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Keys to Making Compliance Training More Humane

Danielle Duran on compliance training

Danielle Duran is the Director of GxP Compliance and Training at Aimmune Therapeutics (a Nestle Health Science Company) and there are some things that just push her buttons. Accepting that compliance training is a simple “checkbox” type of activity is one of those things that pushes her buttons, and she’s found a way to get other people at her organization on board when it comes to making compliance training more engaging, effective and humane.

She shares her thoughts in today’s podcast. Please keep in mind that all opinions expressed in this conversation are hers and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Nestle, Nestle Health Sciences or Aimmune Therapeutics.


Brian Washburn: Welcome, everyone, to another episode of Train Like You Listen, a podcast about all things learning and development in bite-sized chunks. I’m Brian Washburn, I am your host. I’m also the Co-founder of a training company called Endurance Learning. And I am joined today by Danielle Duran, who is the Director of GxP Learning at Aimmune Therapeutics, which is a Nestle Health Sciences company.

Before we get to Danielle, I do need to let you know that today’s podcast is brought to you by Soapbox, which is an online tool that you can use for 5 or 10 minutes. You go in, you take care of about 50 or 60% of the work when it comes to developing a live, instructor-led training. It’s done for you. You tell the computer how long your presentation is, how many people are going to attend, whether it’s in-person or virtual, what your learning objectives are, and then Soapbox will generate a training plan for you with clusters of training activities that are designed to help you accomplish your learning outcomes. You go in, you add your content, and boom, you have a whole training session. If you want more information or if you want to try it for free for two weeks, visit

Okay. We have Danielle. She is the director of GxP Learning. If you’re not familiar with GxP learning, Danielle, what is GxP?

Danielle Duran: GxP stands for “Good Anything Practices,” and it’s a term used in the regulated side of pharmaceuticals. And it’s related to terms that like the FDA or other similar health authorities use.

Brian Washburn: Perfect. So why don’t we actually just get into what do you do? Can you boil down your whole career in six words for us?

Six-word Biography

Danielle Duran: My current career?

Brian Washburn: Sure.

Danielle Duran: In six words? Maybe, and one extra maybe. “I own the regulated training in a pharma company.”

Brian Washburn: And that’s perfect. So you work in the world of compliance training, and I’ve seen some of the things that you’ve posted on LinkedIn, which I was like, “Ooh, I should reach out to Danielle and talk about this.” You work a lot on compliance training and I think a lot of people who listen kind of in one sense cringe when they hear compliance training; in another sense they’re like, “Ooh, what can I do better when it comes to compliance training?” So that term can mean lots of different things for lots of different people. So the first thing we need to do is do some level setting. When you talk about compliance training, what exactly are you talking about?

What is Compliance Training?

It's a definite dislike for a lot of people, and that's because of how uncomfortable it can be.

Danielle Duran: Yeah, I think you’re absolutely right. I think a lot of people have that reaction of cringe or you know fear, definite– it’s a definite dislike for a lot of people, and that’s because of how uncomfortable it can be. Compliance in most companies is always going to have some core aspects that are similar and that’s related to things like sexual harassment or safety or things related to the law, like anti-corruption or those types of things that most companies you have to be aware of.

Everyone signs off on their company code of conduct, and everyone signs off on the employee handbook – that’s all compliance type stuff. But then specific industries may have additional compliance, things that they may need to worry about. So in the energy industry and the aerospace industry, and then also in pharmaceutical and healthcare type industry, you have additional types of compliance-regulated stuff.

Brian Washburn: Okay. That’s super helpful because a lot of times people would say, “Oh, compliance training,” or, “Ugh, compliance training.” But it’s good to have, like, a definition of what specifically we’re talking about here. Now for a variety of reasons, most often having something to do with legal requirements, like you were just mentioning, or protections for an organization, all staff, regardless of their roles, are often required to complete the compliance training, right? They must comply with the training programs or modules.

Danielle Duran: Yes.

Brian Washburn: What are some of the challenges that you have seen of trying to design an engaging compliance training that everyone, regardless of their role, their level in the company, which department they work in, everyone is required to complete?

The Challenges of Designing Engaging Compliance Training

I think the language is what holds us back in a way, in some of that compliance training. Because-- like what you just said, everyone's required to complete but not necessarily required to successfully learn from or change behavior from.

Danielle Duran: Yeah. So I think, as you started off by getting us level set on certain language, right? Let’s use the same words to mean the same things. And I think the language is what holds us back in a way, in some of that compliance training. Because– like what you just said, everyone’s required to complete but not necessarily required to successfully learn from or change behavior from. So I think just that term itself, everyone has to complete this task and we call it training, but we don’t actually always mean training. We just mean read a thing and then sign that you understand it.

Compliance training is passive

So I think what’s challenging about designing something that’s engaging is the language that we use to define it oftentimes doesn’t suggest it should be or needs to be engaging. And I think that goes against exactly what we know as training professionals, learning professionals of how learning works, right? So learning works by engaging in some type of experience and having a clear definition of success at the end.

Whereas completing something is just doing a thing in a passive way, and a lot of times that same compliance training happens to us. It’s not necessarily something that we are part of the design of the outcome or giving feedback on what we want to accomplish or even what’s best for any given team – because it could be different by team.

Brian Washburn: This is really interesting, you know, whether it’s somebody’s giving you just the policy, right? Read it, sign it, and boom, you are “trained.” it’s almost like reading terms and conditions for using a website, right?

