The 70/20/10 rule

We often think that learning in the workplace is something which ‘is delivered to us’. The traditional organisational learning scenario goes something like this: a student attends a course and learns from an expert via a training course.  From my own experience the primary value I extracted from the course (assuming it was good) was that it informed me about best practice, theory and allowed me to make new contacts. On the downside, unless I got the chance to put the learning into action quickly, I got skill fade.

This highlights the downside of the traditional training course; it’s often completed in isolation. It also ignores how learning really occurs within an organisation. This is because people learn continuously. This basic assumption is reflected in the concept of the ‘70/20/10’ rule. The rationale behind this is that 70 percent of learning is through practice and on-the-job experiences; 20 percent is through other people by exposure to coaching, feedback, and networking; and, 10 percent is through formal education-based learning interventions.

So if we take the 70/20/10 rule as a sound logic it throws up some pretty big challenges for those of us concerned with learning within organisations - how do we facilitate the additional 90% and in particular the 70%?

‘Facilitate’ is the operative word since by definition it is learning out with a controlled environment. The 10% is in theory easier to control (assuming people can be engaged of course). But how do we ensure people share knowledge with one another? To start with it is accepting and understanding the whole picture of learning and accepting that a large portion of this requires individuals to take the initiative. The best way to achieve this is to adopt a mind-set of enabling.  

Technology is one way to enable people within an organisation. An understanding of the 70/20/10 rule is allowing technological tools to take the evolutionary step in people’s minds from ‘staring at a PC screen and ticking boxes’ to something much more useful. In fact this change in perception is why the forthcoming Learning and Development/Technology event in Edinburgh, Crossover Edinburgh promises to be so interesting.

The clever application of technology needn’t be overly expensive or difficult either. For example a recent conversation with an Organisational Development consultant from a leading energy company revealed how they’re using their own version of You Tube to facilitate learning. They are essentially using online videos to help people collaborate and learn. This sort of technology is accessible.

Forgive my pun but what are the lessons here? Firstly it’s understanding the true nature of learning via the 70/20/10 rule and secondly it’s looking at the ways in which we can help facilitate this. This creates its own challenge but first and foremost it’s about adopting a mind-set around enabling people to learn.