• 70:20:10 training model is 'most effective for learners', research finds

  • 3 Feb 2016
  • Comments 4 comments

But L&D heads remain sceptical as model suggests formal training doesn’t work

The 70:20:10 model of learning is more than just a training fad, it can help predict better organisational success, according to research that suggests it is the most effective learning model.
A study by business transformation consultancy Towards Maturity found that learners that keep to the ratio that 70 per cent of knowledge should come on the job, 20 per cent comes from observing others, and only 10 per cent comes from formal training classes will be much better equipped.

The research revealed that staff following this model were four times more likely to demonstrate a faster response to business change (30 per cent vs 7 per cent); were three times more motivated (27 per cent vs 8 per cent) and were twice as likely to report improvements in customer satisfaction scores.

The results document the experiences of 1,600 learners across the globe, and form the basis of the just-published '70+20+10=100: The Evidence Behind the Numbers' report.
Towards Maturity said that better learning outcomes are gained using this model because the ratio acts as a good rule of thumb that then enables a culture of continuous learning to flow. It found organisations who stick to this methodology will naturally be four times more likely to provide staff with access to job aids; four times more likely to encourage managers to support learning, and eleven times more likely to help staff find what they want through content curation.
Laura Overton, founder of Towards Maturity, said: “What is clear from our analysis of the 70:20:10 methodology is that organisations active in these areas are delivering better benefits than those who are not.”
However, the study also found that many L&D heads remain sceptical of 70:20:10 because it implies formal learning doesn’t work and that the model was simply a way to justify cutting training budgets. Survey results also showed that some L&D heads felt the ratio numbers were set in stone. However, Towards Maturity said such negative or restrictive perceptions were “myths”.
Overton argued that the findings must act as a wake-up call to L&D heads to consider using the model in their own organisations, Currently, just 47 per cent of L&D professionals use the model to shape their learning approach, the survey found. This is despite the fact 90 per cent of staff said they prefer to learn from their peers.
Claudio Erba, CEO of learning management service provider Docedo, said: “We’ve long believed that people learn and retain more through informal channels than they do through formal means. This study presents a clear case for not only adopting the 70:20:10 framework, but for establishing a deeper-level workplace culture that’s powered by social and informal learning.”
The study also found those who do use the 70:20:10 model are two times more likely to analyse business problems more thoroughly; three times more likely to involve users in the design of their learning; and seven times more likely to use spaced out learning to aid retention of information.
Towards Maturity’s report was unveiled at the Learning Technologies 2016 conference in London, where a number of speakers predicted workplace learning was on the precipice of a seismic, technology-enabled change. Jeff Turner, L&D manager EMEA at Facebook, said the advent of virtual reality – led by Facebook-owned Oculus Rift – would fundamentally alter the way business takes place. "You don't need offices because you can meet anyone anywhere," said Turner. "Suddenly, the world becomes completely open… and we have no idea yet what that means for L&D".

For technologist David Kelly, senior vice president of the eLearning Guild, Google Glass was an equally exciting technology: though it had not taken off as a consumer device, he predicted that within two years, its use in a learning context would be widespread. Kelly talked about the arrival of device-agnostic L&D content, and the acceptance of a "performance support" model among L&D practitioners, as well as the potential of the internet of things and GPS enablement at work. 

But he warned that a mindset shift was required among L&D practitioners if they were to take full advantage of forthcoming technologies: "We have a habit in L&D of taking old methodologies and shoehorning them into new technologies. We ask 'how do I take what I do and do it in this new technology?' But we should be asking: ‘How does this technology change what I do?'"

  • Additional conference reporting by Robert Jeffery
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Comments (4)
  • Please provide empirical evidence to support the so-called theory. It was based on self assessment of managers, not professional who do work like engineers or scientists but admin people who use spreadsheets. If they believe they learn on the job, how do we know its what the business wanst or needs them to learn. Very subjective and not proven. Also what exactly did they learn, the culture perhaps? 70-20-10 is more like the blind leading the blind.

  • See McCall, Lombardo, & Morrison's 1988 book The Lessons of Experience where the 70:20:10 framework was originally demonstrated. The framework is a blunt instrument for thinking about designing development for individuals or for organizations. It ignores the fact that on-the-job learning in the face of leadership challenges requires adequate reflection for experience to turn into learning. Everyone has experiences, not everyone learns anything from them. When designing learning that makes a difference we need to recognize the ecosystem of the individual, group, organization, and marketplace and that different kinds of development (skill, attitude, network, interpersonal competence, etc.) benefit differentially from different modalities. Shaping an organization's developmental system around one abstract model (no matter how persistent) is asking for irrelevance.

  • I agree with all of the comments from David. Although the individual does the learning the organisation needs to confirm the competence. It also needs to know the learning and competence of their whole talent pool. (Part of a Learning Management System if you will). This allows it run 'what-if' scenarios and highlight any potential gaps for change programmes etc. Another part of a Learning Management System is enabling the learner to easily record what they have learned. You are right though, training may be mandatory but learning is voluntary and, I would add, competence is not guaranteed.

  • This is hardly new – just take a look at Alan Rogers book Teaching Adults first published 30 years ago. But like so much published today the words training and learning blur together – 10% comes from "formal training classes" then further down it implies "formal learning doesn't work."

    Informal, on-the-job learning has always constituted more than 90% of all learning in the workplace. What is missing from this short piece is the rise of training to satisfy regulatory requirements i.e. compliance. Organisations seeking to meet such requirements want hard evidence that training is structured and delivered to a defined audience - sadly, they often forget that though training is mandatory, learning is always optional or as Rogers puts it "learning is voluntary, we do it ourselves; it is not compulsory."

    It's hardly surprising that a conference on Learning Technologies is predicting technology enabled change. I share Rogers thoughts in relation to learning, we do it ourselves, so what the heck is a learning management system - surely the only effective one is the human brain? Terminology has become so blurred and convoluted that is obfuscating the real issues today as we are swamped by changes e.g. it is our ability to learn and to nurture the skills of learning that should be at the forefront of what we do – a point well-made some years ago by the technologically savvy Elliott Maisie.