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David James


Chief Learning Officer

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The IT Gap that’s Damaging L&D


If you’re like me then you’re using your mobile devices to keep you on track, to help you collaborate with colleagues, connect to peers, stay informed with what’s going on, and be inspired to learn. On a daily basis I’m in Evernote, Google Docs, Google+, Slack, WhatsApp, Trello, Twitter, Newsify, and Flipboard - each of them offering me valuable services that improve the efficiency of my work and my general productivity, in ever more intuitive ways.

This is in contrast to my experience of corporate life where, for me, there seemed to be an internal tussle between old-world legacy systems and the new-world of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and the habits, preferences and motivations of the owner of that device.

I've been talking for some time about the 'IT Gap', which is what I call the gap between the work and personal IT experiences, the conflict it creates between employee and employer, and its negative impact on L&D.

In short, and for anybody who wasn’t working during the 1990s, we used to experience superior IT at work, in terms of hardware, software and (later) internet connectivity. I remember not having access to the Internet at home -only at work - and that doesn’t seem too long ago!

Then, towards the end of the last decade, personal computing - and especially mobile - gave us intuitive, connected technology, right in our hands. And now for many of us, the IT experience at work doesn't match up to what we've come to know and rely on, creating an IT Gap that only seems to be growing.

Now before I go any further, this isn’t a piece about slamming the IT function. I know there are plenty of systems introduced into organisations that IT have little say in procuring. For instance, when Disney introduced their first global LMS and Performance Management system, it was by no means the fault of IT. So to be clear, I’m not trying to make enemies of my friends in IT. However, there is a problem and one that many of us have experienced - even my friends in IT.

In a recent conversation with a younger HR professional, she described having to ‘switch off part of her brain’ because the systems she used at work were so outdated and unsophisticated.

The IT Gap is negatively impacting organisational learning too.

Every L&D leader I speak with struggles to drive traffic to their LMS.

I know, from experience, that it’s difficult to encourage people to stop work and to learn, but could it be just as much to do with the IT Gap and not creating an online environment that people recognise, expect, and want to engage with?

This year’s Global Human Capital Trends report states that “whilst employees now demand a personalised, digital learning experience that feels like YouTube, many companies are stuck with old learning management systems”

At Disney it was the same. For the 8 years I was there, we had a hideous LMS with uninspiring e-learning courses that our people barely engaged with (unless it was mandatory). But I recently attended an event hosted by one of the big LMS providers, who demo’d their latest e-learning course. To describe it to you, the 'learner' controls a character, leading him along a ‘board game’-style path towards a series of different offices. When the ‘learner’ enters one of these offices, they arrive in a room and hover their mouse over objects to reveal more text. They getpoints for everything they reveal - in fact, they receive points for pretty much anything, except clicking ‘exit’. If this is an example of the latest 'progressive' e-learning, then it’s actually another example of the IT Gap because that’s nothing like the learning experience we’d choose when we learn in life. To be honest, it felt more like an early 1980’s computer game - and now I’m really showing my age.

In the main, I don’t think L&D’s role right now is to be Innovators. As far as technology is concerned, it’s time to catch up. We need to look at ourselves and our own learning habits first. This will give us clues to what ‘learners’ want to engage with online because they will be choosing to learn in not too dissimilar ways to you and I.

Google has given us instant ‘knowing’. ‘How to’ searches on YouTube are growing by 70% year on year. Mobile gives all this to us wherever we are.

The modern learner is an empowered learner and expects to find the knowledgeand the know-how they need instantly, online and without leaving their workflow. If you’re not providing that, then there’s an IT gap.

This post was written by David James, former-Director of Talent, Learning & OD for The Walt Disney Company EMEA and now Learning Strategist with

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David James

Chief Learning Officer

Read more from David James

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