Updated: Apr 17
The 70/20/10 concept was popularised by Charles Jennings, who noted that executives questioned about how they learned the skills for success in their role, identified that 70% of it had come from on-the-job opportunities; 20% from planned coaching/mentoring and just 10% from formal learning.
This is now doing the rounds as a model for L&D departments to aim for. It isn’t. To revisit the original findings, CLICK HERE
For a start, if you have someone who is new to a role, you wouldn’t expect them to just pick up what to do from those around them. That’s unfair on all concerned. Someone new in a role is quite likely to need quite a lot of formal training and support. Whereas someone who is experienced and competent can be expected to continue to develop and hone their skills through on the job experience.
But good on-the-job learning doesn’t just happen. You can’t just put people together and hope that the right development occurs. There needs to be a plan: what do people need to learn? How can they best learn that? What natural opportunities are there and can we make sure that they take advantage of them? What opportunities do we need to create?
Surgical training does this well. Doctors completing a 6 year training role identify the procedures they need to do: simple straight-forward ones at the start, and more complex, unusual ones towards the end. They discuss their needs with a clinical supervisor who looks for the right cases for them to get involved with, and provides the right level of formal teaching and coaching support.
So development planning, and having regular conversations about needs are opportunities is vital. As is having easy access to genuinely useful resources. Everyone within the organisation needs to be able to access and drive their own learning as well as have the skills to deliver good on-the-job development for colleagues.
Developing a feedback culture is vital. Everyone needs to be willing, able and encouraged to give and receive feedback as a matter of course. Learning opportunities are around us every day, but we need to capture them in the moment, and make peer-to-peer insights a natural part of every day working life.
The ability to have coaching conversations is also crucial. Coaching needn’t be formal – but helping people to figure things out for themselves is a very important part of empowering people to learn for themselves.
Helping experienced and skilled colleagues to learn how to deliver on-the-job training in a structured way is essential for many roles. You can't just expect them to instinctively know how to do this.
Providing resources is also important. If you expect people to learn for themselves, you need to make it easy for them. Easy access to resources and people encourages people to learn for themselves. If it is complicated, unclear, or difficult to access, they are more likely to rely on formal training being provided for them.
Organisations need to encourage group learning by setting up learning communities, action learning sets, mentoring programmes or buddy systems. Give people the skills they need to actively develop themselves. Give them the time to participate. Actively encourage peer-to-peer learning (and stop trying to control everything!). Use technology to connect people and share information.
If you're not in an organisation OR you are all alone in L&D, find a generous community of practice such as the Training Designer's Club. Build relationships with other L&D professionals from a range of backgrounds to create your own personal learning network and USE it!! It's so important to show up, give as well as receive and the benefits can be huge.
Reflective practice needs to be common place, so senior and influential people need to demonstrate this AND encourage others to do so. They need to build time into projects to make this happen, set an expectation that it will and hold people accountable for their own learning.
So, if you think encouraging 70/20/10 learning is going to be easy, and take a lot of effort away from the L&D Department, think again. Until everyone in the organisation has the right skills, the right habits, and the right opportunities, there’s still a lot to do.