70 20 10 Model of Learning and Development: A strategy to improve workplace performance?

There have been several models of learning and development over the years which help explain and structure the environment under which education works best. If you’re a business or organisation that wants to maximise the potential of its employees or you’re a top performer working hard to boost their career prospects, understanding how learning works best is important.

What is the 70 20 10 approach?

One increasingly important learning model is 70 20 10 which has been shown to deliver successful outcomes for a wide range of organisations, both large and small. At its heart, the concept of 70 20 10 model is pretty simple. It states that:

  • We get 70% of our skill and knowledge by working on the job – in other words it comes from experience of performing a particular task or undertaking a project.
  • 20% of learning and development comes from watching others do the job – you observe a top performer and follow and incorporate the way they handle a particular situation. Increasingly in business this has moved over to productive mentorship relationships to help develop staff.
  • The final 10% comes from formal learning environments and training classes/courses that are tailored for particular teaching and learning outcomes.

Research to date has shown that businesses which adopt this model tend to deliver better benefits for their staff. It allows them to create a culture where learning is continuous compared to when all learning is coming from structured classes.

Undoubtedly, it works for both the employer and the employee too. Staff are more likely to look at everything in the workplace as a learning opportunity and business owners and managers are prompted to make learning aids and support in the workplace available.

You might think that the 70 20 10 model approach puts a lot less emphasis on structured learning and this has been some of the criticism of it as a model. The truth is, however, that employees will often benefit better from learning ‘on the job’ and gaining knowledge and skill through engaging with qualified peers who are prepared to share their expertise than sitting down in a classroom.

Effective Learning with 70 20 10 model

Most companies understand that leadership development is an important aspect of their business. Incorporating learning through the 70 20 10 model approach, of course, is all very well but actually implementing it is another issue. For it to work effectively, the entire workforce has to buy into the methodology and be willing to engage and pass on skills and provide opportunities for staff at all levels to learn and develop.

Job Related Experience (the 70%)

If someone is doing the same job day in day out then it’s difficult to add new learning into their world. This means that effective implementation requires employees to be exposed to new and challenging situations that add responsibilities and provides them with more scope for making decisions. It might also involve bringing employees into meetings and involving them in setting the agenda for projects and the future of the business.

Learning from Others (the 20%)

This is really a key part of the model because it requires skilled employees to pass on their knowledge and understanding either off the cuff or as a part of a formal learning structure. This could be done through developing mentor relationships or by setting up regular in house coaching, arranging feedback or simply creating a culture where skill development is seen as a natural occurrence.

Structured Learning (the 10%)

There is plenty of merit in having structured educational events and courses that staff can attend to further their skills and knowledge. This can include formal structures within a company that work with a local or online learning resource or supporting an employee who is undertaking a course off their own back.

The 70 20 10 approach is designed to be as flexible as possible and, in an ideal world, each part of learning and development will complement another. This leads to an ongoing culture where staff can be progressed in line with the business needs and where there are daily opportunities to learn.

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