Warning, Will Robinson! The 70:20:10 model is failing!

I’ve been considering the 70:20:10 model of learning. The basics of it suggest the following: 70% of what we learn is done on the job / via our own methods. This has been galantly called ‘social learning’ or ‘informal learning’. 20% of what we learn is via coaching/mentoring/good management. 10% of what we learn is via formal learning methods inlcuding learning sessions, e-learning and online learning.

It’s a pretty damning indictment of the state of L&OD. It suggests that the focus of the corporate L&Der should be about supporting and finding ways to enable the social learning that people are already doing.

It suggests that all the coaching programmes we invest heavily in as corporate entities are a waste of money because people aren’t really learning that much through that method anyway.

It suggests that the formal learning activities we engage in are useless.

And I have a fundamental problem with it. Not least because I’m an advocate of formal learning.

My problem with this formula/ratio is that it also suggests I am a useless learning professional. It suggests that it actually doesn’t matter how well designed or how well facilitates any of my learning sessions are, because the learning will take place back in the workplace regardless of what I helped to enable.

And breathe, Sukh…

Can L&Ders encourage and support informal and social learning?

By definition, social learning is happening anyway – regardless if I’m involved or not. So what should I be doing to remain relevant support this more?

There are an increasing range of ways people can share information at their pace enabling learning to happen when they want:
– setting up an internal social network such as Yammer or Jive
– having a wiki environment to allow knowledge sharing
– Using systems such as Sharepoint (spits in disgust) to upload and share videos or documents
– ‘Lunch and learn’ sessions
– team meetings having an element of learning or development set up by different team members
– town hall type presentations open for anyone to attend and listen to insights / knowledge / information from other parts of the organisation
– internal ‘Fun’ distribution email lists
– being allowed to access social networking sites in organisations at all

I’m totally on board with all these things, and advocate them massively. I think they help build and create a learning culture that so many organisation are trying to achieve.

Is coaching really ineffective?

In the main, I’m going to say no.

What’s important is that people going through this form of development actually change their behaviour. That means having a skilled coaching practitioner available – and that’s part of the problem. Far too many organisations embark in coaching programmes because it’s ‘best practice’, but what they’re not doing is providing careful and guided support to the practitioners. I remember a case study from Siemens and Diageo who explained how their coaches got together themselves to support one another. That’s a good example of social learning in action. It’s not a great example of fully supporting a learning intervention.

Also, coaching tends to only happen when there’s a performance issue. Too many managers don’t take the time to spot coaching opportunities and practise their skills. Instead they use coaching principles and bypass the actual aim of coaching.

And lastly, only those in senior positions tend to receive coaching from practitioners who are skilled and able.

Are formal learning activities actually useless?

You know, I’d really hope they’re not, but it’s hard to say that they’re all really well executed / facilitated.

I think the important thing here is for the learning session – be it online, e-based, or face to face, to be well designed. Learning sessions should always be about raising awareness, and provoking you into further action. If we can’t get that right, we’ve failed. Even if you’re going through compliance training, you still need to do something with that knowledge once you have it.

Worringly though, if these learning sessions are only generating about 10% of useful learning and development, this suggests we aren’t designing good learning sessions at all.

There is a solution

There are a good many L&D practitioners who are making money off the back of the 70:20:10 model claiming their models and interventions are the panacea to organisational learning.

In reality, this just means the skill set of the L&Der is now broader than it ever has been. We need to be good at designing learning sessions, we need to understand how to cultivate effective coaching and mentoring programmes, and we need to understand how to encourage and enable social learning to happen.

That’s a big move away from stand and deliver and e-learning provision.

It also presents a huge challenge to the likes of Reed Learning. Why would you commission them to deliver learning sessions which are only going to yield 10% of useful learning? I think this also presents a big opportunity for true and proper collaboration with corporates and suppliers in the L&OD space.

Dear Informal Learning

Dear Informal Learning,

I understand from previous correspondence that you are interested in coming into my organisation and selling your wares. I’m always up for a laugh looking for opportunities to waste my time ways to help support people who want to learn and develop while at work. So sure, come on in.

There are some things, though, that I’d like your help with so I know better how to make people aware of who and what you actually have to offer? Please answer the below in good time before your impending arrival.

1) Apparently you’re already here?

I’ve been getting the message from different quarters that you’re already in and amongst the people in the organisation. When did you actually do this? Was it when we allowed people to read books in their break time? Or was it when people had access to the internet? Maybe it was when people were allowed to access various online social networks?

I’m confused because, if we did this without you, what are we going to do with you when we formally recognise you?

Which leads me onto my next question…

2) I understand there won’t even be a “you”.

