The 70-20-10 Model for Corporate L&D (+Template)

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70_20_10_Model

Who would’ve thought that a study from the 1980s would inspire one of the most popular L&D models we know today? 

The 70-20-10 model was created in the 1980s when three researchers (McCall, Lombardo, and Morrison) asked nearly 200 executives to recall pivotal career events and self-report their beliefs on how they acquired knowledge and skills. 

Responses suggested that 70% of learnings were a result of difficult assignments and on-the-job experience. 20% of their learning came from developmental relationships or social learning. The last 10% was a result of formal training and structured learning programs.

Since then, the 70-20-10 model has been one of the primary learning strategies adopted by organizations to maximize their learning and development strategies and boost employee performance.

What Is the 70-20-10 Learning Model?

The 70-20-10 model is a popular learning and development framework that defines 70% of learning as experiential that comes from experiences employees face at work, 20% as social or peer-to-peer learning, and 10% conducted through formal training sessions. Organizations use this model to shift the focus from training to performance in order to provide their workforce with a more holistic approach to learning.

Breaking Down the 70-20-10 Model

Let’s break down the 70-20-10 model:

70-20-10 model

What does the 70% include?

The majority of knowledge, 70%, is acquired through hands-on experience, daily tasks, and challenges. This is known as experiential learning. 

Experiential learning happens through completing on-the-job tasks, resolving issues practically, and practicing tasks daily. This learning is informal, self-directed, and enables employees to learn from their experiences on the job, on a daily basis. This means no expensive and time-consuming classroom training seminars are required outside of employees’ work environment.

Experiential learning allows employees to explore and refine their job-based skills, make their own decisions, address challenges, learn from mistakes, and be open to performance feedback.

A few examples of learning by doing include:

  • Auditing and reviewing 
  • Innovation
  • Reflection
  • Taking up challenging tasks
  • Problem solving
  • Learning from mistakes

What does the 20% include?

Learning doesn’t happen in isolation. Humans are social creatures who crave connectedness and find a way to inject social interaction into every aspect of their lives. This brings us to the second part of the 70-20-10 model – social learning. 

Social learning is responsible for 20% of all knowledge intake. Social learning happens by interacting with and observing your peers, completing tasks or projects together, overcoming challenges as a team, and working towards a common goal.

Learning from others is also achieved in the form of mentoring and coaching. These methods of training involve an experienced professional – a supervisor, mentor, or veteran employee – who mentors or coaches an employee on specific job tasks and responsibilities.

Organizations need to create a learning culture within the workplace to support and facilitate social learning. Embracing a learning culture leads to a productive work environment culture where teams are willing to support and learn from each other.

An example of social learning could be a sales employee who wants to acquire better negotiation skills. The best way for them to learn is through a negotiating scenario with a peer or manager already adept at the skill. 

Some other examples include:

  • Collaboration with peers on projects
  • Giving and receiving feedback
  • Leaning in network
  • Job shadowing
  • Sales coaching

What does the 10% include?

Although it only constitutes 10% of learning, formal training is an essential part of any learning strategy. It forms the backbone of successful learning and development initiatives and improves employee performance by delivering goal-orientated training via face-to-face or online training

Face-to-face training sessions are headed by a trainer who conducts tutorials, seminars, and workshops in a classroom-like setting. On the other hand, online learning is delivered through employee training software such as learning management systems or digital adoption platforms

eLearning allows you to provide training in various formats, from SCORM xAPI-based courses to webinars and videos. Employees have the freedom to learn in their own time and pace. And the progress of every employee can be easily measured through training software.

A few examples of courses and types of employee training and learning content include:

  • Courses
  • Modules
  • Presentation training sessions
  • Workshops
  • Seminars
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Why the 70-20-10 Learning Model is Effective

Here’s why the 70-20-10 model is effective for employee learning and development within an organization.

1. It takes a blended learning approach

With eLearning, you can blend the experiential learning part of the 70-20-10 model with formal learning. This creates a more blended learning experience for learners that takes a hybrid approach to learning and includes traditional training, eLearning, social learning, and on-the-job learning. This approach boosts engagement and helps employees better retain the information they’re presented with.

2. It’s built around experience

The 70-20-10 model gives employees a sense of autonomy. 70% of the 70-20-10 model constitutes on-the-job learning which provides them with the confidence to perform their tasks efficiently, see how their actions and decisions lead to positive or negative repercussions for the organization, and explore their cognitions and learn by doing rather than sitting on the sidelines.

3. It’s scalable

The majority of learning opportunities through the 70-20-10 model are provided on the job and through social learning, making any learning and development program easy to scale without sacrificing personalization.

Benefits Of the 70-20-10 Learning Framework

Here are some major benefits of the 70-20-10 model

benefits of 70-20-10 model

1. Employee engagement and experience

Because the model puts less emphasis on formal training, the 70-20-10 learning solution allows for flexibility, helping employees refine their job-related skills and make decisions for their ongoing learning and development. On-the-job training approach makes learning actionable, keeping employees more active, dedicated, and engaged throughout the process. 

2. Fosters talent development

Informal learning promotes collaboration, and new perspectives cultivate a knowledge-sharing culture that fosters talent development. Effective knowledge sharing improves team and individual productivity, empowers employees, and builds a strong, connected workforce. 

3. Improves talent retention

Delivering continuous training programs through the 70-20-10 approach keeps employees engaged in learning, preparing them to do their jobs well and stay focused on their career goals. This leads to higher job satisfaction rates, lower rates of absenteeism, and increased retention rates for the organization.

