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What is the 70:20:10 Model?

The 70:20:10 model is a simple formula, created in the 1980s by leadership researchers Morgan McCall, Michael M. Lombardo and Robert A. Eichinger, and is commonly used within the learning and development sector to describe the sources of successful managers' educational experiences.

  • 70:20:10 is the ratio of knowledge obtained from three sources: 
  1.  Job-related experiences 
  2. Interactions with others
  3. Formal education events 
These are illustrated in the chart below.

Pie chart of the 70:20:10 model.

70:20:10 often forms the basis of organisational development programmes, and should also be at the forefront of managers' minds when planning training or educational activities. It goes against the typical 'learning' approach to development (i.e. the '10'), which has fallen out of fashion in many employers in recent years. 

Below we will outline a comparison of some traits of each approach, as cited by proponents of 70:20:10. 

Learning Approach

  • Focuses on learning approaches to tackle skill deficits
  • A response to analyses of learning needs
  • Delivers formal learning plans for specific solutions
  • Focuses on theoretical knowledge, written content, and learning goals
  • Often facilitated through formal "classroom" situations
  • Learning is often entirely separated from work

70:20:10 Approach

  • A blended approach, designed to tackle performance problems within the organisation
  • Designed as a continual process of organisational performance enhancement
  • Focuses on performance goals and objectives, and can be regularly updated using feedback
  • Learning is based on practical knowledge
  • Programmes are based on employees and their needs
  • Learning and working are ongoing and integrated
Each individual's learning and development are dependent on innumerable different factors. However, 70:20:10 is growing in traction within organisations across the globe and is a useful guideline during the formation of development programmes.

Implications of the 70:20:10 Model

70:20:10 clearly emphasises the importance of practical learning and job-related experiences when planning individual development in a professional sphere, and therefore this on-the-job experience is something which team members are encouraged to be regularly exposed to. 

  • By highlighting new opportunities for learning within the workplace, leaders can encourage the continuous development of their team members.

It is a job-related experience that provides opportunities for individuals to make independent decisions, address regular challenges and themes, and work with natural mentors such as bosses and experienced colleagues. 

  • Leaders and managers can encourage this by offering their team members new and challenging tasks, and unique problems, and valuing innovation within the workplace
  • Progress reviews and appraisals can be used to discuss new opportunities with said team members and ensure they are still being challenged and developed by their day-to-day activities.

However, employees can learn from a number of different sources, including from others (the 20%). That can include numerous different activities, including coaching and mentoring programmes, collaborative learning, giving and receiving feedback, group work, project reviews, or just simple social interactions (learning from colleagues/peers).

Proponents of the 70:20:10 model suggest that only 10% of individual development comes from formal programmes, qualifications, workshops and lessons, which can often take many who come from academic backgrounds by surprise. 

  • However, it is often the case that school, college and university qualifications can form the skill and knowledge base that individuals build when they move to a new job.
Others offer the counter-argument that formal programmes can often be used to move individuals past sticking points, and offer the opportunity for organisations to design unique learning journeys, specific to the desired skills and capabilities of employees at any individual level.

Designing Development Programmes

In the 70:20:10 model, the following questions should be considered in decreasing order of priority, and individuals should be predominantly exposed to new opportunities for on-the-job training and experience.

  • What opportunities are there for job-related learning? Am I/are they getting the support they need to facilitate development in the role?
  • How many opportunities are there for social interaction? Is there a coaching and mentoring programme set up? Are there chances to collaborate on projects?
  • Are there formal qualifications which will benefit their role and desired capabilities? 

See this video from the 70:20:10 Institute for more tips on integrating learning into the workflow:

Implementing a 70:20:10-Based Learning Model Within Your Organisation

When trying to implement a 70:20:10-based learning model within your organisation, senior leaders may need to first enact a culture change. Many companies are still organised around formal learning and specific development programmes, which often can have little bearing on the ability of employees to perform well in their day-to-day tasks and to meet overall performance objectives. 

Senior leaders and managers first need to convince executives and managers at all levels to prioritise learning on the job and to embed said learning within day-to-day activities in the form of new challenges and problems. 

Please note that a new school of thought suggests that 70:20:10 is outdated in the digital age, as workers are now exposed to many new informal methods of learning through online media.