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

21 November 2019

In the realm of learning and development, there are lots of approaches and methodologies that businesses swear by. For example, some favour rigorous training to instil new skills and positives in their employees. Other businesses go for technology-based programmes to train their staff, while some take an individualistic, one-on-one approach. The 70/20/10 model, however, opts for methods that put learning on the job above all.

A powerful learning tool for small businesses, we’ll delve into what the model entails, why it’s useful for small businesses, and how you can implement it within your organisation.


What is the 70/20/10 model?

Developed in the 1980s, 70/20/10 is a learning and development model that relies on employees self-reporting 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. They found the three main areas that are most significant to personal learning and development are as follows: 

  • 70% — Experiential learning

This is where 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

Social learning involves attaining skills 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

The final type of learning includes 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 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.


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 more effective in promoting workplace learning. 

Employees learn on the job

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.

It can be tailored to individuals

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 learning path, and access resources which are relevant to their specific job.

It promotes positive change in staff

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.

Like what you're reading? Sign up below to receive our best content each month...

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 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 development, so speak to your team and promote conversation between members of staff to kick-start the 70/20/10 cycle.

Utilise available materials

Another reason 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 development:

“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 represent value for money, and help propel the business forward.”  

Promote experiential learning

Given that 70% of learning comes from doing, staff be 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 give 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. 


The 70/20/10 model in action

Practically speaking, how can the numbers that make up the model be put into action through common development activities?

70: Learning and developing through experience

Say you’re looking to expand an employee’s scope of work. There are several ways to achieve this, including giving them new responsibilities, increasing their degree of control and allowing them more authority to make decisions. If there’s a team meeting, why not hand over the reins to them and allow them to take on more managerial responsibilities within the office.

Solving real problems can also help employees to learn. Introduce new techniques and approaches to solving problems that can then apply to problems within the business, and be sure to provide them with feedback so they can solve old problems with this new approach.

Offering them new experiences can also help in this regard. Allow employees to get out of their comfort zone and give them the chance to conduct interviews, assume leadership activities in projects and work with other departments in different roles.

20: Learning and developing through others

Structured mentoring and coaching can come into play here. Step into a mentor role or allow them to assume the same post so they can instil knowledge in others. Encourage your employees to join professional communities online, where they can learn and discuss work-related skills with like-minded people. Allow them to share what they’ve learned from others through an internal network.

10: Learning and developing through structured courses

The area of least focus is still an important part of the model. There are lots of structured courses for them to benefit from, from workshops and seminars to university degrees. Whether it’s an eLearning course or a professional qualification, the benefits can pay off handsomely for the growth and development of your team.

Gazprom Energy is a leading and award-winning business energy supplier, helping thousands of small businesses manage their gas and electricity contracts. To find out more about what we can offer your business, visit the homepage or call us today on 0161 837 3395.

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...