Organizational Culture Of Learning Needs To Change For The 70:20:10 Method To Work

The Increasing Use Of 70:20:10 Model 

Learning and Development is always on the hunt for new ways to deliver effective training and learning methods for the workplace, whether it’s mobile learning, blended learning, or virtual training. Unsurprisingly, some methods have caught more attention than others, and the 70:20:10 model is creating quite a buzz right now.

According to the GoodPractice 2015 UK Learning Trends Index, 93% of Learning and Development leaders say they have heard of 70:20:10; of these, 44% are currently using 70:20:10 in some way to deliver learning in their company, with a further 30% planning to use 70:20:10 as part of their learning strategy. This gives a combined total of 74% of companies who are either currently using or who plan to use 70:20:10 in the foreseeable future. This is massively encouraging. But why exactly is that? One potential reason highlighted in the report is that 70:20:10 is a move away from the more expensive, formal courses, and a move towards those of a more experiential nature. The latter are often seen as attractive methods because of their time-saving efficiency, compared to more formal courses which can potentially impinge on an employee’s day-to-day workload.

For 70:20:10 to truly work, there needs to be a change in an organizational culture of learning

For me, 70:20:10 is a great reference model, so much so that Creativedge is launching a new 90 minute bite-size training session for it this summer, but it shouldn’t be used a primary training method, or one to be used in silo. For 70:20:10 to ultimately be really effective, there needs to be a change in an organization’s culture of learning, and there needs to also be a strategy for the informal learning part of the 70:20:10 concept, so that it has a defined and clear structure. Ironically, the GoodPractise Index states that 76% of practitioners surveyed didn’t have any kind of strategy in place for informal learning. But 69% of Learning and Development practitioners say on-the-job learning delivers lasting improvement in employee behavior, knowledge and skills. And they still don’t have a strategy? The report calls it a paradox. I think it needs a change of mind-set. Let me explain.

Change of mind-set and the organizational culture of learning 

Finding success with the 70:20:10 model requires a change of mind-set by the Learning and Development practitioners that takes them away from content and courses and into employees’ shoes, in order that they might empower them with the tools they need for their learning on an individual basis.

I read an interesting article in Personnel Today that points out that one of the misconceptions around 70:20:10 could be that some Learning and Development teams slavishly work to get those proportions exactly right. As Andrew Parkinson, academy development manager at Tata Steel Europe, says in the article: “I believe many companies use the model, but whether they manage it or could demonstrate it, is another matter”. Again, another example that comes back to the point I made earlier: the organizational culture of learning and mind-set need change so that the 70:20:10 model can work in practice.

Whilst I do extol the benefits of 70:20:10 (I wouldn’t provide it as a training course to my clients unless having personally understood and considered its value), I do think that an over-reliance or a total dependency on it wouldn’t necessarily be in a company’s best interest. It would be unlikely to match the practices of organizations with the highest-quality Learning and Development methods, or be what leaders themselves would prefer.

Let me finish by giving you a parting thought: the 70:20:10 ratio -in fact any ratio- emphasizes the separation of learning methods rather than their integration. Allowing learning methods to compete rather than integrate so that they can build on one another, undermines their impact and, as such, their value.

As a provider of a range of learning methods, a multi-disciplinary approach to training is generally a good one to follow. The ultimate challenge is to support learners with blended learning which is about building in a thoughtful, systematic, personalized way a structure to enable and support how people can learn best. As Nigel Paine, a key contributor to the 70:20:10 debate, points out in the Leaning Trends Index, “70:20:10 has become something of a mantra or motto that Learning and Development people blithely rattle off without an understanding that their practice must change”.

Once more it comes back to the organizational culture of learning and mind-set needing to change, so that the 70:20:10 model can work in practice. 70:20:10 has shaken things up for organizations about how people learn and how learning experiences can be packaged and delivered. I think that change in mind-set and organizational culture I have repeatedly referred to (forgive me, readers!), will happen as a consequence.

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