4. Employee productivity and performance

The 70-20-10 model is mostly defined as an informal training method that is efficient for employee performance. Sometimes it’s better to ask a colleague and have an issue solved on the spot instead of raising queries to the support team. Or learn in the flow of work instead of waiting for a training course. These methods help employees learn practically and get resolutions to their queries immediately, making them learn faster and become productive quickly. 

5. Emphasizes practicality

The 70-20-10 model provides contextual learning with less theory and more practical skills. For example, in a compliance training module, the bulk of the lesson should be the application, showing what (non)compliance looks like in everyday work settings. It can have some group assignments for homework, but most training courses involve individual simulations and branching scenarios.

6. Maximizes training ROI

The 70-20-10 approach significantly increases your training ROI by reducing traditional training costs, increasing employee engagement, making training effective, improving employee productivity, and doing it without demanding many hours out of an employee’s daily work life.

How to Create a 70-20-10 Development Plan

Here are the steps to create an effective 70-20-10 development plan for your organization.

1. Assess your training needs

Assessing training needs identifies employees’ current competency, skill, or knowledge in different areas and compares it to the required competency standard established for their job roles. The difference between the present and required competencies determines employee training needs.

Here’s how to get started with assessing the training needs of employees:

  • Skill gap analysis: Identify the gap between the actual and desired knowledge and skills to fill in the gaps using training programs. 
  • Figure out what employees know: Give employees a chance to show what they know before designing your training programs. This information can be collected via questionnaires, surveys, observing employees and examining their work, or formal assessments.
  • Talk to your employees: Encourage open communication and feedback with employees. Ask them if they lack any particular skillsets that could help them do better at their jobs.

2. Assess current learning sources

After identifying the training needs, the next step is to identify the current learning sources. Get answers to the following questions to assess your organization’s learning sources:

  • How does learning take place at your organization currently? 

  • Is there a formal learning source already in place?

  • How much budget is put into the formal learning? 

  • What learning roadblocks do employees currently face?

  • Figure out what training resources are already in place and what needs fine-tuning

3. Set goals

Define the purpose for implementing the 70-20-10 model and make sure it is clear and worth investing your time and money. For instance, will the 70-20-10 model in your training environment address a performance gap, a knowledge gap, or make the staff more productive? 

After defining an overall goal, establish measurable training objectives to determine what employees are expected to achieve at the end of the training. Training goals and objectives make it easier to understand and measure the value training brings to your organization.

4. Create an actionable strategy

In order to achieve the organization’s goals through the 70-20-10 model, align each outcome you want to accomplish with a specific type of learning (experiential, social, or formal) and an appropriate training method (e.g., eLearning, mentoring, or virtual reality).

Here are some recommendations on how to address each section of the 70-20-10 model to create an actionable learning strategy for your employees.

For the 70%: Job-related experiences

  • Introduce employees to new projects to broaden the scope of their role
  • Expand their decision-making authority
  • Provide opportunities for employees to manage people and projects
  • Include them in more strategic leadership meetings

For the 20%: Developmental relationships

  • Launch a mentorship program
  • Set up coaching sessions with leadership
  • Provide opportunities to give and receive feedback
  • Encourage cross-functional involvement in projects

For the 10%: Formal coursework and training

  • Offer both online and offline learning courses 
  • Provide reimbursement for certifications and career development classes
  • Host seminars and workshops

Here is an example of what a highly simplified goal structure will look like for the marketing team to get better at project management:

  • Goal: Improve project management skills for the 7 team members in the marketing department
  • Duration: 6 months

Department

Training

Type

Training Method

Learning Objectives

Challenges

Start Date

End Date

Marketing

  

On-the-job         

(70%)

Project

Project management

 
   

Social

(20%)

Mentorship

  
   

Formal

(10%)

eLearning courses

  

5. Invest in the right tools

Now that you know what you want to achieve and how you want to achieve it, it’s time to think about the practicalities of implementing the plan. Invest in employee training software to create a relevant training program for modern learners:

  • Digital Adoption Platform: A digital adoption platform (DAP) is an employee training solution that provides automated, personalized training in the flow of work. DAPs assign each learner a contextual task list containing interactive walkthroughs and other in-app content based on the learner’s profile. Walkthroughs are step-by-step prompts that show users how to complete a specific process by guiding them through each step, showing them relevant training videos, or providing informative articles. 
  • Learning Management System: LMS provides personalized learning paths for mandatory and non-mandatory courses based on that employee’s actions taken within the LMS. Corporate LMS tracks what courses your employees commonly access and complete within the LMS database and suggests similar courses that the employee might be interested in.
  • Video Training Software: Video training software allow L&D teams to create interactive video content for training their team members.

Free 70-20-10-Plan Template

To help you create your own 70-20-10 plan, we’ve created a free template to help your get started. You can download and customize this template below:

FREE TEMPLATE
Get a customizable copy of 70-20-10 plan template!

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So here is everything you need to know about implementing a 70-20-10 model for your organization. Putting this learning and development program in place takes some initial planning and time investment. However, once implemented successfully, your team will be better equipped to take control of their learning and meet their goals.

Invest in digital adoption platforms like Whatfix to get the maximum ROI on your employee development programs. Using DAPs as your training software empowers employees to upskill themselves on the latest tools, applications, or processes without disrupting their workflow and productivity. It’s the best resource to make your employee development plans future-ready and valuable.

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