70-20-10 Towards Better Performance

I’m currently working with a client that has me in training consultant mode. They brought me in thinking about training and development in the traditional way – everyone piled in a room to receive some training and after which, everyone walks away “trained” and the business problem they had going in is instantly solved because “they’ve all had training.”

After a couple of weeks on the ground with this company,  I knew traditional was definitely not the way to go.  So, of course, I turned to Google, the fountain of all knowledge, to see what the Oracle had to say.  And she presented me with the 70-20-10 model.

What is 70-20-10?

Is it a theory for workplace learning? Is it a way of cutting down on training costs? Is it just a mantra to be followed slavishly? Is it simply old wine in new bottles, given that most learning and development (L&D) professionals believe they already combine learning and work? Why bother with 70:20:10 at all? And what’s the deal with this neat formula 70,20,10? People are suspicious of round numbers: surely the reality of learning and performance is much too complex to be defined in terms of simple ratios?

These are the questions Jos Arets, Charles Jennings and Vivian Heijnen set out to answer in their book: 702010 Towards 100% Performance.

It appears I’ve stumbled upon a movement – one that promises to help an organisation learn and perform at the speed of business.

There’s a worldwide movement of L&D professionals who acknowledge the value of 70:20:10. Not because it’s a mantra, an ideology or an end in itself, but because it enables them to connect more quickly and effectively to what really matters: learning and performing at the speed of business. Learning isn’t just about providing formal solutions or classes and eLearning. By using 70:20:10 as a reference model, more and more L&D professionals are able to co-create value for their organisations. In doing so, L&D becomes more relevant and has greater impact.

The old world..

L&D is stuck in a world offering catalogues of formal solutions comprising training and eLearning, so it makes sense to think about other ways in which learning and development professionals can add value for their organisations.  

The new world..

using 70:20:10 as a model and by supporting both formal and informal learning solutions: around 70 percent learning by working, around 20 percent learning from and with others, and around 10 percent formal learning.

Adopting the 70-20-10 Model will require a shift in mind.

Instead of focusing solely on learning, it shifts the emphasis towards performing. It highlights the original purpose of the human resources development profession, which is to help people and organisations to perform better. This doesn’t happen on its own. The paradigm shift requires L&D professionals to adopt a new set of roles because if you keep on with business-as-usual, of course nothing will change.

The deeper I dive into the model, the more I am convinced it is the model of the future for L&D.  The advances in technology and the speed at which everything changes, it makes sense to adopt a more agile approach to learning and development with performance as the lynch pin between the training department and the business.

“The twentieth century was the golden age of training. Organisational learning achieved worldwide growth, with more L&D professionals, trainees, theories, research, conferences, instructional design models and professional associations as well as bigger budgets. It made sense to separate work from learning, replicate the schooling process and provide formal solutions in classrooms or conference rooms away from the workplace. This was the beginning of the training bubble … The training bubble was the logical consequence of twentieth-century Taylorism, with its emphasis on standards and efficiency. As it expanded, so learning and working became separated, and L&D produced and delivered training, and later eLearning, on a larger scale. The bubble was an effective response to the twentieth century view of organisational development, with its strong need to provide formal, standardised learning and even to track the amount of time employees spent on it.”

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