Coveted accolade for Best Advance in Compliance Training, recognizing measurable benefit and innovation

AstraZeneca, the global biopharmaceutical company and Sponge, a leader in innovative custom digital learning won a coveted Brandon Hall Group silver award for Excellence in Learning 2019.

Sponge and AstraZeneca’s success in the category of Best Advance in Compliance Training was announced online on Thursday, 22 August 2019 at a ‘virtual’ awards ceremony.

The two organizations have been recognized for their innovative collaboration to refresh AstraZeneca’s annual 2018 Code of Ethics programm as part of the company’s ongoing move to focus on principles, values and behaviors rather than rules of conduct.

Working in partnership with digital learning experts at Sponge, AstraZeneca set out to shift the perception of mandatory compliance training from a ‘have to do’ to a ‘want to do’ activity, firmly embedding ethics in the company’s DNA.

The award-winning integrated compliance campaign included multiple digital elements to support maximum employee engagement, promote meaningful conversations about ethics and enable global employees to participate via the device of their choice. More details about the project are available at

Louise Vamvoukaki, Director of Sustainability: Education and Engagement, AstraZeneca said: “The world in which we operate is changing and as L&D and compliance professionals we need to transform to meet that change. A principles-based Code of Ethics course helps empower our employees to know who we are and what we believe in, helping us all make good decisions. Bringing that message to life with a creative partner who combines engaging learning techniques with the latest technology has been a game changer for us and it is great to see this recognized.”

The new and innovative approach to learning implemented in partnership with Sponge has transformed the effectiveness of AstraZeneca’s compliance training. Completion rates increased by 13% compared to the previous year and a survey (2,226 respondents) revealed that 90% of employees felt very or extremely engaged with the learning.

Louise Pasterfield, founder and Managing Director, Sponge said: “Gaining international recognition in this way is a significant achievement and reflects the strong and collaborative relationship between Sponge and AstraZeneca. This project shows what can be achieved by combining technology and creativity to challenge conventional attitudes to compliance training, turning it from a ‘chore’ to a highly engaging experience.”

“Brandon Hall Group Excellence Awards Program has recognized leading organizations for the past twenty-plus years for the latest trends in Human Capital Management,” said Rachel Cooke, Brandon Hall Group COO and leader of the HCM Excellence Awards Program. “The initiatives that were honored are not only innovative but fit the unique needs of the business and create truly remarkable success stories.”

Award entries were evaluated by a panel of veteran, independent senior industry experts, Brandon Hall Group analysts and executives based upon the following criteria: fit the need, design of the program, functionality, innovation and overall measurable benefits.

Excellence Awards winners will be honored at Brandon Hall Group’s HCM Excellence Conference, February 4-6, 2020, at the Hilton West Palm Beach, Florida. Select winners also will serve as presenters in breakout sessions, sharing their leading practices during the conference.

“The HCM Excellence Awards recognize programs that measurably benefit organizations,” said Mike Cooke, Brandon Hall Group CEO. “Many human capital management departments are unable to confirm that their initiatives help the business’s bottom line. Because we focus on measurable benefits, our awards program is universally recognized and highly prestigious.”

The winners are listed at

Notes for editors:

About Sponge

Sponge is the largest independently-owned custom digital learning provider in Europe. We deliver seriously creative workplace training for some of the world’s largest brands – including Coca-Cola, Toyota, Specsavers, Tesco, AstraZeneca, AXA, the NHS, Royal Mail and the United Nations.

Our bespoke learning solutions solve multiple business challenges, from risk and compliance (e.g. cyber security and health and safety) to business transformation, people development (e.g. employee onboarding) and skills enhancement. Harnessing the very latest in cutting-edge technology, Sponge’s solutions include elearning, learning games and gamification, animation and motion graphics, immersive technologies (e.g. interactive video, simulations, virtual reality and augmented reality), microsites and blended learning. Our digital learning is used in more than 124 countries worldwide.

Winning multiple awards over the past 15 years, the company is a trail blazer in the digital learning industry. Sponge was named Learning Provider of the Year at 2019 Learning Awards and won silver for Company of the Year at the 2018 Learning Technologies Awards.


About Brandon Hall Group

Brandon Hall Group is an HCM research and advisory services firm that provides insights around key performance areas, including Learning and Development, Talent Management, Leadership Development, Talent Acquisition and HR/Workforce Management.

With more than 10,000 clients globally and 25 years of delivering world-class research and advisory services, Brandon Hall Group is focused on developing research that drives performance in emerging and large organizations, and provides strategic insights for executives and practitioners responsible for growth and business results.


For further information, email Vicky Hayden at or call +44 (0)1752 764825.


Rachel Cooke

Chief Operating Officer Rachel Cooke Rachel is responsible for business operations including overseeing client services, research events and project management. Prior to joining Brandon Hall Group, Rachel was the Chief Operating Officer Co-founder of AC Growth. Rachel has over 15 years of experience in sales, marketing, business development, and sales performance management. Prior to AC Growth, she held several senior management roles and was on the leadership team at Bersin & Associates, a pioneer analyst firm in e-learning and now industry leading HR and talent Research Company. In her Senior Director role, Rachel developed the strategy and led the commercial execution of the solution provider vertical, and grew the vertical into the company’s largest market segment. In her role as Director of Sales, Rachel developed and led a team of senior account executives focused on acquiring global strategic accounts. Rachel was solely responsible for developing key business relationships with over ninety companies including industry icons, such as: Adidas, Hewlett-Packard, Toyota, Oracle, Starbucks, Avnet, Boeing, Kaiser Permanente, Safeway Inc., Wells Fargo, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Clorox and Affiliated Computer Services. Rachel began her career in the banking, media and hospitality industries. In these industries, Rachel held several key senior management and executive sales positions. Rachel received a BA in social science and interdisciplinary studies with honors from Florida Atlantic University. Rachel continued her postgraduate education by completing a series of executive management education courses from American Management Association.