Having MSLs involved in your home office projects can be extremely beneficial to everyone involved. As a project owner, you benefit by ensuring that you have the field’s perspective on how something should work, gaining KOL perspective from those who interact most frequently with them, and increasing the capacity of your team.
Participating in home office projects is also beneficial for your MSLs. Being on project teams gives MSLs a broader perspective of medical affairs, develops skills needed for advancement, and provides the opportunity to develop relationships with the home office team.
Unfortunately, many home office project assignments do not live up to the potential that they can have for the MSL or for the organization. Instead, MSLs can become consumed with work related to the project, home office leaders complain that the field representatives do not provide the right support, and it is unclear if the experience was a success.
Inviting your MSLs to participate in home office projects should be approached with the same discipline and formality as hiring any other person or contractor to participate in that project. There are three things that you can do to improve the chances of a great experience for the MSL and engaging a valuable resource on the team:
1. Select your MSL participant like you would an employee:
The basis of any good role, full-time or on a project basis, is clear expectations. Each member of your project team should have a written description of the role that you are asking them to fulfill and you should have identified the capabilities needed to fulfill that role. A best practice is to post your project roles the same way that you would post a full-time position. Allow people to apply for the role, interview them to determine fit, and then make a formal selection.
2. Minimize time requirement:
It is important to remember that your MSLs have ongoing externally-facing responsibilities. While time is often built into the MSL role for home office engagements, that time should be used judiciously. As a project leader, you should fight to protect the time of all of your project participants, but especially those that are engaging externally. Ensure that you have done all that you can do behind the scenes, so that when you do require time from the team, you get the most from it. If you are configuring a system, get the requirements 80% figured out and then bring the team together. If you are building educational materials, tap into your team for content and design, but then keep the vendor management to the home office.
3. Give feedback and coaching:
Participating in home office projects is a great development opportunity, but only if learning occurs. This means that as the project leader you need to ensure that you are giving feedback on the work the MSL is doing. While it can always be a little awkward, given that the MSL has a supervisor, by inviting anyone to be on your project team you are in a position to coach. Schedule specific times to give formal feedback and check in to make sure they are getting the development experience that they expected.
Being a part of home office projects can be one of the best development opportunities for the MSL team while adding significant value to the project team. It is critical that you manage these experiences well to make them a success.