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/Nigel Walpole How 70:20:10 is the Viagra of learning

70:20:10 is a really interesting model for structuring learning within organisations to achieve improved performance. But the question to ask is, is there a lot of propaganda surrounding it, when the result is very little effect on performance?

Of course, it is not new – I have papers relating to my great-grandfather being indentured as an apprentice in the mid 1850s, and I expect he experienced something like 70:20:10 – a lot of experience, some exposure to his mentor (and some other professionals) and a little formal education. Personally, I think the model is even better when you do away with the numbers!

I am, however, coming across organisations saying “we’ve implemented 70:20:10 – we’ve:”

  • Reduced L&D headcount and associated costs
  • Pushed L&D responsibility out to line managers
  • Reduced the number of formal training courses on offer
  • Minimised disruption to the daily workload.

But I increasingly wonder what has changed, because each element needs attention and integration is vitally important.

Let’s starts with the 70

How 70:20:10 is the Viagra of learning

If you want to ensure that the majority of learning happens through experience, leaders, managers and learners must truly sign up to that and understand that experiences may have to be ‘engineered’ to become a development opportunity. In addition, facilitation of learning is vital to avoid learning the ‘wrong things’ through experience. This is definitely not as straightforward as it may at first seem.

Turning to the 20

Here the learning gained from experience must be integrated with learning from others creating a culture of learning. This will be done through a variety of ways perhaps action learning sets, mentoring, coaching, and peer feedback. This will require new skills and will take time, especially if your informal / formal balance is changing dramatically.

And then the 10

Include a smaller proportion of concentrated, weighty and immersive formal learning interventions – and those words are really important because the outcome is short, sharp sessions with significant and swift learning related to other experiences in the workplace that really engage the learners.

What does this mean overall?

So, an enormous amount of work is required to design an architecture that seamlessly integrates all of these elements.

When I am asked by clients for advice on how to get started on this journey, I urge them to think about one part of their organisation or perhaps one group of learners before changing their whole L&D Strategy. Then they should identify some specific learning programmes where the balance can truly be changed – more mentoring and feedback, fewer formal sessions. The next step is to train and coach managers so that they actively support the new processes and, importantly, make sure you share information about benefits.

In this way, the 70:20:10 model is, I believe, best used simply as a useful template for designing a learning and development intervention and ensuring that it covers the right range of elements from a blend of learning media thereby improving performance!

Nigel Walpole

Nigel Walpole, MD, Bray Leino Learning

In my series of blogs I’ll talk through my thoughts on some of the key issues facing managers in the workplace - lessons learnt, tips for success and general musings.

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