Cover image Is 70:20:10 a practical approach or merely just a bunch of numbers?
April 18, 2022

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

The 70-20-10 model is principally constructed from a conceptual theory developed by Michael Lombardo and Robert Eichinger in 2000.Some people say that the model still applies in today’s day and age and adhering to this model is essential for the successful execution of learning and development strategies of any organisation.

The figures in the model were generated from a relatively small study carried out at the center for Creative Leadership in the USA more than 30 years ago. They concluded that the percentage of lessons learned were as follows;

70% from tough jobs and practical activities.

20% from informal learning through human interaction.

10% from formal learning including courses and reading.

This means that, according to this model, people get the bulk (70%) of their knowledge and develop skills from on-the-job learning rather than formal training.

Is this model merely a theoretical concept, or is there evidence to prove it actually exists and works?

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.

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.

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