Using the 70 20 10 Model for Personnel Development

Before we delve into the 70 20 10 model, how do you train your team members? What are your views on providing training classes, qualifications and training workshops?

Is most of the training for your team, on the job learning? 

What if you could put together more effective training programs for your team, which allows them to learn faster? In this article, we’ll discuss the 70 20 10 model and how to use it to train and develop your team members more effectively.

Background to the 70 20 10 Model

In the 1980s, researchers McCall, Lombardi, and Morrison carried out a study on how executives gained success.

By studying nearly 200 executives and getting them to identify what they learned and how they learned it, they found an interesting similarity.

  • 70% of the time, these executives learned by applying the skills on the job;
  • 20% of the time they learned from other people around them;
  • 10% of the time, they learned from formal workshops and courses.

70 20 10 Model Rule

McCall, Lombarda, and Morrison referred to these results as the 70 20 10 model.

Later through the years, it was popularised and became a well known concept. In fact, it’s been said that the majority of large organisations today, adopt the 70 20 10 principles when developing their staff.

The approach is simple:

70% (or the vast majority) of Learning Should be Experiential

This is what is called on the job learning. In order to make it more effective, the employee should experiment and regularly reflect on what worked and what didn’t.

Quick Tip:

Encourage your team members to carry a diary or notepad, and record lessons learned every day. There’s always an opportunity to learn from reflecting on what worked and what didn’t.

Each time we do this, we shape our skills and experience in a methodical way that’s highly targeted around continuously improving our knowledge and understanding.

Encourage your team to take notes around the following, each day:

What worked:

What things worked today? How did they work and why?

What didn’t work:

What did you think would work but didn’t? Why do you think it went wrong?

What could be Improved for next time:

Based on the above, what things would you improve or add to? What was missing or not implemented correctly, in hindsight? What would you do better next time?

20% Working with Others

In our 70 20 10 model, it’s proposed that around 20% of the time, learners should learn from other people. This means that to be effective, there has to be some collaboration amongst your teams and employees.

Think of a time when you worked with a more experienced colleague, whereby you watched and discussed how things should be done. You can more than likely find a number of favourable memories, where you look back and pin-point a good learning experience or two.

This is a powerful way to both learn and build relationships. And in the context of the 70 20 10 model, try to promote 20 -25% of a person’s learning to this method.

Quick Tip:

Make it clear that you want to see collaboration around 20-25% of your team’s work.

Get team members to identify and plan how they will work together each week to develop skills and share experiences.

Promote cross sharing of information. Perhaps you could have a lessons learned review with your team, once a week.

10% Formal Training

There is still room for formal training, but according to proponents of this 70 20 10 model, it should only reflect around 10% of the employee’s time. After all, this allows us to polish our skills and learn from best practice, but not so much as we drown ourselves in theory with little practical knowledge.

In some instances, you need formal qualifications to be able to apply your skills. In others, you need to be abreast of the latest thinking.

The problem is that most of which we are taught in a classroom, we forget. So the more classroom training, the more we will probably forget before we get to apply it to our work.

For this reason, if we are in the classroom more than 10% of the time (or contextually more than any of the other two methods), then we may not be getting the most effective return. 

Quick Tip:

Try to identify workshops and courses that compliment your team’s development needs. What technical knowledge do they need to be a high performing team?

These courses could be online, or onsite. The point is to mix it up. Add a little more traditional training on top of job learning and collaboration.

When they do attend courses, encourage your team members to implement the skills learned as quickly as possible in their jobs. Afteral, the sooner we apply what we’ve learned, the more we will retain skills.

So, if they are enrolling on courses, create an action plan with each employee, to help them implement what they’ve just learned.

70 20 10 Model – Points to Note

The 70 20 10 model is a good framework to use to help maximise the effects of training.

Use it as a guide. Adjust the ratios to suit you and your business and industry. Perhaps, you need to increase formal training and reduce the on the job learning, reflecting a 60 20 20 model.

That’s perfectly fine. Make it work for you and your teams. The point is to try to ensure you capture all three learning types in rough 70, 20, 10 model ratios.

Focus on most of the learning at the closest point of use. This has been highlighted to be the most efficient and effective way of learning. In other words, individuals learn as they apply the techniques.

If you do provide formal learning, try to split it up into small manageable chunks, whereby the individual implements what they’ve just learnt.

Encourage teamwork and learning together. Some research by Charles Jennings and towards maturity, suggest that 90% of employees find teamwork essential in the workplace. This can bode well for promoting solid team relationships, too.

70 20 10 Development Plan Template

Bridgespan provides a simple 70 20 10 model development plan that you can use with your teams to plan training.

Remember to focus on effective learning by splitting it into most of the activity in on-the-job learning, around a quarter percent of the learning and teamwork and collaboration and 10% on formal exposure.