Home Insights 30 minutes with UDG Healthcare’s Head of Learning and Development

30 minutes with UDG Healthcare’s Head of Learning and Development


We recently sat down to chat with UDG Healthcare’s Head of Learning and Development, Chris Lonsdale, who offered insights into how he thinks training has evolved over the last year, the importance of seeking out inspiration, and his top 3 TED Talks.

1. Which part of UDG Healthcare do you work for and what is your role?

As Head of Learning and Development for UDG Healthcare, I work with a number of different parts of the business, but a large part of my job is to work with HR and our Head of Talent Management to understand the learning needs of the UDG, Ashfield and Sharp employees, and to develop programmes and resources to support those needs.

2. Tell us a bit about your background.

I joined Ashfield Event Experiences nearly 11 years ago – back then it was called UniversalProcon! I then moved into medical sales roles before working in the Ashfield Engage UK training team. From there I developed and delivered several training courses, managed the training team, and subsequently developed the Inspire Business Development programme. My most recent role was as the UK and Ireland Training Manager for Santen… but it’s great to be back now in my current role!

3. What do you love about training and development?

I love problem-solving, so when someone tells me they want to get better at something, I feel passionate about helping them – talking through their options, working through their challenges, and creating a bespoke plan for them. Training and development always involves problem-solving, because it isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ process, and there are so many different ways that you can achieve successful results with someone.

 4. What are the biggest challenges in your role?

Pleasing everyone. It’s called ‘personal development’ for a reason… The other challenge is encouraging activation of learning – taking what you learn from a course and applying it in the workplace.

5. What is on the agenda for you for the rest of 2021?

Continually improving our learning management system, Greenhouse, and reviewing ways we can enhance our learning and development offering to our employees, with a focus on leadership development.

 6. Which UDG Healthcare value fits you best and why?

Probably Ingenuity. I like to challenge the status quo and do things differently – because of COVID, I’m very keen to look at how we can be doing things differently.

 7. How do you think training has changed during the pandemic, and where do you see the future of training?

I definitely think there has been a positive shift in the adoption of online training where there might have been some reluctance before, because we’ve had no option but to become experts in tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams. One of the biggest challenges I’ve found in the past is getting people to embed the learning into their daily roles, and I believe that virtual training will actually allow people to learn better, because they can space out smaller, more frequent and convenient training sessions into their daily lives.

In contrast, the switch to virtual has also meant the disappearance of casual networking during breaks where people often chat and learn about their employees and their businesses. Networking shouldn’t be underestimated, but unfortunately this just doesn’t tend to occur as much (if at all) in a virtual environment.

Going forward, a more hybrid approach to training will be needed – a blend of things such as face-to-face sessions, virtual classroom follow-ups and coaching, and online self-learning, using tools and technology available to us like Microsoft Teams and Zoom.

Overall, this year has given us the opportunity to really re-think learning and development, identify what our employees want from training, and how it now fits into their daily lives – it’s been a welcome change that has forced us to shift our thinking.

 8. What are your top 3 favourite TED talks to recommend to our readers?

  • Inside the mind of a master procrastinator – Tim Urban
  • Who are you, really? The puzzle of personality – Brian Little
  • How to start a movement – Derek Sivers

 9. What is your advice to someone who wants to start focusing on personal development, or wants to take their personal development to the next level?

Firstly, build a network of people who will support and champion you, whether that’s your manager or someone in your personal life. Knowing where you want to go is important but isn’t always possible at the start, so seek out inspiration, speak to others to see how they got to where they are and where there could be opportunities.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to people that you don’t know much about, or have skills that you admire – find a mentor! Reaching out to people might provide clarity on an otherwise cloudy personal development journey. I also strongly believe that you should find something that interests you, as you’re far more likely to take it in and remember it.

 10. Finally, what is your one piece of advice for your peers?

Listen to people. When people are talking, give them your full attention and be present. This is even more important in the virtual world… you wouldn’t read emails if someone was talking to you in-person. Also, waiting to talk is not listening.