Is the 70/20/10 model still relevant to learning and development?

Is the 70/20/10 model still relevant to learning and development?

Optimising the learning experience of the modern workforce

As most HR professionals know, the 70-20-10 learning and development (L&D) model states that individuals gain most of their knowledge from on-the-job training, some from networking and professional relationships, and the rest from formal training courses and resources. However, considering the evolution of technology and employees’ learning habits, is this 40-year-old model still relevant and suitable for the modern workforce?

According to LinkedIn, “(…) a massive 94% of employees say they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their learning and development.” And considering the cost of attrition for businesses, we can all agree that investing in L&D is a no-brainer. But whilst spending budget on L&D may be a given, how to split said budget effectively remains open for discussion.

What is the 70-20-10 learning and development model?

This model states the following: 

  • 70% of learning and development come from on-the-job training 
  • 20% of learning and development come from networking opportunities 
  • 10% of learning and development come from formal training

Modern learners consider L&D as part of their benefits package, and this is particularly important at the moment, as talent is in short supply and people have many options when it comes to choosing a job. This naturally leads to employers investing heavily in training courses and resources and putting all their eggs in the formal training basket – a much more tangible and measurable way to boost their offering. However, the 70/20/10 model teaches us that this isn’t sufficient and will not be as effective when it comes to developing the key skills required to reach organisational objectives. 

A blended learning model: the 70-20-10 ratio in practice 

At Let’s Talk Talent (LTT), we’ve asked ourselves: is it really worth spreading your L&D offering over so many areas? Or has the lay of the land changed so much that the tried-and-tested equation should be modified in favour of formal training? Whilst courses are still highly valued by employees, the following examples of learning and development techniques shouldn’t be neglected:

Examples of on-the-job training: 

  • Taking on more complex or challenging projects 
  • Taking part in a mentoring programme (as a mentor or a mentee)
  • Coaching

Examples of networking 

  • Shadowing a colleague
  • Collaborating with colleagues on a project

Examples of formal training 

  • Online courses 
  • Webinars 
  • Workshops

Why the 70/20/10 model doesn’t always work

As mentioned, employees focus on the measurable 10% – formal learning (an effective consideration factor for potential candidates) – and often overlook the importance of on-the-job training. This can lead to staff feeling that they are not being developed in their current roles, or even demotivated at the thought of not having opportunities to progress their careers across your business.

Whilst it’s understandable that the very concrete monetary value attached to training courses can be a great attraction and retention lever, this mindset has led to employers following the path of least resistance and creating L&D offerings disproportionately centred around training courses. Also, both on-the-job training and relationship development are quite hard to measure, therefore harder to report on. 

A blended approach requires a mindset change from most management teams, as it ultimately shifts accountability for their own progression onto employees’ shoulders. Managers therefore need to trust their team members and give them the autonomy needed to take charge of their development, whilst empowering them with the tools required for them to do so. Which can be a tall order for a time-poor group of people more often than not buried under tons of admin.  

How to use the 70-20-10 model effectively

As demonstrated, the 70/20/10 rule is still very relevant… in theory. The truth is that without an effective implementation plan, it remains just a model. As Jo, MD at LTT says: “The ratio is not a magic formula that will give you high performing employees, nor should it be used as a stick to convince staff that you are indeed developing them.” 

Creating an effective 70/20/10 blended learning offering needs to be a concerted effort throughout the entire business. In order to enable staff to take ownership of their own career development, L&D has to be embedded as part of every single touchpoint within the employee experience (EE), from onboarding to career progression and performance management, so that learning can occur regularly and organically throughout the entire time an employee remains with you. 

How can this be done? By reviewing every stage of your EE and asking yourself how to facilitate learning & drive career progression.

For example, skills gaps identified during the performance management process should lead to training courses and resources being provided, of course; but why not create shadowing or internal mobility opportunities for candidates to develop those skills on a much deeper level? Staff going through the onboarding process could also benefit from networking support in order to gain a better overall understanding of the entire business, or even the industry. And, once set up, don’t forget to promote your L&D efforts to the entire business. Do so frequently, so that your talent pool is fully aware of all the development tools at their disposal. 

Benchmarking is also a key part of L&D. Find ways to measure the success of every single initiative you implement, including gathering qualitative feedback. This will allow you to get to know your audience, find out what works, and course-correct along the way, so your blended offer is more suited to your talent pool. 

Is the 70/20/10 model still relevant? 

So is the 70/20/10 model still relevant? Yes, as long as it is not used as a box-ticking exercise or as a way to lay the responsibility for career progression at your employees’ feet. It is up to you as a business to make it come alive, and use it in a way that increases people’s skills and confidence as they learn what ‘good’ looks like, and how to get there. 

As we like to say, it’s about setting the deal with people. Make sure you clearly state what they can expect from the organisation, as well as what you are going to give back in return. This should include a fully comprehensive picture of all the learning opportunities at their disposal, so they can make informed choices on whether your business is right for them, and how they want to stretch themselves and progress their careers. 

So, go ahead and explore the many learning options available to ensure you embed the 70/20/10 model into everything you do, and subsequently cater for the needs of the many employees and learning styles that form part of your organisation. 

If you’d like to know more about the 70-20-10 rule, or how Let’s Talk Talent can help you with your L&D Strategy, book a meeting with one of our team, visit our learning and development services page or download our free L&D Strategy whitepaper.

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