By Chapin Brinegar, Senior Director of Instructional Design and Learning Strategy
and Jenn Lalli, Senior Director of Business Development and Marketing


January is an aspirational month. If your organization is like most, with each new year, you set transformational goals and collectively dream of what might be accomplished. Unfortunately, the motivation sparked by the new year is often misspent, and by the following December, you may have little to show for it.

The problem is simple. Whether we are making personal New Year’s resolutions or evaluating our organizations, we often assume change requires novelty above all else. We’re lured by the idea there’s a never-before-tried solution out there that will—almost magically—deliver results. However, like fad diets and “as-seen-on-TV” exercise equipment, such solutions rarely do.

So, what’s the best way to create positive and impactful organizational change this year? As a training partner for clients across the pharmaceutical and medical device industries, we at Encompass know that getting back to the basics and ensuring the fundamentals are strong remains the surest path for an organization to achieve its goals in 2024.

Conduct a needs assessment

To understand where you should devote your energy this year, begin with a reflective process designed to uncover gaps. Though this needs assessment can take many forms, we invite you to consider the prompts we’ve provided below focused on four fundamental areas—coaching, business acumen, ways of working, and selling with impact—that are sure to be vital in the months ahead. This mini assessment can be a great way to jump-start your process for creating a successful year.

  • Topic 1: Coaching

It is crucial in any year to ensure your managers are prepared to guide their direct reports to reach business goals. To understand if and how these first- and second-line managers need training and development, ask yourself how successfully they:

    • Set clear expectations for their direct reports
    • Foster accountability and inspire their team to feel a sense of ownership for their work
    • Give—and invite—appropriate feedback that is objective, direct, and actionable
    • Align their team quickly and efficiently around key broad business and organizational strategies and priorities
  • Topic 2: Business Acumen

The ability to analyze data to uncover insights and determine appropriate actions is a core skill that is as necessary for sales representatives as it is for managers. Consider how successful members of your team can:

    • Navigate the analytics tools and data available to them to determine actionable insights
    • Overcome data overload by filtering out salient details
    • Recognize when and how national data applies at a regional and territory level
    • Utilize data to communicate the story of their business
  • Topic 3: Ways of Working

Little is more fundamental to your organization’s success than ensuring all members collaborate internally and externally in the most efficient ways possible. To uncover needs in this area, reflect on how well your organization:

    • Defines roles and responsibilities, including optimal methods of customer engagement
    • Communicates expectations and promotes an understanding of roles and responsibilities across the team
    • Leverages all relevant internal stakeholders in a well-orchestrated approach to impactful customer engagement
    • Provides skills-based training tailored to the needs of those in reach roles to optimize ways of working
  • Topic 4: Selling With Impact

At the end of the day (or the year), a focus on essential selling skills may make the greatest impact on your organization’s success. To identify areas for improvement, consider if your sales representatives:

    • Can tell a compelling story that will change customer habits
    • Possess the critical and fundamental market access skills necessary for success
    • Utilize marketplace knowledge to proactively engage in competitive selling conversations
    • Ask impactful probing questions to uncover hidden information and advance the call

Make it new!

After reviewing the above prompts, you have likely already identified a few areas you’d like to explore further. Before you bring them to your organization, know that people sometimes hesitate when encouraged to focus on fundamentals. For many, the approach just doesn’t seem exciting enough. Even the phrase “back to basics” can be interpreted as a retreat rather than a way forward.

That’s why, once you’ve identified your organizational needs, it’s important to make the case for why training on fundamentals can link to business and organizational objectives and be as innovative and captivating as the latest trend. To do so, consider that:

  • Fundamental doesn’t mean easy.

Too often, people assume basic topics are simplistic—too simplistic, in fact, to warrant a training focus. Showing them the complexities and nuances inherent to these fundamental skills and topics can be an eye-opening experience that is worth getting excited about!

  • Knowing of a topic doesn’t mean knowing a topic.

Because they sound familiar, people may assume they understand these back-to-basics topics. But do they? It can be thrilling to unpack a topic you thought stale only to realize there’s more to learn. And, for new hires, it’s important to note that what may have worked in their last role may not be transferrable to their current organization.

  • The method of training can revitalize a back-to-basics topic.

Keep in mind that, whether leveraging virtual experiences, role-play scenarios, or gamification, trainers have myriad tools at their disposal to make learners’ experiences feel vital and of the moment.

What next? Work with a partner

Whether internally—or through an external vendor—it will be important to find partners that can help you expand your needs analysis, detail areas for improvement, create a comprehensive learning journey, develop resources, deliver solutions that prioritize reinforcement, and, ultimately, help you measure the impact of your training. If that seems like a lot of steps, it is! And that’s precisely why it’s vital to correctly identify the topics now, in January, that will determine where you’ll find yourself at this time next year.


Chapin Brinegar holds a Master of Science in Instructional Technology and has more than 18 years of experience in education, corporate training, and instructional design. As the senior director of instructional design and learning strategy for Encompass, Chapin works closely with her clients to uncover their specific needs and to design, develop, and deploy a variety of superior learning solutions.

Jenn Lalli has more than 15 years of combined sales and marketing leadership in the pharmaceutical, healthcare, and dental industries. As senior director of business development and marketing for Encompass, she partners closely with clients to understand their needs and provides support and direction throughout the process. Named the 2023 LTEN Member of the Year, Jenn earned a BS in Business Administration from Villanova University and an MBA with a specialty in marketing from the University of Connecticut.