SCIENCE OF LEARNING

THE

90% SOLUTION
BY ELAINE BIECH

A
s today’s talent development professional, you have multiple options for deliver-
ing learning to employees. The 70-20-10 model (70 percent hands-on experience;
20 percent developmental interactions; 10 percent formal learning) continues to
serve as a valuable guideline for using a wide variety of developmental options.
Trainers are experts in the 10 percent domain—delivering training or programs—
but what’s our role beyond instructor-led training? How do you deliver personalized
developmental experiences? Can you support social learning? How can you ensure
employees are immersed in experiential learning? What is your role in influencing in-
teraction between employees and supervisors? Can you stimulate informal learning?

The science and the story behind 70-20-10
The 70-20-10 model for learning and development is based on research conducted
at the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) in North Carolina beginning in the 1980s.
The team leading the research included Morgan McCall Jr., Michael Lombardo, and
Ann Morrison. Their research was reported in 1988. Lombardo and Robert Eich-
inger adapted the results of the research leading to the current familiar 70-20-10
framework. Today, 70-20-10 often is used as a talent development strategy aimed at
improving workplace performance.

58 TD | December 2016 PHOTO: THINKSTOCK

December 2016 | TD 59 . podcast 20% 70% 10% Become more adept at supporting and enhancing the 90 percent of learning that occurs beyond the classroom.

domains?” A total of 13. people know about their jobs. asked global leaders. a human capi- Allen Tough reported that “about 70% of tal management service in Williamstown. It skills on the job informally. • The Education Development Center of • Most recently. or even 70% 20% 10%. asynchronous of their jobs informally. Whatever your organization • Experience • Exposure • Education decides to call it is fine.124 responded. although they e-learning. employee knowledge and productivity far • Mark Loewenstein and James Spletzer more than more formalized methods. to overall job knowledge: 70% of what but they consistently show a similar break.” Although Tough didn’t employee learning programs based on in- refer to a 70-20-10 split immediately. The study was funded by time is spent in each of the three learning the U. mal learning (9-96 percent). and Motorola participated in that employees acquire most of their knowl. • Informal • Self-directed • Instruction you will see that there is some crossover be- • Practice • People • Programs tween categories too. mal training methods such as workshops. what other evidence Siemens Power Transmission and Dis- exists to support the 70-20-10 framework? tribution. such as those in the adjacent table. Here are a few examples: informally from the people they work • In researching adult learning and per. job. ployees learned about 75 percent of their erences research from 1993 and 1994. An objective of the study was edge and skills in the workplace and through to “quantify formal training’s contribution others. found that “not only do learner himself. Massachusetts.” sonal change in the 1970s. The ernments. results? Fifty-two percent learning on the Boeing Commercial Airplane Group. all learning projects are planned by the Massachusetts. the study. em- U.S. summarized International and the Corporate Board findings from a two-year study of corpo. they learn down. Merry Mechanization. As you work with the framework. he formal methods and self-study increase later stated that is what he found. “What percent of your rate cultures. Professor • Research by CapitalWorks. Reflexite North America. and synchronous classes. Not all present an exact 70-20-10 split. Bureau of Labor Statistics that ref. through dis- states that people learn about 70 percent cussions with co-workers. 27 percent learning from others. and 21 percent formal learning. Development Dimensions Newton. The rest of the story The 70-20-10 Categories Can Go By Different Names You have probably seen the 70-20-10 frame- work written as 70/20/10.” According to the study. Data Empirical studies and surveys on the topic first Instruments. Ford started in the late 1960s and demonstrated Electronics. state gov. 70:20:10. with. Department of Labor. Beyond the work at CCL.S. and the Pew Charitable Trusts. and mentoring by managers. found significant variation between both The other 25 percent was gained from for- formal learning (13-46 percent) and infor. You’ve also seen the categories 70% 20% 10% called different names. seminars. • On-the-job • Learning from • New formal But the real beauty is that no matter how the numbers are presented or what the cat- assignments others content egories are called. they published a 1998 study conducted by the also cost less. as long as it works for • Workflow • Social • Formal you and that you understand that these are guidelines. most people in the talent development profession recognize it as repre- 60 TD | December 2016 .

