70:20:10 – Experience, Exposure and Education

How do we learn? When do we learn? And why? Why do organisations need their people to learn? And what do they want them to learn? Where? How often? When? And who teaches them? And when are all these questions going to stop? Well, right now would seem to be a good time.

These are all pertinent questions, though. Organisations should be constantly challenging themselves into seeking new ways of enlightening their people, and encouraging their development, and building a knowledge based corporate structure. It is also just as important to identify the most effective ways to communicate essential information and to best ensure retention. As the world has changed in recent years, so has Learning and Development in the workplace. The workforce has become more transient, global and evolutionary, 24/7, and L&D providers need to tailor their response to these times. Less the instructor, more the introducer. Less the supervisor, more the supporter.

Learning and Development professionals have recognised the worth of the 70-20-10 model since its creation in the 1980s at the Center For Creative Leadership, Greensboro, North Carolina, and was based on key evidence gathered from 200 successful managers reporting how they themselves learn. In this context, the word creation may not, in fact, be correct. Maybe this model developed itself? Another question.

Organisations seeking to offer broad, integrated and comprehensive learning methods to their people see the 70:20:10 model as a productive and useful guiding tool in the delivering of training, and it provides a structure for organisations to better focus on more effective learning methods. We know that single event based learning is cumbersome and outdated, costly to provide and more so to scale up, and is a lengthy process to develop, design and deliver. The 70:20:10 model, therefore, provides a variety of tools for Learning and Development professionals, an approach just as comfortably applicable and appropriate to SMEs as it is to multinational corporations.



The model asserts that, in terms of professional development, individuals take 70 percent of their learning and knowledge from on-the-job experiences, equipping them with the opportunity to discover and develop job related skills, addressing challenges, and learning from their mistakes. Learning as part of the everyday is something we’re all familiar with. We are used to learning from our surroundings, and workplace learning is no different. Through secondments, shadowing, and job-sharing, individuals build knowledge on an immersive and inclusive basis, knowledge of how their role reflects on and is affected by the roles of others.



20 percent of in-work learning is achieved on a more social basis. Community based learning sees individuals working closely together with fellow team members and their peers, learning together as a group- under a more collaborative and co-operative approach, with constant support, monitoring and feedback providing further encouragement from management. By identifying and exploiting the benefits of personal networks, individuals feel encouraged and better equipped in their learning, and in their professional development. This supportive element assists in making learning self driven and more autonomous.



The final 10 percent comes from a more formalised approach to learning, with coursework, target setting, and issue focussed educational methods all playing their part. E-learning, mLearning and online resources have revolutionised this aspect of Learning and Development. Digital learning tools, such as Wranx, provide more focussed, easier accessed, more cost effective training. Further to that, it is essential to understand how each of these elements relate to each other, and digital methods can bridge all three strands of the 70:20:10 model, providing support and linking the three together.


It is valuable to remember that, while the ratio is neither overly sophisticated and by no means exact, (this is not a recipe, after all) it is certainly as flexible as many of the approaches currently employed by Learning and Development providers. It does, nevertheless, provide us with a useful guide of how we prefer to learn, and how comfortable we feel under the umbrella of this model, this approach. The model is a framework built to support, not just, or even only, to supervise. Work based learning we know, uses many frameworks to harness and guide learning, while keeping the focus on performance.

Some organisations report that they were already using the 70:20:10, with training activities easily assimilated into the model, and in turn, the model allowing individuals to take control of their own training requirements with greater ease. As we know, allowing individuals greater autonomy with their learning brings greater engagement, and enhanced performance, which in turn leads to better productivity.

So, we know that this model brings greater value, enhanced retention of knowledge and skills, transcends the negatives of structured, single event based training, and brings a focus on outcomes and performance, enabling organisations to better invest in their people. 70:20:10 lights the pathway to learning both for organisations, Learning and Development professionals and individuals alike, hopefully answering some, if not all, of our questions.

Written by: Persia Shahkarami

Persia is passionate about helping organizations improve employee engagement across their professional development initiatives.
Published: 20 Jul, 2016