Training and development

One of the best ways to improve a business is to raise the capability of its people. And there's no better means of achieving this than through training and development.

Well-trained people perform better, meaning a pharmaceutical company is more able to adapt quickly to frequent regulatory change, product launches and technological innovations. It costs over £1000 million to develop and launch a new medicine, therefore it is essential to train employees to the highest level possible to ensure maximum return on investment. For these reasons training has always had a high standing in the pharmaceutical industry and opportunities to benefit from training and development are actively encouraged and available to all employees.

Training aims 

Ranging from inductions for new staff to executive coaching for top managers, the overall aim of training personnel is to establish, grow and harness people talent to achieve company goals. Trainers provide courses or information to address technical skills needed in a person's role, legal requirements such as health and safety, or focus on more complex areas such as behavioural competencies and personal change.

Training programmes

Courses are varied: from leadership and management programmes to negotiation skills, stress management, motivation and building strong customer relationships. And e-learning is fast becoming a key medium, offering learners the advantages of speed and ease of access in an industry that thrives on disseminating facts and knowledge.

Before any new training programme is implemented, it is first planned and developed to ensure a strategic "fit" with the company's business plans. Trainers work with managers and their teams across the different parts of the business, these include the sales, marketing, and medical departments. Working with these departments allows trainers to identify the capabilities needed to achieve organisational objectives and establish where shortfalls exist. This is known as training needs analysis and it enables trainers to plan and prioritise training and development activities to meet company requirements.

Trainers may then source an appropriate course through an external supplier or, more often than not, prepare and deliver a tailored, standards-compliant programme of their own. And whether it is an e-learning programme, a one-on-one coaching session or a residential group programme, trainers are constantly testing and reviewing innovative, creative methods of delivery to facilitate the knowledge transfer process and impart enthusiasm in the most effective and engaging manner.

Effective training

In the spirit of continuous improvement, even regular training events are assessed. Once a course has finished, feedback must be gathered, further evaluations made and courses adapted so that companies and staff can find improved ways of bringing medicines to the marketplace.

Effective training should be:

  • Planned
  • Measured
  • Focussed

New medicines are constantly being developed, manufactured or launched, regulatory requirements frequently change, and the endless talent squeeze puts more pressure on pharmaceutical companies to educate, develop and retain the best employees. Good trainers are prized in our industry and there is significant satisfaction to be found in inspiring the people around you and them to make their fullest contribution to the success of the business.

People who work in training and development

Often, people in training and development roles have gained previous experience elsewhere in the pharmaceutical industry so have 'been there before' and know and understand the training needs of that part of the business. For instance, many sales trainers were themselves sales representatives, and other trainers have backgrounds in human resources, information services or research and development.

To be successful you will need to be driven to help people improve their own performance and achieve success and, most importantly, you will need to be a first-class communicator with excellent interpersonal and presentation skills.

Career progression

Early on in your career, you are more likely to be involved in preparing and delivering straightforward training courses, often to new starters and under the watchful eye of an experienced colleague. During this time you will be building on your ability to handle delegate groups and developing your expertise through self-guided learning and observation. Trainers working with sales forces can expect to be travelling widely and gaining first-hand experience of life in the field. Fundamental training in areas such as neurolinguistic programming and behavioural skills, coupled with professional training and development accreditation will enable you to develop real expertise.

As you grow in knowledge, experience and confidence, you may move into a more international role in larger companies or you may progress to become more involved in the identification and development of training strategy. Promotion will mean that you have clearly demonstrated the potential and ability to meet demanding targets in a very competitive environment.


People can enter training and development with most degree subjects. It is also possible to begin a career in training in an administrative capacity with Highers, A Levels or equivalent, and gain the relevant experience and qualifications over a relatively short period of time.

Last modified: 20 September 2023

Last reviewed: 20 September 2023