You are some kind of ethereal being and there’s some level of expectation that we should just allow you to exist. HA! Right. So I have enough trouble getting people to accept that different people of different faiths are allowed to co-exist, and now I’m going to reinforce a message that says – “don’t worry people, just put your faith in people’s own L&D activity”.

Can you see I might have a challenge selling you in?

3) When you’re here, I can’t even acknowledge you?

Now this is the bit where I’m really getting close to my wits end struggling. When people are going about their learning “informally”, I’m not even allowed to acknowledge you did this because I then formalise the learning, and thereby you cease to exist and I stamp on all that it means to be human. *cries softly*

4) I can’t even give people an idea of how to utilise you?

In advance I’d like to give people a chance to succeed. You know, be excellent and all things wonderful. You’re meant to help me do that, but because of your very nature, I can’t give people an idea of how to make best use of you, because it’s an unknown advantage that needs to be organically grown. My head is really starting to hurt now.

I appreciate your time, and really hope you exist I get a response from you soon.

Yours sincerely,


When L&D forgets about the end game

Hello, I’m Sukh and I’m here to find out more about what learning and development happens in your part of organisation.

Sure, we send people on courses.

And what about social learning?

Informal learning?

Experiential learning?

It’s a familiar conversation, right?

You know who cares about these things? Us L&Ders.

You know who doesn’t care about these things? The people we’re working with.

It’s all a lot of good useful academic debate and classification and codifying and intelligent thought. But it doesn’t matter to the people who need to learn. They just want to learn. If that comes through a webinar, a podcast, a flipped classroom, a MOOC, or face to face solution, then that’s what we provide.

There’s been a lot of good discussion in the L&D world about all sorts of fascinating things. How do we get inside the learner’s head? What should we worried about in L&D? Are MOOCs the future of online learning? How do we utilise LMS to get the best from technology? What can we do about the negative barriers to using e-learning? All good topics to be talking about and good topics to get answers on.

For the L&D Community.

The organisation’s we’re part of? They just need to get their employee engagement scores up. They just need to reduce their churn rate. They just need to retain staff. They just need to be seen as an employer of choice. They just need to turn a profit.

Everything we do in L&D aids each one of those things. The only people who care about how it happens is the L&D department. The only people who care about being game changers are the ones in the L&D community. The only people who care about shaking things up are the ones who want to be L&D thought leaders.

Everyone else just wants to get on with their job.

Are you interested in applying your creativity in an interesting way? I’m asking people to get involved in Learning Stories to see if they can produce a story about learning which inspires someone to act. The deadline for submission is March 21st 2013. Fancy a challenge?

Helping someone to navigate

At some point in our career we’re going to be required to talk with other people to do more that just our day job. We’re going to need to actually and actively engage with them to help us be more effective. It’s an interesting thing, that most companies I know of (save possibly for large consultancy and law types) do not help their staff learn how to be valuable internal consultants.

Most of us have to fumble our way through what it means to do something like this well, which is a shame as it’s the one range of activities we’re constantly doing, but not knowing if we’re doing it ‘right’. If you think about the employee lifecycle, there’s a typical journey they tend to go through. As a new starter, they have an induction, and if they’re lucky some sort of onboarding programme. Pass the probation period, and they have a steep learning curve they have to go through. There reaches a point where the new starter has to start interacting with other departments in a way that helps them to do their job. And we just let them get on with it.

Letting others get on with it is fine, but we seem to actively then run the risk that we’re it helping them to actually be successful because we haven’t had those conversations like: Bob is the man to talk to in Office Support for travel, When you talk with Brian about that idea, make sure you’ve done your homework on the topic as he’s an inquisitive guy, Beatrice in Marketing will help you, just be sure to smile and let her do the talking.

It seems to me we could be more purposeful about this, and provide better support and guidance on how to do this well internally. You could call in internal consultancy, you could call in organisational navigation, you could call it helping someone, either way what it helps to do is share that tacit knowledge we all hold about how to work well in the business.

I’m one for helping where I can. The other day in the office was a good example. Someone came to our desk and wanted to know where Bonnie sat. Three differernt people tried explaining where he needed to find her. After a few minutes, I just got up and showed him where he needed to be. It’s not a hard thing to do, but we forget there are more helpful ways of being, well, helpful. Often we make do with comments like – oh you have a meeting with Bob? Good luck with that! *snigger*. Which doesn’t tell us anything other than we’re about to face a very uninspiring situation.

And we can all be considerate in how we do this. A junior in the team will need hold handing, a senior may need careful coaching, a new person will need guiding. And this doesn’t have to be lead or driven by the head of the department or team, but they are certainly a good place for this information to be held.

I’m careful to suggest this needs to be anything other than informal. There’s a lot to be said for fumbling you’re way into conversations, and finding your feet as you do this. But there’s certainly no harm in helping someone to navigate their way round and being better at what they do.