Putting the 70:20:10 learning framework into practice

• 6 min read

Employees have less time than ever to learn – make their time count by applying the 70:20:10 framework

We’ve got a question for you: in your current role, how much formal training did you receive, and exactly how much of that information did you actually retain?

Next question: think for a second about how much you learned on the job. More importantly, think about how much of that on-the-job learning stuck with you and became useful throughout your day-to-day.

It’s safe to assume that you probably find yourself recollecting the skills you’ve picked up on the job during your daily tasks far more vividly than all the onboarding videos you had to click through when you joined the company. This is the basis of the 70:20:10 learning approach.

The 70:20:10 learning approach focuses specifically on how we can take the benefits of workplace learning and apply them to learning in the flow of work. (At Docebo, we think about how to channel this with the help of your learning management system (LMS)!)

Ironically, despite learning and development leaders recognizing the benefits achievable through modernizing their learning strategy with technology and the key role it plays in the process, many fail at successfully adopting new development programs to achieve their goals.

In fact, according to a Deloitte poll, 88% of survey respondents believe that developing the workforce of the future is important, but only 11% feel they know how to do that. When you couple that with employees reporting that they can only dedicate one percent of their time a week to training, it’s understandable why modernizing learning strategies to adopt 70:20:10 has never been more important.

What is the 70:20:10 framework?

The 70:20:10 model for learning and development was developed by the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) in the mid-1980s by Morgan McCall, Michael M. Lombardo, and Robert W. Eichinger. They asked 200 successful managers how they learned. From the answers they received, they divided the learning into three categories:

  • 70% – informal learning (such as on the job or experienced-based learning)
  • 20% – coaching, mentoring, developing through others
  • 10% – formal learning interventions and structured courses

The results? They were able to identify a high-performing learning experience that boosts employee engagement and most importantly — works.

The founders of the 70:20:10 Institute, Jos Arets, Charles Jennings, and Vivian Heijne, claim: “Implementing the 70:20:10 model will generate real business impact, by adjusting the organizational focus from solely developing formal learning solutions to integrating learning in the workflow.”

Not surprising given how this is how adults intuitively learn!

In general, those applying this new template of learning to their training programs report twice the business benefits and efficiency improvements than counterparts who are not. Sounds powerful, right? But how does this type of learning work?

How the 70:20:10 model works

When we talk about how we learn, we must first understand how adults in work learn. Unlike children that benefit greater from formalized learning, such as in pre-school and kindergarten, adult learning is far more nuanced. Needless to say, adults learn best in circumstances where:

  • There’s the opportunity to practice: the information learned is relevant and has an abundance of scenarios where the learner can use it. This can be in real-life scenarios or even just on-the-job scenarios!
  • There are networks established and rich conversations: learning doesn’t only come in the form of presentations or guides — the learner is given the opportunity to receive input from high performing individuals or subject matter experts, form rich conversations about the topic, and reflect and share ideas with colleagues to get a deeper understanding of the topic.
  • The learned information has regular reflective practice, alone or with others: the learned knowledge is repetitive and applicable to scenarios over time.

The 70:20:10 model is a highly effective learning methodology, responding directly to these learning styles of most workers.

The 70 focuses specifically on informal, on-the-job training that is repeated regularly, allowing for constant opportunities to absorb and retain knowledge related to a specific set of skills (or new ones).

The 20 focuses on coaching and mentoring via interactions with subject-matter experts and colleagues. This can be your boss providing relevant, job-related tips to help you succeed in your specific role, or your colleague showing you a cool hack to get something done more efficiently.

The 10 represents formal learning, such as the classrooms, webinars, presentations, quizzes, and more.

This model is well known to produce a direct and positive impact on learner engagement and encourages learning that sticks. Learning platforms that support the 70:20:10 learning model ease an organization’s transition from a learning program that only supports formal learning.

