What is the 70/20/10 model and why is it useful for your business?

12 May 2017

The 70/20/10 model is the cornerstone of learning and development for many businesses, providing the optimal source of learning for employees. But how does the formula work? Why is it useful? And how can you apply it to your business? Find out in our helpful guide below.

What is the 70/20/10 model?

Developed in the 1980s, 70/20/10 is a learning and development model that relies on employees to self-report on how they learn in the workplace. The formula was created by Morgan McCall at the Centre for Creative Leadership (CCL), and is based on the results of a survey which asked 200 executives how they learn and develop at work.

Taking the results of the survey, McCall and his team came up with a formula which illustrates how people learn at work. The model identifies the three main areas that are most significant to personal learning and development, including: 

  • 70% — experiential learning, in which skills are learnt on the job during day-to-day work. Challenging assignments are key to an employee’s continued development in this area, as is having an appropriate platform on which their learning and development can be recorded and assessed. 
  • 20% — social learning, where skills are attained through interaction and collaboration with others. This is the sort of personal development which should occur naturally in every workplace, with new learning generated by close collaboration between colleagues. A flexible learning and development management platform is crucial to this, allowing for vital knowledge sharing. 
  • 10% — formal learning, including official training and courses which require the participation of individuals or teams. While the 70/20/10 model places little emphasis on formal learning programmes, it’s good practice to invest in the quality of the training offered, rather than the quantity.

While the 70/20/10 model does have its critics, studies show that the formula can be very effective when properly integrated into a business. According to a recent report by learning and development consultancy Towards Maturity co-authored with Charles Jennings Director of the 70/20/10 Forum , businesses that use 70/20/10 are four times more likely to report that their staff are able to respond faster to business change, and three times more likely to report improvements in staff motivation — demonstrating the positive impact the model can have in a business setting.  

70 20 10 model

Why is 70/20/10 useful for small businesses?

While some businesses rely on a full-scale formal learning system, which incorporates a prescribed curriculum for every member of staff, an informal learning model based on the 70/20/10 formula can be equally, if not more, effective in prompting workplace learning.  

The 70/20/10 model is useful for small businesses because it focuses on experiential and social learning, in which members of staff develop by carrying out day-to-day tasks and working closely with colleagues. Because the formula has less emphasis on formal training, it’s a cost-effective learning and development solution that also allows for lots of flexibility, helping employees to refine their job-related skills and make decisions on their ongoing learning and development.

Of course, the 70/20/10 model does require a culture that enables individuals to learn via new experiences without fear of failure, the ability to self-report on their development and a continuous feedback loop with managers so they can assess performance and offer constructive feedback. Having access to a learning management system coupled with 70/20/10 allows staff to determine their own learning path, and access resources which are relevant to their specific job.

A study from Docebo found that the 70/20/10 model allows staff to put what they learn into practice quicker, and that businesses which integrate the formula into their learning and development noticed a positive change in staff behaviour. The report, which was produced in conjunction with Total Maturity, also found that businesses employing the 70/20/10 model were five times more likely to attract top talent, and two times more likely to report an increase in customer satisfaction because of social and on-the-job experiential learning.

How to implement the 70/20/10 model into your business

The impact the 70/20/10 model can have on businesses is determined by how effectively it is implemented. Here, we provide a few practical tips on how to integrate 70/20/10 into your learning and development strategy.  

Raise awareness for 70/20/10 across the business

The success of the 70/20/10 formula hinges on how well informed managers and staff are about the process and benefits of the model. Be clear about why 70/20/10 is being implemented, and make sure everyone — from line managers to team members — understands that future learning and development will be facilitated less by formal training and more by on-the-job experience and social working. Both managers and staff need to be aware of the role they play in their own development, so speak to your team and promote conversation between members of staff to kick-start the 70/20/10 cycle.

70 20 10 rule

Utilise available materials

One of the reasons why the 70/20/10 model is growing in popularity is the increased availability of learning materials. Thanks to web-based learning and data-sharing platforms, companies of all sizes now have efficient access to high-quality, affordable learning materials.

Pamela Shoesmith, Human Resources Business Partner at Gazprom Energy, believes small companies can gain huge benefits from adopting this approach to learning and developments:

“Small and medium-sized businesses now have increased options when it comes to on-the-job training, thanks in part to the wealth of free and paid-for materials across web-based learning portals as well as more general channels such as YouTube, with the excellent TED Talk series being one example.  Social platforms and online business and professional forums enable the sharing of best practice, getting advice, and networking to take place much more easily.  This can help all areas of a business develop their strategies, working practices and help employees learn.  

“The diversity of the learning means employees can benefit from exposure to more skills and greater understanding – without leaving the workplace for any length of time. The 70/20/10 model can be a very cost and time effective way to deliver learning in the workplace and ensure the quality and consistency of the learning experience.  With many small and medium-sized businesses concerned about operating costs, the 70/20/10 model and the supporting learning materials can really represent value for money, and help propel the business forward.”  

70 20 10 rule

Promote experiential learning

Given that 70% of learning comes from doing, it’s vital that staff are given a platform on which to develop their skills on the job. Facilitating experiential learning in the workplace comes down to giving staff greater responsibilities and challenges, so they’re constantly developing new skills and gaining new experience. Start by delegating more challenging tasks to individual team members, and giving them greater decision-making power and control. You can push the social learning aspect here, too, by encouraging staff to build relationships with people beyond their department. Remember to offer feedback where appropriate, without micromanaging their workflow.  

Accept a drop in efficiency to facilitate development 

When individuals are given greater responsibility and challenges, a slight drop in efficiency can occur whilst they find their feet and become accustomed to new working methods. To foster experiential learning, it’s important to accept this as a compromise and allow them the freedom to develop through doing, and learning from past mistakes. Look at a drop in efficiency as a learning curve, and offer practical feedback which will help them meet expectations without jeopardising their learning and development. 

Have you enjoyed reading this article? Then take a look at the rest of the Gazprom Energy blog, for more learning and development tips and guidance for SMEs. Or, if you’d like to hear about our competitive energy contracts for small businesses, visit the homepage or call us on 0845 230 0011.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within this article are those of our third-party content providers alone and do not represent those of Gazprom Energy. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. Gazprom Energy accepts no liability for any errors, omissions or representations.


Share this


You may also like...