Unless you’re a professional trainer or an academic, it’s probable that you’ve never heard of the 70:20:10 Learning Model – and that’s unfortunate, because understanding the model is key to understanding how to really leverage your organization’s investment in training.
In a nutshell, the model says that:
- 70% of learning is experiential, and occurs on the job, as a consequence of doing the work and consciously thinking about what you’re doing (and how to do it better).
- 20% of learning is “social learning” – informal coaching, mentoring and learning through the social network of the business
- 10% of learning is from formal “training” – courses, etc
Think about that for a minute:
70% of the skills the people in your organization possess were acquired as a by-product of doing their jobs. Yet when we think of corporate learning, invariable our paradigm involves classrooms, instructors, PowerPoint slides and any number of other things that are removed from the workplace. It’s time for a paradigm shift.
70:20:10 isn’t exactly new; it stems from research conducted at the Center for Creative Leadership and published in the book The Career Architect Development Planner (Lombardo, Eichinger) in 1996. It reinforces even older research from the 60’s and 70’s that found that most learning was self-directed, and the result of having to solve problems on the job.
The 70:20:10 framework is a model, not a law or a rule, but research continues to validate the soundness of this model. When a workplace is organized in a way that allows workers to do things, and then reflect on what they did and the results they achieved – reinforcing the 70% – the results can be truly remarkable.
The model also reinforces something that the lean movement holds dear: if you want to understand, you need to “go to gemba” – the place where work occurs – and learn there.
Does this mean that classroom training is dead? Heck no! That 10% is a critical multiplier that provides the foundation upon which the other 90% is built. Without effective formal training, informal training may never occur at all. But it needs to be done right. And companies need to embrace the 70:20:10 paradigm.
What does this mean? Well, a few things:
- Companies can’t logically expect to be able to hire recent grads and expect them to be “job-ready”. The same holds true for “finished” employees poached from a competitor – they will still need to improve their skills once they are on the job in your company
- Companies need to recognize the value of on-the-job learning and create an environment that supports it. This can mean anything from encouraging experimentation to establishing a “lessons learned” repository where people can post problems and their solutions, thereby speeding up the learning curve of others. As a minimum, it means that everyone in the organization needs to be mentally engaged in their tasks, thinking about what they are doing.
- Companies need to recognize the enormous value of ‘water cooler chats – a dying phenomenon in a world of telecommuting and increasing worker isolation – as a key component of the 20% of learning that is informal and occurs in the context of the workplace social network. Companies need to create space and time for these valuable social interactions to occur.
- Companies need to make sure that the 10% devoted to formal learning and training is as good as they can make it, and REALLY lays the foundation for the other 90% of learning. No more rote learning, no more “death-by-PowerPoint” – learning interventions need to result in changed behaviours and changed thinking, acting as the catalyst for the deeper learning that comes from experience.
- Companies need to focus on the underlying foundation skills and hire for a proven ability and willingness to learn, and to solve problems. Under that kind of paradigm, EVERY worker is a ‘knowledge worker’ – no one is expected to leave their brain at home when they come to work.
- Finally, the role of training departments has to evolve from a focus on the 10%, to being a catalyst for the other 90% of learning. This is a significant paradigm shift away from “bums in seats” and passing information in a lecture and calling it learning. Attendance doesn’t equal performance, and the research backs that up.
70:20:10 isn’t new… but companies that recognize and embrace the model can significantly improve the performance of their workers.
What’s the ratio look like where you work?