Practitioners who argue that the us from becoming better and even sinking percentages should be different—60-30-10. Although only 10 percent or so. It is meant to be a guideline. the pure 70-20-10 doesn’t project the three essen- • certification or certificates tial ingredients for learning: • professional accreditation • Employees need challenging tasks. that it is a critical Use 70-20-10 as a Guideline element in development to ensure new concepts and innovative ideas are presented. The first Michael Lombardo. enables them to discover. one of the Center for Creative Leadership research- activities that might come to mind are proba. however. we are It is disappointing to see the guide used for the wrong reasons too. On-the-job assignments—70 percent. reading blogs December 2016 | TD 61 . The posed to new information is meaningless. and Formal content activities—10 percent. formal learning is • encouraging peer feedback critical for gaining new information and skills. Sup- porters contend. • To learn. • building internal/external networks • initiating 360 feedback processes 70-20-10 learning activities • participating in research projects So what activities might you expect to find • training/teaching others. within each of the three categories? As I men. is that conversations stimulate learning. to attack formal courses. virtual modules op. or a rule. employees receive feedback and are helped by others—the social ing encouragement and feedback. a research project could beneficial categories for employees because it be a job assignment or learning from others. not a recipe. we tend to each organization—even for different parts of the same organization. It was • courses. coaches. seminars. I sometimes hear people at- • accepting mentoring and coaching tempt to justify spending a smaller budget on courses because it is the relationships smallest percentage. role models. CMOOCs. good examples or bad. The simplicity helps • seeking advice. supervisors. settle into a complacent attitude that prevents People sometimes get distracted. shared with me that the original re- bly instructor-led courses. and SPOCs the solution meet. employees need to be assisted by others. make decisions. For example. opinions. The low percentage may surprise you if you are reading about this framework for the first time. are learning. It is intended to provide a framework. for example—are missing back to bad habit.senting how we develop. ers behind the 70-20-10 model. • engaging as a mentor or reverse mentor The best learning strategy is one that draws upon elements of all • joining online professional communities or three categories. Development is a demand pull: “I • college or university classes want to grow because ___. articles. Others • Employees need fresh content. Without feedback. It is more relevant today than ever before. workshops meant as a rough guide to get everyone to think about how people devel- • e-learning. capable the equation.” Development occurs when the need and • MOOCs. 70-20-10 is a holistic approach and is powerful when everything is Receiving feedback is an important aspect working together. The true value element of learning. It online virtually. and whitepapers. learning from others every day by: for example. • reading books. you will find some crossover between periential aspect may make this one of the most categories. The right balance will be different for each situation and best possible. or even incompetent bosses. • blended learning of classroom and He said that the numbers project a solution that isn’t as simplistic as it e-learning appears. No matter from whom we the point. Simply being ex- Learning from others (social)—20 percent. The ex- tioned. formula. Learning occurs when social element echoes the importance of receiv. and that is where courses come into can be mentors. either in person or search that led to the model was conducted with successful leaders. The category also includes: was not originally meant to be called a model. of this development category because it can Follow-up studies have been conducted that replicate these or very prevent us from thinking that we are doing the similar results. work debriefs professionals and senior leaders quickly grasp • curating/sharing work developments the approach and benefits. For example.

