Putting the 70% Back into Learning & Development!

How often do your leadership and team development efforts stall out because you can’t settle on a day when everybody can get together for training? Or maybe you get stuck because your HR partner wants a full day of classroom training to achieve your most critical learning objectives, and your leadership can’t/won’t give up more than two or three hours – at most! Well, what would you say if I told you that you are probably putting 90% of your effort into solving just 10% of the problem? 

With elementary school-aged children, it may be appropriate to assume that most learning best occurs in the classroom. By high school and college, our educational systems begin to recognize that young adults also learn a great deal from their life experience that happens outside of the classroom. So why do we put so much emphasis on creating the perfect classroom training experience for adult learners in organizations? Even my four-year doctoral program was designed to balance my first two years of classroom learning with two more years of on-the-job internship experience and original research for my dissertation. Does someone truly believe that after receiving my PhD in graduate school I’m going to revert back to learning exclusively in the classroom just because I’m employed in industry?

More than two decades ago, researchers from the Center for Creative Leadership published some very interesting findings about a key principle of adult learning. Based on a survey of nearly 200 executive leaders, the 70:20:10 Model for Learning and Development, as they referred to it, recognizes that most adult learning actually happens outside of – not within – the classroom. See below for a breakdown of where adult learning occurs:

  • 70% of our learning is applied learning that comes from engaging in challenging assignments and on-the-job experiences, performing actual tasks and solving specific problems
  • 20% comes from developmental relationships, as with mentors and other role models, where we receive direct feedback about or observe good and bad examples of our work
  • Only 10% of our learning comes from more structured coursework and formal training opportunities

Granted, this foundational model may not reflect certain changes that have occurred over the past 20 years due to advancements in technology and the ability to enhance the learning experience with various online and digital tools. Regardless, it does raise an important question about how we are attempting to develop our next-generation leaders and other staff.

Classroom training and more formal coursework may always have a place in organizations to lay the foundation for learning to occur. That initial “A’ha moment” that sparks the need for training, however, likely comes from that on-the-job experience when someone makes a mistake performing a routine task or when an organization in transition demands new capabilities and skills from its people that they don’t already have. That’s the impact of the initial 70% and 20%. After recognizing the need and providing the 10% solution though, it’s critical to go back to more informal approaches to learning and development to reinforce the classroom experience.

There are several ways to achieve this in organizations if we can get past our tunnel-vision focus on when training can occur and how best to structure the classroom experience. How about designing and implementing a targeted mentoring program, in which your more seasoned employees can give back and pay it forward by sharing their individual insights and lessons learned with your next generation of leaders? Or what about a job rotation program that allows high-potential leaders from across the organization to move between departments and job functions once every six to 12 months such that they gain broader knowledge and deeper experience about how your organization really works? The opportunities are endless, and when managed effectively they likely require even less of an investment than that training class does!

Do you want to develop your next generation of business leaders? Need some help creating a plan that will put the 70% back into the learning process? Give us a call at 310.589.4610 or email us today. You might also visit the Keynotes & Workshops page of our website for more information on some of the classroom training experiences we do offer beyond our broader learning and development programs.

Posted in Development, Employee Development, employee engagement, Employee Morale, Empowerment, Executive Coach, Executive Coaching, Leadership, Learning Tagged with: , , , , ,

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