Have you ever wondered how to replace a car tire? Or fix a fuse? Easy! You can read about it online, and you're enlightened. But does that mean you can replace a tire or fix a fuse if the situation arises? Not really. You need to apply these practically, and that's when you would know the nuances of what it takes to solve these problems. The 70-20-10 model for learning and development states precisely that. This model is not just some random numbers thrown together.

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Have you ever wondered how to replace a car tire? Or fix a fuse? Easy! You can read about it online, and you’re enlightened. But does that mean you can replace a tire or fix a fuse if the situation arises? Not really. You need to apply these practically, and that’s when you would know the nuances of what it takes to solve these problems. The 70-20-10 model for learning and development states precisely that. This model is not just some random numbers thrown together.

The History of 70-20-10

The model came into existence during the 1980s through Morgan McCall’s research at the Centre of Creative Leadership (CCL). McCall and his team asked around executives in managerial positions how they learn at work. The results they found formed the groundwork of the model.

So, what is the 70-20-10 model? Let’s dive into the details.

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70-20-10 Explained

This model studies all the different ways that a learner learns. It is used as a guideline by a majority of the world’s organizations. The model states that a learner needs three types of experiences for effective learning to occur.

1. 70% (Experiential Learning):

70% of what we learn is through hands-on experience, resolving issues, daily practice, and challenges. This is experiential learning, where learning is informal and self-directed. It requires a learner to use skills and the theory learned. This effectively would be the application of the knowledge acquired. Being self-motivated helps the learner participate in their learning process and judge their responses and need additional practice. In this way, the learner is more likely to retain the knowledge acquired and hone skills that may be lacking. Like in the example above, you would know how to fix a tire if you set out fixing one.

In the Learning and Development fraternity, on-the-job training for employees has always been popular with any organization. This helps the employee apply the theoretical knowledge gained to everyday situations, which may resolve issues and develop content. The employees are encouraged to ask questions, make mistakes, take risks and be open to either positive or constructive feedback. Quizzes and gamification are the best ways to keep employees engaged and expose them to challenges. Virtual reality and augmented reality are also effective ways of implementing experiential learning for the workforce.

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2. 20% (Social Learning):

Learning does not happen only through experience; it can occur when one observes and interacts with other people. The employees learn through their interactions with peers, superiors, or other parties involved in the organization. This ratio of social learning is 20%, according to the model. When employees observe their peers and superiors working, responding, and tackling issues, they gain insight into the best way to respond. Though the setting is real, and the consequences are paramount, they can work under constraints and are guided every step of the way.

Initially, the employees can be trained through mentoring. In case they need to be trained on client interaction, an effective way of teaching this skill is to observe a suitable scenario or simulation and then be guided through another one. Since this is just a scenario-based learning/simulation, there is no danger of extreme consequences if the employees make any mistakes. The creation of chatrooms and discussion forums can help in sharing knowledge with others and encourage collaboration. Organizations can also use social media like Facebook and the video platform YouTube for employee learning.

3. 10% (Formal Learning):

The most well-known aspect of learning is formal, which is delivered in a structured way. 10% of the learner’s development occurs through the theoretical or the coursework they are exposed to. This formal learning gives a base for the knowledge gained. Coupled with experiential and social learning, it makes knowledge retention better.

The 10% of learning in an organization constitutes the official training and courses that the employees must take. These could be individual training modules or group ones and could be online or face-to-face. Online training modules can be put on the organization’s Learning Management System (LMS), and the employees can learn at their own pace and anywhere they wish. This also makes it easy for the organization to track the progress of the employees. As for face-to-face training, the employees can be exposed to workshops, seminars, group presentations, and tutorials.

How to develop a 70 20 10 model of learning and development for Your Organization?

If this model sounds new to you, it can be tricky to implement. It would help if you had a well-structured plan to target specific training goals and a realistic outlook for achieving them. Let us see how to go about making the model suitable to your organization.