address challenges to ultimately refine their job. become an action team member) (and should) occur naturally. categories can work together. videos. Imagine that work addresses. and learning circle around the model. On- opmental opportunities help you decide what demand learning such as webinars. Matching the most appropriate challeng. coating over the framework that represents bility. observation. The 70 percent. certain events. peer of learners? 62 TD | December 2016 . Learning from others: I like to think of 70-20-10 as the first • Organize accountability relationships that blended learning design. No matter what numbers the model uses. The 10 percent. focuses on learning from • Use apps and mobile learning. • Design realistic role plays. but it also developmental turning points. learners to trade business cards and email ing where the work is. reflection. lead a proj. This is blended learning that can ect. • derail-proof employees Formal: • increase senior management interaction • Use an experiential learning activity model • increase the span of control. learning experience. These devel. ties. in which you follow activities with a de- Finally. How do you ensure your learn- • accept stretch assignments ers get these experiential opportunities? What • manage change can you do to ensure learning is experiential? • champion a new product or service What follows are a few ideas linked to each of • apply newly learned concepts the categories. A webinar. or extend beyond the classroom or virtual formal learning. available at the right time. or aspect of the work you like and don’t like and job aids are other examples of how the three gain competencies in the process. example. coaches for learners. might be considered formal learn- ties that are not only developmental but also ing until your supervisor discusses it with you afford an employee to gain knowledge and (social) and suggests that you implement what skills. related skills. blogging or using Twitter or assignments most likely stand out as key could be considered social learning. and supervisory support. can be paired with formal learning events. coaching and mentoring.” All learning • lead community or volunteer activities should be experiential. The 70 percent category should • accept rotational assignments not be renamed “experiential. building courses. ple. assignment). for This list encompasses just a few opportuni. or on-the-job assignments. For example. networking. The 20 percent. or social learning. and reading. all of these need to be experien- • participate in cross-functional activities tial in nature. includes new initiatives. instructor-led • Encourage and establish mentors and virtual classes. and conversation Put learning where the work is to “experience” what they are learning. ing that the right developmental activities are • Demonstrate feedback. an acting role) experiential. ultimately improving performance: you learned on your new project (on-the-job • solve problems (for example. the employee is powerful. • Ensure that you allow time for practice. includes classroom skill. Imagine a transparent • expand the scope (take on new responsi. remember that the true value of this brief that includes: What? So what? Now model is using all three as a holistic approach what? to developing employees. tasks. When you think there are many crossover learning opportuni- back to your career. and learning from mistakes. you • Build future relationships by encouraging can envision that your job is to put the learn. ensur. • handle a crisis In addition. could you text a challenge to a group ties of practice. increased responsi- ing experience to the developmental need of bilities. for exam- others and includes how you can use communi. simulations. However.

share knowledge. acting. And finally. employees. It can help you redefine your development task over the transom and expect accountability and relevancy. Twitter feeds. stand how to develop people. and allowing learners to share content on Facebook. its effectiveness tractor or antitraining. You can’t just toss the perfect ratio. It is not meant to be a dis- ment activity. • Encourage learners to seek out rotations. She has been in the field more Perhaps your learning and development de. thing for you to do. people? The framework requires that manag- ers are coaches and recognize that they are Know the science.com. and stretch assignments. such as: What’s on your mind? What are your thoughts about XYZ? What would you do differently next time? What can you implement based on this experience? What do you still need to learn/do/know? Organizational implementation of the 70-20-10 framework requires learning and development to team up with managers to im. important role managers have in developing First. On-the-job assignments: • Work with managers to find challenging opportunities for employees. courage as our key responsibility. It ronment in which people can talk to them and is not prescriptive. December 2016 | TD 63 . and experiential to do to support supervisors and managers? learning consulting firm. • Communicate team prospects for those needing this experience. does your learning and develop. it is not a was rated at 50 percent. It means that they foster an envi. The to work in most organizations under most cir- Brandon Hall Group found that “exposure to cumstances. incorporating BLENDED LEARNING DESIGN. ees learn and develop in your organization. but a guide for what seems to each other. do your managers appreciate the im. • Help managers learn to ask the right ques- tions. leadership development. Put on your creative hat and paint portance of their role in developing their a picture of how you could help. Second. It is not meant to be one more managers” was the second-most used develop. scale change. • Enable watercooler learning by emailing a question of the day to an employee group. a strategic ment department understand what it needs implementation. most critical skills for leaders include coach- prove learning across the organization. • Connect learners through social media I LIKE TO THINK OF 70-20-10 AS THE FIRST using discussion boards.” This illustrates the organization can answer. apply the art primarily responsible for their employees’ 70-20-10 can be used to assess how employ- performance. helping organizations work through large- partment has a developmental opportunity. Elaine Biech is president of Ebb Associates. Jon Wolper reported in the May 2016 issue of This article is excerpted from chapter 4 of The Art and Science of TD that “DDI research shows that [two of] the Training (ATD Press). • Seek community and volunteer options. 70-20-10 is the supervisors and managers to know what to do. Unfortunately. ebbiech@aol. There ing and developing others and identifying and are two concerns here that only you and your developing future talent. and grow. reality that we all need to promote and en- It is your role as a trainer to help them under. than 30 years.

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