Danielle Duran: Oh, 100%, yeah.

Brian Washburn: And so I’d love to hear a little bit more from you in terms of some of the strategies that you’ve found to be particularly effective when it comes to designing compliance training that can actually yield behavior change. You talk about outcomes a little bit, but is there something more to it than just kind of defining what outcomes you want?

Strategies for Designing Effective Compliance Training

Danielle Duran: Well, I think that’s– it’s what we know about good training, good learning design, right? You have to know what you want the outcome to be. So you 100% need to understand the behavior change that you would like to have. So are you doing the training because you need your annual requirements met? Have you looked at trends where you think, “Well, we’ve had these certain number or types of compliance violations and so we need to change something?” Or is there something new coming up?

I remember when people started implementing social media policies because companies at the same time were getting active in social media, you know, LinkedIn, Twitter, whatever. But they needed to have a policy, and the policy usually stated, “you can’t engage with these posts. So the company at the same time is saying, “Hey, we’re, you know, doing this stuff on social media, pay attention.” But also sign this policy that says “You’re not going to touch any of it or share any of it.” So it can be very confusing to people.

You can't expect that behavior changes from only reading something because those two activities don't line up. They're not aligned.

And so that’s why the most successful, effective training has to be very, very clear with what behavior you want to either change or reinforce or create, and then be very clear in your design that it leads to that. So you can’t expect that behavior changes from only reading something because those two activities don’t line up.

They’re not aligned. I’ve seen a couple compliance teams do really phenomenal training that people love. They get really great feed– people are excited to go, and that’s case study type training where they present real examples of, “look at this text message,” or, “what do you think happened when,” or they present scenarios. And that gets people really thinking and gets that– your brain activity is aligned to what they want and what they expect to happen later as opposed to just reading something.

Brian Washburn: This is really interesting because you know a lot of organizations in my experience have said, “Well, we just want ’em to sign it, right? They just need to sign it and let’s move on. Let’s not spend a ton of time, especially if they have it every year.” And what you’re talking about is a different kind of experience and it goes to accountability, right? So, one measure of accountability can be, “Well, they signed it, so it’s their fault if they violate it.” But a more humane level of accountability is just to make sure that people get it, right? So, not only, “Yeah, I understand it,” but can you show me that you’re able to do this through like a case study or some sort of simulation or something like that.

Now, some organizations may be like, “Well, that’s, that seems like it’s going to take people’s time, take money to develop something like that.”

Danielle Duran: Yes.

Brian Washburn: You talk a little bit, you know– to those people who are listening and to what you’ve done and think that they’d like to move their own compliance training in a similar direction. What did you have to do and what kinds of conversations have you had to have in order to get buy-in from people at your organization as you attempt to move toward more meaningful, more engaging, more effective compliance training?

Danielle Duran: Sure.

Brian Washburn: Dare I say humane? Humane compliance training.

Danielle Duran: Yeah. And I want to– I love that you use that term because that’s exactly what it is, right? We are people, and we should be acknowledging each other in that way and acknowledging that— yeah, I just love that you say that. Now I’ve been very lucky in that some of the compliance teams that– so those are teams of attorneys or attorney adjacent type professionals who do that type of work. And I’ve been lucky in that those that I’ve worked with, they had already started moving in this direction. But it’s more the folks that I work with on the regulated side of the business who are very used to, “Well, we’re just going to give people this document. They just need to read it and sign. And if there’s a mistake, then we’ll document that, and we’ll deal with that.” And they can be in, you know, whatever kind of trouble you want to call what happens when those things happen.

I think the phrase that I try to use more often to help people to understand why spending time in this way is going to get more of what you want is, "If you don't have time to do it right now, when will you have time to fix it?"

But I think the phrase that I try to use more often to help people to understand why spending time in this way is going to get more of what you want is, “If you don’t have time to do it right now, when will you have time to fix it?” Because it takes so much more time to fix later, and all of the– it’s waste, right? So if you work with anyone who does Six Sigma or Operational Excellence, you don’t want waste. You want to eliminate waste, and you’re going to have a lot more waste later.

And you’re going to have the cultural impact of things not going well or people feeling unsupported. And I think now over the last couple years, that culture piece has become more and more part of the conversation. People just want information. People go to work to do a good job. No one goes to work to do bad work or do a poor job.

So people just need information, they need some tools, and that’s what they’re getting when you’re providing them effective compliance training. You’re giving them information, you’re letting them practice, and I love that you brought up that evidence of it being effective. So if you’re the trainer and you’re saying– and you hear from people, “Oh, they really get it. I hear them in their responses to these case studies. I know it’s working.” That’s very different than just hoping they’ve picked up something and signing off on it.

Brian Washburn: And this is a topic that I mean, there are books out there, there are job aids out there about how to do better compliance training, but I appreciate that you were able to kind of distill this down into like a 15-minute conversation. And obviously it’s more complex, but I really appreciate what you were able to share here in terms of just here are some basic things that we should be thinking about. And anybody who’s been working in training for a while should be able to take some of these ideas and run with them. So Danielle, thank you so much for giving me some time today.

Thank you everyone else for taking a listen to our latest podcast. If you know somebody who might find today’s topic about bringing more engagement to compliance training, please do pass a link to this podcast along. If you’re interested in learning more about a broad range of all sorts of learning and development strategies, you can pick up a copy of What’s Your Formula? Combine Learning Elements for Impactful Training, written by yours truly, at

Until next time, happy training everyone.

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