The 70-20-10 Model: Principles, Pitfalls, and Solutions

Stine Offenberg | | 5 Minutes Read
First published by Storyboard here.

Do you know the 70-20-10 model? Maybe you’ve heard of it but don’t quite know what it stands for. Or maybe your company has used it for several years and you’re not sure if it’s still relevant. In the following, we take a closer look at how the principles of the 70-20-10 model can be useful in connection with learning and competence development.

What is the 70-20-10 model?

70-20-10 (which can also be written as 70:20:10 or 70/20/10) is a model that describes the way we learn. It’s based on the principle that we learn through a combination of informal and formal situations as well as through interaction with others.

The model proposes that about 70 % of learning comes from experience, experiment, and reflection through on-the-job tasks, experiences, and challenges. 20 % derives from working with others, and 10 % comes from formal interventions and planned learning solutions such as e-learning courses. However, these percentages should not be considered absolute. Rather, they should be seen as an attempt to clarify how most learning takes place in the workplace.

Let’s dive deeper into what the 70-20-10 model is all about, and how it can be used in any organization.

70 % of learning comes from experience, experiment, and reflection

According to the 70-20-10 model, approximately 70 % of our learning comes from hands-on experience. That is when we try to solve a new work task, or we change the way we’ve previously performed tasks. It’s when we’re faced with problems or challenges and have to find a solution, that we learn the most. In these situations, our brain actively works to find a good solution, and our learning in this connection is not so easily forgotten. Do you remember a particularly demanding situation you were suddenly exposed to in your work life? Do you remember how you handled the situation? Whether you felt proud about the outcome, or you were left with a dissatisfied feeling, you definitely learned something from that experience.

At work, we also observe how our colleagues handle different situations. Our knowledge gaps become more clear to us, and we become motivated to uncover these gaps in order to be able to do a better job.

Pitfall

It sounds both simple and economical to immediately put new employees to work, letting them gain the necessary skills through self-learning and shoulder to shoulder training. But this is not necessarily a good idea. Not everyone is good at imparting knowledge, and misunderstandings can easily arise. The training may be haphazard and inadequate, and colleagues may pass on their own (faulty) habits. And lack of knowledge can lead to increased confusion and a feeling of inadequacy in the person in training.

Solution

Make a plan for how learning should take place in informal situations. Recognize that this is a learning situation that should be planned and not left to chance. This can be done through conscious planning of who works together, a rotation of work tasks, and frequent feedback from managers on how tasks are performed.

Positive, constructive feedback contributes to employees feeling seen and valued. So, make sure that the person in training always has access to someone they can ask for advice or help when uncertainty arises.

20 % of learning derives from working with others

The 70-20-10 model then suggests that approximately 20 % of our learning happens through relationships, networks, feedback from work colleagues, and sharing of both positive and negative experiences. All this can happen in informal, random situations or as scheduled conversations.

Pitfall

If this is left to chance, everyday life often takes over and there’ll be too little time left to just connect. No one likes to be asked questions or appear insecure or incompetent. So even if you ask how things are going, you may not get honest answers. It takes time to become comfortable with others, and if you do not feel safe, it’s difficult to learn.

Solution

Many companies solve this problem by introducing mentoring programs and / or job shadowing. Another option is to share experiences at department meetings. For example, you can let everyone provide positive feedback on how a colleague solved a certain task that week.

Many have also been successful in putting together experience groups where one can air both uncertainty and good ideas. Here you can show that it’s okay to admit to mistakes and ask others for advice. When you ask your colleagues for advice or help, you show that you value their competence and willingness to cooperate. You also help create a corporate culture based on open communication and collaboration.

10 % of learning comes from formal interventions

According to the 70-20-10 model, the last 10 % must come from planned courses, e-learning, and seminars. It may not sound like much, but that doesn’t mean this part is less important. Formal learning must be incorporated into our learning process. For some companies, of course, it’ll be necessary to increase this percentage. Nevertheless, the point is that we often remember more from our personal experiences and conversations than of what we’re told through formal interventions. But if you’re able to combine all three learning methods, you can establish a very successful learning and development program.

Pitfall

If employees are simply assigned courses without you having examined the content and relevance, it’ll be a waste of time, energy, and resources. If the courses don’t reflect our normal work tasks, it has little to no value for companies. And while management is often offered new learning opportunities, the other staff is often not offered further competence development.

Solution

Be actively involved in the choice of courses as well as learning and education programs. Also be sure to supervise what kind of training each employee needs and what training they’ve already gone through. In this context, a learning portal (LMS) can be a useful tool. With a learning portal, you can, for example, gather all learning modules and materials in one single place, assign courses as needed, and keep track of progress. You can also create course certificates, reports, and view statistics.

Also, make sure that your employees are given the opportunity to practice what they’ve learned straight after finishing their training. This can be done, for example, by offering practical exercises through game-based learning. Game-based learning gives you the opportunity to try and fail without serious consequences. You get to practice tasks typical for your position and learn from your own mistakes without losing face or putting others in difficult situations.

In fact, it’s not difficult to create personalized 3D games that are both engaging and educational. For example, you can reach out to our partner Storyboard or read this blog post (in Norwegian) for more information on the benefits of game-based learning.

For personal development and the company in general, it’s important to talk about what employees have learned and how to apply that knowledge in real life. This, too, can be facilitated through a learning portal, where you, for example, can create compulsory modules that include collaborative assignments, joint discussions, and group assessments. You can add or remove modules as you wish. Thus, your company’s training, learning, and development remains cost effective but still tailored to your specific needs.

With the 70-20-10 model, and a learning portal from us, you’ll have the perfect basis for an effective learning process!

Read more about the 70-20-10 model here or contact us for a free strategy meeting covering your company’s learning needs.

Get the help you need,
every step of the way