Mind the gap: culture vs. good practice

by Viv on November 24, 2008

In “Inside Learning Technologies”, Vaughan Waller writes an interesting article article about the gap between what he regarded as e-learning good practice and how accountants said that they wanted to learn. He cites the example of his firm providing International Financial Reporting Standards e-learning and how he’d like to approach it.

“I am convinced that a blended multimedia programme will do the trick. But this is where I am up against decades of the traditional way of doing things in accountancy whether or not it has ever been shown that these have been successful.

I envisaged using podcasts to set the scene, enabling learners to come to the overall programme with particular scenarios in mind. We would then provide some topic based e-learning modules which would be relatively short and cross linked to enable them to be used as a resource afterwards. Then I would follow this up with a blog to discuss the issues raised and hopefully a learning community would spring up out of this which would take on a life of its own (with some heavy pushing from the T&D department!).

A wiki could be created which would enable each standard to have case history examples and comments added to it, creating a bank of worked examples, do’s and don’ts and SME (subject matter expert) advice. All of this of course, rigorously mediated and monitored by the SMEs to ensure clarity and accuracy. It sounds great doesn’t it? What a case history this could turn out to be!”

Instead Moore Stephens opted for a set of self-paced e-learning modules, much along the same lines as Deloitte’s IFRS e-learning which started meeting much the same learning need in 2001. So rather than take advantages of the technologies that have become more mainstream since then, MS has opted for the sameold sameold. I sympathise with Vaughan’s dilemma – as an L&D professional, do you provide the best you can? or compromise by going with what the target audience is used to?

In professional services L&D, you are always likely to be amongst the early adopters of change wishing that the rest of the firm would catch up. You only have to look at the typical dreadfulness of powerpoint presentations people are prepared to put up with e.g. for technical updates, you get a sense of how big this cultural distance is.

During a downturn, L&D will typically find it more politically savvy to focus messages on the value it’s delivering, not exhorting client-facing staff to change (they’ll be even more resistant to change than normal as they’ll be wanting to keep their heads down and chargeable hours high). However, you may want to spend some time exploring different approaches on a small scale as they may offer you creative ways of stretching budgets further and place you well to take advantage of the up-turn when it comes.

I’m confident that Vaughan will get there in the end, but it will be probably be a game of lots of influencing and not so much enjoying the new technologies.

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