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.