The 70:20:10 learning model

The 70:20:10 learning model was first proposed in 1996 and has gained traction in corporate learning and development departments. These notes survey several high-level and practical articles about the model.

Biech, E. (2016) ‘The 90% Solution’, TD magazine, December, pp. 58-63 [Online]. Available for ATD members at https://www.td.org/magazines/td-magazine/the-90-percent-solution.

Hoyle, R. (2012) ‘A new blend’, Training Journal, January, pp. 13-15.

Lombardo, M., and Eichinger, R. (1996) The Career Architect Development Planner, Minneapolis, Lominger Limited.

O’Driscoll, T. (2015) ‘Getting Training in Gear’, Training Magazine, January/February, p. 138. Available at https://trainingmag.com/trgmag-article/getting-training-gear.

Paine, N. (2014) ‘Chapter 4, What 70:20:10 is and why it is important’, The Learning Challenge: Dealing with technology, innovation, and change in learning and development, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Kogan Page.

Petterd, R. (2016) ’70:20:10 Based Learning Ecosystems’, Training & Development, August, pp. 10-11 [Online].

Notes

This concept was published by Eichinger and Lombardo in their 1996 book titled The Career Architect Development Planner. ‘Development generally begins with a realization of current or future need and the motivation to do something about it. This might come from feedback, a mistake, watching other people’s reactions, failing or not being up to a task – in other words, from experience. The odds are that development will be about 70% from on-the-job experiences, working on tasks and problems; about 20% from feedback and working around good and bad examples of the need, and 10% from courses and reading’ (Lombardo and Eichinger, 1996, p. 4).

That is, our learning is:

I think it is a mistake to interpret these numbers as empirically proven in serious research. Instead, it is best to view them as a general guide of proportions. 

Biech: Learning activities for each component

Biech cites several previous studies that found roughly the same ratio as the 70:20:10 model.

10%:

20%:

70%:

Some activities can cross over two or three of the components: Social learning activities like blogging paired with formal learning; on-demand webinars or job aids that can be used as-needed to support on-the-job performance and which can be made more social with a follow-up discussion with a manager.

Two concerns when implementing a 70:20:10 model: Do managers agree to their role in developing people? And, does the learning and development team know what it needs to do to foster and support the managers? I think learners would also have concerns, about how to be more self-directed in their learning, and about having understanding and agreement on the roles and model.

Hoyle: An example

The 70:20:10 model does not mean that formal training is unimportant. The model requires greater planning and management of learning and development.

In Hoyle’s (2012) example:

One challenge in implementing the 70:20:10 model is to make sure you have support of the organization, and that they understand that this does not replace formal training with unplanned on-the-job experiences. The work experiences are carefully planned, and the formal training courses are designed to complement them. The social learning involves experts, managers, and others who may need help in their roles as coach and mentor, and that help may also be part of a 70:20:10 model for them (to help them learn mentoring, for example).

Hoyle ends by remarking that the 70:20:10 model works in a complementary fashion with Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle. Kolb’s cycle has 4 parts:

  1. Having a concrete experience
  2. Observing and reflecting on the experience
  3. Forming abstract concepts based on the reflection
  4. Testing the new concepts.

O’Driscoll: Components work together

O’Driscoll offers a drawing that illustrates how the three components of the model work together, and thus should be planned instead of left to chance.

The three components work together like inter-connected gears, where each component rotates or affects the other components

(O’Driscoll, 2015, p. 138)

Paine: More examples, and how to adopt the model

Paine’s book chapter that relies heavily on the writings (and perhaps an interview with) Charles Jennings. He was the global learning leader at Reuters, and now has his own company which promotes the 70:20:10 model. The 70:20:10 model acknowledges something that is easily witnessed. As an example, Paine relays an interaction that occurred during a conference: ‘[S]omeone from the stage asked the audience how they go about learning something new. Google and YouTube were the most popular answers. If the problem was work-based, the response was to ask a colleague Far down the list came ‘enrol on a course” (Paine, 2014, p.65).

Case study: BP replaced their new-employee onboarding class with an online set of resources and links to people you can contact. This is interesting, but not discussed in detail.

L&D department: The 70:20:10 model requires L&D departments to help create a corporate culture that blends work with learning. Their goals should be to affect the corporate culture moreso than to create training courses. They need to facilitate and organize courses, but also facilitate and organize people’s access to the people and resources they need for social learning. They need to create what Jennings calls “workscapes”, the work-learning environment.

70%:

20%:

To adopt the 70:20:10 model:

  1. Find out barriers to access and learning, and find out attitudes within the corporation about developing new skills. Barriers might be support or follow-up given to a person’s learning, or the ease with which the learner can access mentors and mentee opportunities. Attitudes include the learners’ understanding of their opportunities for development and advancement.
  2. Provide tools. Make resources available, to encourage independent learning. Establish the best learners in the company as role models.
  3. Make sure personal development is discussed in performance review meetings.
  4. Build a corporate culture that supports social learning, including support from the senior executive level and involvement with the line managers (who must cooperate).

Petterd: Adopting this model affects managers, employees, and L&D professionals

When an organization adopts a 70:20:10 model, this requires changes from:

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