Learning & Development Professional has been running a poll on the following question:
Is the 70:20:10 model still relevant today?
And I’m shocked by the results. At the time of writing this blog, over half the respondents have chosen “No”. Assuming they are all L&D professionals, the extrapolation means most of us don’t think the 70:20:10 model is relevant to our work.
But what does this really mean?
In LDP’s article The 70:20:10 model – how fair dinkum is it in 2015? – by the way, “fair dinkum” is Australian slang for “real” or “genuine” – Emeritus Professor David Boud says he doesn’t think there is proper evidence available for the effectiveness of the model.
If this is a backlash against the numbers, I urge us all to let it go already. Others have explained umpteen times that 70:20:10 is not a formula. It just refers to the general observation that the majority of learning in the workplace is done on the job, a substantial chunk is done by interacting with others, while a much smaller proportion is done off the job (eg in a classroom).
Indeed this observation doesn’t boast a wealth of empirical evidence to support it, although there is some – see here, here and here.
Nonetheless, I wonder if the hoo-ha is really about the evidence. After all, plenty of research can be cited to support the efficacy of on-the-job learning, social learning and formal training. To quibble over their relative proportions seems a bit pointless.
Consequently, some point the finger at trainers. These people are relics of a bygone era, clinging to the old paradigm because “that’s how we’ve always done it”. And while this might sound a bit harsh, it may contain a seed of truth. Change is hard, and no one wants their livelihood threatened.
If you feel deep down that you are one of the folks who views 70:20:10 as an “us vs them” proposition, I have two important messages that I wish to convey to you…
1. Training will never die.
While I believe the overall amount of formal training in the workplace will continue to decrease, it will never disappear altogether – principally for the reasons I’ve outlined in Let’s get rid of the instructors!.
Ergo, trainers will remain necessary for the foreseeable future.
2. The 70:20:10 model will improve your effectiveness.
As the forgetting curve illustrates, no matter how brilliant your workshops are, they are likely to be ineffective on their own.
To overcome this problem, I suggest using the 70:20:10 model as a lens through which you view your instructional design.
For example, suppose you are charged with training the sales team on a new product. As a trainer, you will smash the “10” with an informative and engaging workshop filled with handouts, scenarios, role plays, activities etc.
Then your trainees return to their desks, put the handouts in a drawer, and try to remember all the important information for as long as humanly possible.
To help your audience remember, why not provide them with reference content in a central location, such as on the corporate intranet or in a wiki. Then they can look it up just in time when they need it; for example, in the waiting room while visiting a client.
Job aids would also be useful, especially for skills-based information; for example, the sequence of key messages to convey in a client conversation.
To improve the effectiveness of your workshop even further, consider doing the following:
Engage each trainee’s manager to act as their coach or mentor. Not only does this extend the learning experience, but it also bakes in accountability for the learning.
Encourage the manager to engineer opportunities for the trainee to put their learning into practice. These can form part of the assessment.
Set up a community of practice forum in which the trainee can ask questions in the moment. This fosters collaboration among the team and reduces the burden on the L&D department to respond to each and every request.
Partner each trainee with a buddy to accompany them on their sales calls. The buddy can act as a role model and provide feedback to the trainee.
In my humble opinion, it is counter-productive to rail against 70:20:10.
As an L&D professional, it is in your interest to embrace it.