70/20/10 and Your L&D Strategy

Changing business dynamics have led organizations to continuously adapt and evolve their learning processes. Companies like Microsoft are making learning a cornerstone of their people strategy and culture to gain competitive advantage in the marketplace. In fact, the necessity to align employee learning with the overall business strategy has never been higher.

According to Deloitte’s latest Human Capital Trends report, millennials form 50% of today’s workforce and value flexibility, self-management, and learning experiences over traditional forms of progression.

So how do employees really learn? Is it all formal, or informal, or somewhere in the middle? In many organizations, employee learning broadly follows the 70/20/10 learning model. The 70/20/10 model states that 70% of learning happens on the job while performing regular tasks.  Around 20% of learning occurs via social scenarios through feedback, mentoring, and collaboration with others. The remaining 10% is through formal learning sessions and interventions.

70/20/10 and your L&D strategy Naturally, L&D departments are shifting their focus from just traditional formal learning to a more experiential form of learning. The key is to figure out ways to influence the 70% and 20% parts that constitute informal learning.

As an example, consider bank tellers. All new tellers in a bank go through a standard induction program. However, this only constitutes around 10% of their learning. Seventy percent of their learning is a result of on the job experiences, which would be unique for each individual. This leads to different learning curves for people who are actually in the same job role.

Different learning curves for people in the same role.
Learning by experience is largely based on the mistakes we make. By utilizing a process like NIIT’s Critical Mistake Analysis, the bank’s L&D function can design learning programs that allow learners to make mistakes that they would otherwise do in real life. This would not only help reduce the volume of mistakes made in real life (and hence the degree of learning dependent on experiences) but also ensure more homogenous learning curves for all tellers.

What about the other 20%, which comprises of learning from coaching, mentoring, and the like? Social learning is an effective way for employees to interact with others and share knowledge. It not only helps in learning, but also creates an open and flexible work culture. The bank in our example above has implemented a WIKI style internal network to facilitate knowledge sharing. Learning in such a scenario would depend on the presence of certain conversations on the platform, which may or may not happen organically.

Social learning can also include the case study and role-play based teaching methods utilized in some of the world’s leading business schools. We could also look at Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats system in the context of group discussions. These tools or systems are methods to ensure that certain discussions happen in a social scenario. The learning team at our bank could develop processes and practices to seed the right conversations on their WIKI.  

Whether or not your employees follow the 70/20/10 model to learn, we can all broadly agree that almost 90% of learning is informal. Evolved L&D practitioners must therefore focus their energies on getting involved in the many informal aspects of learning. This could be a plethora of possibilities as simple as initiating social conversations around learning and as complex as embedding learning or performance support into work processes.

As an example, one of NIIT’s customers, a leading oil and gas company wanted to develop a learning intervention for a set of learners from a diverse background that needed to take up additional compliance related responsibilities. We designed a learning program that helps onboard learners and sensitizes them to potential compliance risks using a scenario-driven approach built utilizing our Critical Mistake Analysis methodology. The program also includes a social and performance support component that leverages the customer’s social collaboration platform – Yammer, to help learners build a community and learn from each other.

As the founders of this model, Charles Jennings and Vivian Heijnen state, “Our view of 70:20:10 is as an evolving new approach rather than a single solution. It embraces techniques such as performance support, working with exemplary performers, social learning, re-designing work processes, and other levers. When applied well, 70:20:10 will enable more effective and efficient ways for building high performance faster than the speed of business.”