70-20-10 - a handy guide for learning and development

The field of Learning and Development seems to evolve slowly. Obviously technology has made a huge impact on our access to information, our ability to connect with one another and as a delivery vehicle but many commonly used theories, tools and teaching practices have been around for decades.  One such theory or practice that has survived and seems to be in the spotlight again is 70-20-10.

In this challenging economic climate, investment in learning and development is often bumped down the priority list so it’s not surprising that learning programs purposefully built on the 70-20-10 concept are in favour. Based on 30 years of research and the underlying assumption that leadership is learned, the 70-20-10 concept was developed by Morgan McCall, Robert W. Eichinger and Michael M. Lombardo at the Centre for Creative Leadership.

70-20-10 is shorthand for a learning approach that has consistently shown that:

  • 70% of learning comes from on-the-job experiences

  • 20% comes from people (particularly a role model or manager)

  • 10% comes from formal courses and reading.

The concept provides a paradigm for thinking outside the traditional model of classes and courses. It proposes engaging managers with three clusters of experience: challenging assignments (70%), developmental relationships (20%), and coursework and training (10%).

It values the on-the-job informal learning that is often more effective, less expensive and more relevant. But informal doesn’t have to mean random – paired with clear direction, relevant situations, supportive feedback and a guiding framework, informal learning can be instantly applicable and transformative.

Challenging to apply and now questioned by some, the 70-20-10 concept and proportions should be considered a guide rather than a rule. It is an idea that seeks to foster learning from experience, lifting internal collaboration and dialogue in the way we develop our people.

Recent research has questioned the veracity of the formula. One prominent thinker in the area advocates an increased focus on coaching and mentoring. Another suggests that the formula needs to factor in social activities that boost a person’s learning capacity. Others identify particular industries, such as finance, that demand upwards of 30% for traditional coursework.

We don’t disagree. But the 70-20-10 approach – as a guide, not a rule – still resonates strongly with the Peak Performance team. If anything, we’d like to see more focus on the 20%: more conversation and learning from each other; more dialogue than download. Because we know it works.

Contact us if you’d like to explore more effective ways of developing your people leaders.


Posted: Sunday 17 February 2013

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