70:20:10 and the challenge to L&D

Warning: Nothing I’m writing about below is new or disruptive.

In the L&D world in recent years there has been a growing advocacy around changing the way we understand how learning happens at work. There’s a steady movement moving from instructor led and presentation led learning as a default to creating and cultivating more natural ways for people to share information.

With technology now at the forefront of giving people new ways to connect, share information, knowledge and practise we’re seeing a real move to technology becoming an enabler of better working and better learning.

The 70:20:10 model promotes thinking around the efficacy of learning mechanisms. 70% of our learning at work happens through on the job activities. 20% happens through peers and social based activity (also includes coaching and mentoring activity). 10% happens through formal training programmes and courses (including e-learning).

It’s easy for people to get caught up in the numbers of the model. They seem to represent an intuitive sense of the reality.

One of the things it really does is challenge the skill set of the L&Der to adopt new thinking about how learning takes place. If only a small amount of learning happens via the courses and courseware we hold so close to our hearts, then how do we enable the rest to happen?

It’s a big question. There are practitioners out there making it happen. This model helps to provide a way of developing thoughts and ideas on the new skills knowledge and practise that sits around this new world of learning.

What kind of things are these people doing?

– On a leadership development program using online collaboration tool as a default for connection, sharing and knowledge delivery
– Internally inviting people to design their own courseware with clear guidance around good e-learning design and principles to stick to
– Holding a regular internal open mic session where people can talk on any topic and everyone is invited (and yes, people attend)
– Using open space as an engagement tool at a staff conference
– Simply allowing YouTube access
– Introducing an internal social network like Yammer to allow for internal discussions and knowledge sharing to take place (and no it doesn’t get abused)

I’m involved in a lot of discussions and spaces where these things get discussed a lot. That’s mostly been because of Twitter and some amazing connections I’ve made with others. These connections have given me the support and strength to be brave in my organisations. My practise is far from revolutionary but it is certainly different. I know this because I hear many stories of people being subject to the same old same old learning design and learning practise.

Change isn’t afoot. Change is here. The 70:20:10 model isn’t a panacea. It’s an interesting alternative. When I’m talking about these things with my business areas I don’t talk in terms of the model. I talk in terms of performance impact and business relevance. That’s not a hard switch.

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Published by

Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

16 thoughts on “70:20:10 and the challenge to L&D”

  1. Thanks for raising this Sukh and challenging the way L&D is currently working in a lot of organisations.

    One of the challenges we face with 70:20:10 is people thinking it’s a model of what you’re supposed to do in L&D.

    If we think of it more as a wake-up call of where learning really happens, then the role of L&D is to better tap in to what is already happening.

    People are learning 70% of everything they know about how this business works, what is important, how we do things around here and how we treat customers and staff – whilst they’re on the job.

    The question is: Are they learning good stuff, or bad stuff?

    I completely agree that the examples you’ve given of tapping into this using social media and learners designing the learning are fantastic. They remind us that the learners already know so much and just need the space to reflect on it and use it.

    The greatest remaining challenge is the manager. If they are the key role models people see – and the people we learn most of that 70% from – does the priority need to be making sure they are role modelling the right stuff?

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment, Helen. With respect to the manager, I think if we re-think their importance then we also cultivate a different and better way of sharing that power with the people.

      1. Intriguing response Sukh, thank you.

        I’m interested in the concept of re-thinking their importance. Are you seeing that as highlighting how massively important they are or an alternative of raising up the power of the team?

        I suppose the best outcome would be a mix of both? We want to both ensure managers realise the power they have to influence – and help everyone else recognise the peer influence they have as well.

        You’re inspiring more thinking for me – thank you and watch this space – I think I’ll post something on it!

  2. The challenge for L&D is that most of the corporate control and measuring systems have been set up around the 10%. Extending L&D’s reach to enabling (and evaluating) the 70% requires something that, unfortunately, many learning professionals are just not very good at: knowledge of the business.

    Ignorance of how the business works is of course not exclusive to L&D. As Geary Rummler and Alan Brache stated in their opening statement of their watershed “Improving Performance: How to Manage the White Space on the Organization Chart,” “Many managers don’t understand their business.” I would venture to say *most* managers don’t understand how what they do fits into the larger strategic picture of the company and its industry. And since we all know that learning only really occurs when being applied in a relevant environment, that the learners see for themselves how their new knowledge and/or skill makes sense in the larger picture, it’s essential that L&D facilitate this learning in a useful, applicable manner. Too often, the LMSs and other “learning support systems” grossly hinder the relevant learning process rather than assisting.

    Your list is a good start, but I always come back to one of the most important principles of being a good facilitator: you’ve got to speak the language of your client. This also means using the tools that they use. Designing their own courseware? Yes, if this is something that fits into their skill sets. Internal social media platforms such as Yammer? Yes, but only if Yammer is already being actively used. Introducing new tools or systems must have a compelling, relevant and clearly demonstrated payoff, otherwise you’re wasting everyone’s time.

