70 20 10 … is your organisation spending more on the 70% or the 30%?

Learning and development / Learning experience platform
Phil Purver
By Phil Purver | 10th March 2018

For senior learning and development professionals, 70 20 10 aren’t just random numbers anymore. They’re becoming a benchmark for considering, and understanding, whether effort and spend is being focused in the right place.

If some believe it should remain an ‘if’ for the time being, you subscribe to the view that organisations should adopt the 70 20 10 model, the next question that might spring to your mind is: Where is the current emphasis of my efforts – into the 70% zone of informal learning amongst our people, or the 30% more structured learning that we’re working so hard to deliver.

We have something of a fascination with the business case. We like to make sure that there is a seriously tangible and measurable link between the learning and development intervention at the coalface and the positive effect on organisational performance.

So what does 70 20 10 tell us that we need to account for in the context of the business case? In other words, why would the boardroom be interested?

The 70% is about informal learning.

The 70 20 10 model explained

Let’s be clear about this, what the rule is saying is that nearly three quarters of everything people learn in the context of their work and workplace is delivered to them and absorbed informally. Over coffee, lunch, beside a colleague’s desk, by text, the phone, email, online environments, in fact just about anywhere.

The fundamental point is that people are adopting the new approaches required to successfully do their work based on ideas and skills picked up from their colleagues, networks and sources outside official learning programmes.

In the cotton mills of the 19th Century, the swift and verbal training course about how to operate a weaving machine was followed by a lifetime’s informal learning from colleagues, showing you how to produce your daily quota of woven cloth without losing your fingers! People have always collaborated and learnt from each other in the workplace.

The point about 70 20 10 is what can we do, or what should we do, in this modern age of learning technology to move more of our formal programmes into the informal learning arena? We know that people must learn what we deliver in the formal environment. We cannot measure and manage performance without effective feedback process. We need to coach and refine and we need to formally train – but in recognising the 70 20 10 model, we have an opportunity to question emphasis, focus and delivery.

As the embedding of a technologically-driven learning culture becomes more prevalent within organisations, with HR and L&D included at Board level, there is an increased opportunity for learning technology companies to engage at a higher level and become more influential in strategy development.

In effect, organisations are recognising that they need to become more joined up in terms of their key business systems to deliver organisational development goals and ultimately business performance. Key to this higher level of engagement on the part of the learning technology provider is the ability to assist the organisation towards focusing on the 70 20 10 model.

We can facilitate and support the shift towards the 70%.

The $4.2 billion technology-based learning and organisational performance solution market is experiencing massive growth and it’ll grow further.

But even with technology growth rates, providers continue to argue that there will always be a place for the 10% formal learning. Organisations quite simply have to teach core competencies and business specific skills.

In the end it comes down to the employee and their motivation to learn, develop and contribute to the larger organisational performance picture. And that comes down to the whole environment on offer to our people. And that environment might just be 60 30 10.

Whatever the split, it must be engaging and easily accessible. We specialise in working with clients to understand what parts they deploy where and seek to find ways in which we can re-knit them together to make a more cost-effective and measurable contribution to the organisational performance process – sometimes adding our sprinkling of fairy dust on the way!

The trick is to deploy technology truly cost effectively to take advantage of the 70% rule, but never to detriment of the 20 and the 10.

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