the platform before the roll-out, explaining the strategy of structured learning and LinkedIn Learning. After the 30-minute session, he asked them all to sign up to a 'learning contract' to pledge their support to learning and fostering a learning and growth culture. Included in the contract are six tenets.
- I will use the platform thoughtfully, because I am a role model for my team.
- I will make my expectations around learning clear, so my teams know how much time they can and should spend on learning.
- I will recommend courses for my teams, lending my credibility among staff to the content on the platform.
- I will include learning in my performance plans, ensuring that it is a deliberate part of my team management.
- I will review it with my managers and individuals to ensure they are leveraging it to full effect.
- I will provide honest feedback on what works and what doesn’t, so as a leadership group we can ensure that the content for staff remains “sharp, relevant and fresh”.
Koder was part of Hildyard's test group, and said he chose LinkedIn Learning over the other platform because it had more high-quality content and good structure, with videos and associated materials grouped together. He also liked the mobile app, in particular the ability to download in the office then listen when commuting, taking a walk or travelling abroad.
“I had a whole load of content in my pocket ready to go,” Koder said. “If I’m waiting for 20 minutes for a train, then I can learn. That’s very important to me.” And with a team of 35 people to manage, the main focus is on the benefit to the team. “It’s so important for a company to stay on trend. We knew some of our competitors already had learning platforms, and we wouldn’t want to be the company that hasn’t shown that it's invested in its employees.”
Senior Project Manager Laura Escalante Santos has started sharing courses that she has found helpful with her colleagues. She has even curated a collection of courses she thought would benefit those who report to her.
“Being able to share content like this — both internally and externally — creates a community,” she said.
LinkedIn Learning has already had an impact externally, demonstrating to potential applicants the commitment that Oxford PharmaGenesis has made to its people. Candidates mention at interview that they have seen the posts and value the company's involvement with LinkedIn Learning as they make their career decisions.
Conclusion: LinkedIn Learning Works Well for Oxford PharmaGenesis
With industry-leading rates of activation and engagement, LinkedIn Learning clearly reaches deep into Oxford PharmaGenesis, and with social sharing, the partnership is also influencing potential candidates in a highly competitive market for the brightest and best communicators in medical science.
"Oxford PharmaGenesis Is well set with the LinkedIn Learning platform to provide an excellent training environment for its staff, at all levels," said Hildyard. "I'm excited that Oxford PharmaGenesis has committed to this investment, that it is already paying off, and that there is so much more to see in the very near future!”