    1. Leo, thanks for taking the time to comment.

      You raise some really pertinent points. Particularly, when all of our activity gets measured on the 10%, how do we prove the efficacy of the other 90% that we’re suddenly advocating?

      And, if managers don’t understand the business well enough, let alone L&D, 1) do L&Ders recognise this lack of knowledge? 2) do they know how to upskill themselves and fellow managers?

      1. Indeed, I can imagine line managers saying, “Hey, if my people are learning and have been learning 70% without your help, why are your programs on my budget?!”

        Good question, do L&Ders recognize their lack of knowledge. I’ve even had colleagues become aggressive regarding their lack of knowledge: “Why should I know what my client’s business is?! That’s not my concern!”

        It’s shocking to hear how proud people are of their own ignorance, not to mention the irony in having such statements come from the mouths of so-called “learning professionals”!!

        1. Is how do you prove what you are doing in that 90% the right question? Or is the question ‘how do you get the business to believe in what you are doing in the 90%’ – i.e. agree on activity and principles and go easy on the ROI. There is lots of activity in business that exists without specific ROI being attached to it. Maybe the key to effective work in the 90% is more of a focus on doing – and less on reviewing to prove value? It’s early in the morning, I may be babbling. I just think we might need to let go of the comfort blanket of reporting that we have in the 10%…Is the biggest challenge getting L&D to a point where it is too busy helping the business to want to prove it’s worth to the business – and the business values the time of the L&D team too much to want that time spent on evaluation anyway…

          1. But with everyone pushed to prove their value to the bottom line, many corporate L&Ders are forced to constantly evaluate their short term results. Even though we all know that “learning” and “short term results” are contradictions in terms. A conundrum, and one that L&D is at pains to solve.

  3. Reblogged this on Effective Intercultural Business and commented:
    The challenge for L&D is that most of the corporate control and measuring systems have been set up around the 10%. Extending L&D’s reach to enabling (and evaluating) the 70% requires something that, unfortunately, many learning professionals are just not very good at: knowledge of the business.

    Ignorance of how the business works is of course not exclusive to L&D. As Geary Rummler and Alan Brache stated in their opening statement of their watershed “Improving Performance: How to Manage the White Space on the Organization Chart,” “Many managers don’t understand their business.” I would venture to say “most” managers don’t understand how what they do fits into the larger strategic picture of the company and its industry. And since we all know that learning only really occurs when being applied in a relevant environment, that the learners see for themselves how their new knowledge and/or skill makes sense in the larger picture, it’s essential that L&D facilitate this learning in a useful, applicable manner. Too often, the LMSs and other “learning support systems” grossly hinder the relevant learning process rather than assisting.

    Your list is a good start, but I always come back to one of the most important principles of being a good facilitator: you’ve got to speak the language of your client. This also means using the tools that they use. Designing their own courseware? Yes, if this is something that fits into their skill sets. Internal social media platforms such as Yammer? Yes, but only if Yammer is already being actively used. Introducing new tools or systems must have a compelling, relevant and clearly demonstrated payoff, otherwise you’re wasting everyone’s time.

  4. Thanks Sukh for posting this and provoking some great conversation down here!

    I think the model is fantastic for exactly that – provoking conversation. We can strive in L&D to encourage, connect with and support that 90% but inevitably we will never capture or measure all of it. We would need to have listening posts at every desk, kitchen, water cooler, etc because so much of this happens beyond our reach. And a huge part of this is accepting that we will never be involved in, let alone responsible for, the full scope, that 100%, of learning that is happening. We in L&D need to know that that is okay, and need to have the confidence to say that to our businesses.

    Just because we’re not wholly responsible (nor accountable) for that 100%, we can ensure that our contributions when and where they do happen are relevant, valuable and enable people to develop the knowledge, skills, tools and confidence to find or create the time, space and culture to be learning and sharing learning effectively.

    1. Appreciate you taking the time to comment, Kyla.

      You make a great point about the many listening points we’d have to build in to measure or capture feedback and value. It’s that value piece which I think many L&Ders struggle with, many do well and many need to learn more about. I’d say amongst all three of those criteria.

  5. 702010 – is this a scientific principle? I had a quick wiki look (surely there has to be a percentage allocated to wiki now) and this is data related to high performing managers. “Most learning takes place in the work place”. Ummm yeah….

    Is this a model or just something that is a fact of life. I don’t think it matters You need all of it, and the distribution I would argue is contextual.

    I think there are couple of simple questions that any L&D practitioner can ask themselves; why are we delivering this intervention (whether it be workshops, coaching, e-learning, ALS, self directed learning space etc) and what areas of organisational performance are we aiming to impact and how; and – what value is this work adding. Everyone else involved should also be able to answer these questions. Value doesn’t have to have a number assigned to it – as David says, other functions do not have to describe ROI in the same way. Perhaps that is because they are clearer about the why…..?

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