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June 22, 2022

Is 70:20:10 a practical approach or merely just a bunch of numbers?

The 70:20:10 learning model is based on a conceptual idea created in 2000 by Michael Lombardo and Robert Eichinger. Some argue that this training and development model is still relevant today and that following it is critical for successfully implementing an organisation's learning and development objectives.

What is the 70:20:10 learning model?

The 70:20:10 model was derived from comparatively small research conducted more than 30 years ago at the Center for Creative Leadership in the United States. They came to the following conclusions about 70:20:10 development plans:

  • 70% of challenging work and practical tasks
  • 20% of informal learning through your social circle, i.e., friends, family, and colleagues
  • 10% of formal education, which includes classes, lectures, and reading

This means that, according to this paradigm, people get most of their knowledge and abilities (70%) from on-the-job training rather than formal education. Allowing employees to learn through their collaboration with others – whether with a manager, a colleague, or a senior leader – is critical to adopting the 20%. Lastly, you should devote 10% of your time and energy to developing a structured professional development programme. 

It might seem obvious but, as with any model, it comes with its own practical challenges…

Is the 70:20:10 model a practical approach or merely just a bunch of numbers?

The good news is that firms have chosen to use the learning model 70:20:10 since the 1980s. It helped them to develop a learning strategy that maximises workforce intellectual development while increasing employee performance, having proved its efficiency over time.

But the fundamental reason why the 70:20:10 models of learning are challenging to apply to daily work processes and operations is that the ratios of formal to informal learning totally depend on your organisation. Here are a few guiding principles that you can take into account when applying the 70:20:10 learning model to your workplace.

It can be said that the main reason why the 70-20-10 model is not easily transferable to the average learning and daily work flows that occur in organisations is because the ratio of informal to formal learning varies depending on the context.

For example, Pontefract’s 3;33 model of pervasive learning presents some alternative ratios on how learning and development takes place. This model suggests;

  • 33% of learning is from social user-generated content and life-experiences.
  • 33% informal learning from mentoring and coaching via senior employees/ employers.
  • 33% formal classroom/course based learning.

Furthermore, researchers have found that while the three learning methods outlined in the studies are valid, organisations that attempted to employ the model in a more rigorous way by sticking to the exact figures had significantly less success than those who chose a more flexible approach with the statistics and used 70:20:10 just as a very broad guideline.

It can therefore be said that the most effective way of using the model is not to look at the numbers themselves but rather the learning methods that have been identified. This is supported by Nigel Paine who said some learning and development people go around saying, ’oh yes, we’re doing 70:20:10’ without actually getting at changing the learning itself.

Treat it as a guideline, not a set rule

If you decide to implement the 70:20:10 rule in your workplace, keep in mind that you are not supposed to follow it to the last detail. You should implement the ratios as a broader overview of each sort of learning. The particular breakdown will rely on your organisation's learning and development requirements.

Additionally, while the three learning methods outlined in the 70:20:10 model are valid, researchers discovered that organisations that attempted to apply the learning model 70:20:10 more rigorously by sticking to the precise numbers had substantially less progress than those who chose a more dynamic approach with the statistics and used 70:20:10 rule as a very general guideline.

Explore blended learning options

While traditional learning offered through formal training programmes may be more helpful in addressing skill gaps, performance concerns, or retraining requirements, 70:20:10 development plans emphasise workplace learning. When it comes to the leadership development model, most employees want to have various options. It is beneficial to examine each specific area and determine the activities that can aid in the model of training and development. There was either classroom-based training or online training in the past, but technology today allows us to design blended learning courses.

Provide opportunities for all kinds of learners

Blended learning within the 70:20:10 model not only incorporates formal and informal learning but also lets employees reach their full potential since every individual reacts differently to different kinds of information. Some of your employees might learn better through formal education while others would prefer to learn tips and tricks while solving the problem at hand. The 70:20:20 model ensures that every employee gets a chance to shine and learn according to their best abilities.

What does blended learning look like in your organisation?

Many successful organisations are going towards blended training since it is one of the best – most relevant and practical – ways to train your employees. My Learning Hub is a leading platform for blended learning programme development, where the theoretical 70:20:10 training and leadership development models can be practically applied according to the needs of each organisation and its employees.

Book a demo now to explore what it could look like for you.

Learning in Practise

When it comes to learning and development, most employees prefer to have a wide range of activities to choose from. It is useful to look at each specific area and consider the activities that can support development. This will improve the retention of learning that takes place instead of focusing on how much or what percentage of each type of learning is taking place.

E.g. Activities employees would like to see incorporated in their learning and development.

In the past, there was either classroom based training or online training now technology has enabled us to create blended learning courses which has not only amalgamated formal and informal learning but has provided HR managers with the platform to better deliver effective learning and development. This has meant that workforce development is now progressing from the mere theoretical concept of 70:20:10 and/or any other researched figures into more practical and scenario based teaching both online and offline. My Learning Hub is an industry leading provider of blended learning training and acknowledges the importance of tailoring training to meet the individual needs of each organisation’s employees.


Frequently asked questions FAQ

What Are the Implications of the 70:20:10 Model For Choosing A Training Method?
To implement the 70% part of this model, employees need various opportunities in their daily work to obtain experience and learn from the ongoing tasks. This can be implemented by giving them goal-oriented projects and encouraging them to overcome challenges independently. Allowing employees to learn through their contacts with others - whether with a manager, a colleague, or a senior leader – is critical to adopting the 20%. Lastly, you should devote 10% of your time and energy to developing a structured professional development programme. Don't be hesitant to try methods other than the traditional training programmes.
How Important Is The 70:20:10 Rule on Learning?
The 70:20:10 development model is regarded most productive as a general guideline for organisations looking to maximise the efficacy of their learning and development programmes through several activities and initiatives. The approach is still frequently used by organisations worldwide and is considered pretty important in increasing employees' productivity.
Who Developed The 70:20:10 Model?
Morgan McCall, Robert Eichinger, and Michael Lombardo created the 70:20:10 learning approach in the mid-1990s at the Center for Creative Leadership.
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