At Docebo, we incorporate this concept into our products. Docebo’s Coach and Share module takes care of 70% of informal, experiential learning, and 20% of social learning — while Docebo’s core LMS, Learn, makes up the difference by supporting formal learning, the “10 in 70:20:10 (even though we already know the 70:20:10 ratio isn’t “fixed.”)

What benefits do 70:20:10 users see?

As you can probably imagine, implementing the 70:20:10 framework doesn’t just work in theory. It works statistically well! Contrary to some myths on the topic, the organizations that have embraced the 70:20:10 framework:

  • 73% see the improved process
  • 72% see improved efficiency
  • 63% see improved productivity

Additionally, a study by Towards Maturity shows that the organizations applying new models, such as 70:20:10, are consistently reporting more benefits compared to those who are not. They are at least:

  • Four times more likely to respond faster to business change (30% vs. 7%)
  • Three times more likely to report improvements in staff motivation (27% vs. 8%)
  • Twice more likely to report improvements in customer satisfaction scores (42% vs. 18%)

The study also found that implementing the 70:20:10 model changes the way L&D professionals supported their formal learning activities while increasing the likelihood that their learners seek out experiential learning opportunities from those that exist within their social circles at work. This means that learners have a stronger tendency to guide their own learning and are more eager to learn.

For more information on how to develop more autonomous learners, explore What is learner autonomy? 

Further to this, in terms of applying new skills, which can have an immediate impact on an organization’s bottom line, learners within a 70:20:10 model were found to be more likely to see:

  • Learners put what they learn into practice quickly (34% vs 20%)
  • Staff can access learning directly relevant to their job (62% vs 32%)
  • Staff can determine their own path through their learning (39% vs 21%)
  • They have noticed positive changes in staff behavior (28% vs 12%)

Pretty impressive stats! Knowing how effective it is to implement 70:20:10 and how much more engaged and effective your learners are using this strategy, it begs the question — how do we implement this and with what?

Implementing the 70:20:10 learning framework

When it comes to 70:20:10, implementing the right LMS is key. The right LMS not only facilitates your formal learning content but encourages social interactions between learners and experts. This produces a built-in opportunity for rich conversation and networking among learners in your learning platform — which is the “20” to your 70:20:10!

When implementing a new model, you need to ensure that your learning technology is up to the task of supporting your workers within whatever learning framework you adopt. That means your platform must be equipped with the functionalities to make the sharing of knowledge among learners accessible, and give subject-matter experts a place to house the expertise necessary to effectively mentor (coach) other learners.

It also means that the system needs to be able to deliver on-demand information to be ready to be applied to those hands-on situations. Ask yourself:

  • Does my platform allow for Reddit-like forums and threads that allow learners to ask general questions to the community regarding the content?
  • Does your solution enable learners to search up questions and answers that were previously asked?
  • How easy is it for your learners to share knowledge within a community with other learners?
  • How accessible are subject matter experts to the learner within the platform? Is the content they need to understand a concept better easy to locate?

When it comes to learning at the point of need, or “just-in-time” learning, a learning platform built around the 70:20:10 model provides the functionalities that make those times when your employees need information extremely accessible.

Empower your people with 70:20:10

Fortunately, Docebo‘s platform is fully equipped in implementing the 70:20:10 learning framework! Docebo’s platforms offer many functionalities that entice learners through a plethora of features that support a blended learning approach that combines formal, informal, social, and experiential opportunities to learn at work, in real life:

  • Learning content is categorized by role. Providing the learner with formalized learning content that is actually relevant to them specifically
  • Comment functionality under videos, giving the learner the ability to create a discussion thread under content pieces
  • Easy access to subject matter experts with the click of a button — available on almost every page
  • AI-supported e-discovery for easy access to relevant content pieces using only search words

Give your people the platform they need to leverage social, informal, and experiential learning opportunities driven by their day-to-day, on-the-job experiences.

Ready to see 70:20:10 in action?