  • Define goals and outcomes:

    You need to define why your organization needs this model. Being clear regarding performance gap or knowledge gap, increasing productivity by enhancing and mastering a particular skill would help. This initial analysis would make it clear if investing time and money in this model is worth it.

  • Strategy:

    Once you know what you want, you need to decide on the learning experience to accomplish your goal. It becomes crucial to determine whether to use the experiential, social, or formal type of learning. Once that is done, then finalize the kind of training method to include. It would be best to decide whether to use mentoring, virtual reality, or any other training type.

  • Tools:

    The last step is to decide on the training tools. There are many web conferencing tools that you can use if your organization does not use one already. You would also need a learning management system to automate the training and keep track of the employees’ results. Moreover, if you wish to create courses by yourself, you would need authoring tools to help you.

  • Communication:

    Since this model focuses on collaboration, there has to be a platform for the employees to share knowledge and interact.

Now that you are armed with all the information, you are ready to implement the 70-20-10 model in your organization.

Benefits of the 70-20-10 Model

There are several benefits of the 70-20-10 model. Let us look at them-

  • Employee involvement:

    Since the model does not focus only on formal training, the managers and senior employees can get involved in the training process. This also helps in the retention of talent in the organization.

  • Feedback:

    With coaching and mentoring in the organization, things get done faster as they get immediate feedback.

  • Learning culture:

    The implementation of this model also builds a culture of learning in the organization, enhancing employee performance.

  • Collaboration:

    Moreover, this model is cost-effective as it promotes collaboration and does not focus on formal learning, which is expensive. Also, this improves the productivity and performance of the employees.

Drawbacks of the 70-20-10 Model

Though this model is seen as effective, there have been several criticisms raised. They are as follows-

  • Lack of empirical data:

    Critics of the model voice their concern over the lack of empirical data on the survey conducted by McCall. They opine that the study was conducted on managers who were already successful, so they would not be suitable candidates.

  • Organizational culture:

    The kind of corporate culture an organization has is one setback that could hamper an employee’s learning. If the organization expects the employee to work independently from day one and does not support social learning, it could lead to some snags in the learning process.

  • 10% of Formal learning:

    Another drawback is that only 10% of formal learning is targeted. Though formal learning is structured, it is vital to achieving objectives, and cut down on it may not always be a good thing. In a small organization that does not have many employees, learning from peers may not be possible and formal learning is the way to go.

Traditional Learning and the 70-20-10 Model

There is a difference between traditional learning and the 70-20-10 model. Let us see.

Traditional Learning 70-20-10 Model
  • It focuses on learning goals
  • It focuses on performance goals
  • Considers only content
  • Considers both context and content
  • Includes only theoretical knowledge (What)
  • Includes practical knowledge along with theoretical knowledge (How)
  • Learning happens only in the classroom, seminars, workshop, or LMS
  • Learning can happen through experience in the entire organization
  • Learning and work are separate
  • Learning and work are integrated

Recent Findings

Recent research has revealed that the 70-20-10 learning model ratio can give better results if modified according to the specific industry. This new approach is called the OSF (on-the-job, social, formal) ratio. It can vary according to the industry and the kind of learners that the organizations have. This ratio considers that some jobs may need formal training to a more significant extent for deeper learning. Thus, neither is the 70-20-10 model wrong, nor is the OSF ratio the right one. They each can be effective depending on the kind of industry, organization, and employees involved. So, in the Learning and Development industry, rigidly following the 70-20-10 learning model ratio would not be the right thing to do. There has to be a balance between the three forms of learning, and formal training can be such that it incorporates both on=the-job training and social learning.

Thus, this model encourages the learner’s autonomy as theoretical knowledge only enlightens up to an extent. Like in the beginning, just knowing how to replace a tire is not going to be enough. This can be tackled by watching videos or simulations then practicing fixing a tire. It is a new world we are looking at, and our solutions must also be innovative so that maximum learning happens.

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