Robin Hoyle concludes his controversial feature on the 70:20:10 model. Join in the debate at the bottom of the article...
In the first part of this article I outlined a concern that has been bothering me for some time. Recently, I've seen a lot of people talking about 70:20:10. Most of these comments seem to represent this as the magic ratio – a thoroughly researched representation of how learning happens. Except it isn't. 70:20:10 is a concept and one that only works with thorough planning. In the second part of the article I'll outline how you can make it work.
The traditional blend of learning concerns itself with a mix of activities around formal learning and development. The idea is to identify which media and which intervention will most effectively deliver required training outcomes. Perhaps there'll be some elearning upfront to get everyone to a similar level of knowledge. Maybe this will be followed by a workshop which concentrates on learning activities based on the level playing field of shared understanding. Benefits are obvious – with a greater proportion of face-to-face time devoted to active learning, skills can be practiced and feedback given.
"Anyplace, anytime, anywhere was the original Martini mantra of the elearning industry. It still should be."
More often, the benefit is time and money – simply put, the same amount of content can be delivered with less off-the-job time. The elearning or 'pre-read' component can be undertaken when convenient. Anyplace, anytime, anywhere was the original Martini mantra of the elearning industry. It still should be. So, I've done a bit of pre-workshop stuff then I've been on a course and got involved in lots of activities. In Lombardo and Eichingers 70:20:10 model, this still forms the 10% - formal training. This was – for the most part – where the traditional blended learning solution ended.
Using 70:20:10 as intended requires a blend designed in a much more robust way. It must include a plan for individual follow-up to help each learner undertake work-based activities to build their skills and knowledge.
Lombardo and Eichinger defined the start point as the learner taking a long hard look at him or herself and defining their ideal self and their real self – ie where do I want to be and where am I starting from. The idea is to undertake a gap analysis which defines the behaviours required and the learning needed to bridge the gap.
The start point of the model is for the learner to plan the 70% - the experiences and work tasks, projects and assignments which will give learners the experiences which will help them build the required skills. For most of us who have designed blended learning let's be honest – we've started with the 10% - planning the formal input.
If any thought was given to on-the-job learning it was after the course. It certainly wasn't the start point for planning the programme.
So if we have already involved the individual learner in identifying the on-the-job experiences they would need to improve their skills or knowledge, then we can plan the remaining 30% of the model. The question put to the learner is "What would you need to know and learn before you engaged in those experiences?" The answer to that question is the subject of the courses they attend, the elearning they complete, the books they read and the webinars they log on to and the informal support they receive day to day.
This 20% - conversations with subject matter experts, coaches, and peers – acts as the glue in the learning process. It supports reflection, gives feedback and adds information just in time. This could be facilitated online – especially if you have one or two subject matter experts and hundreds or thousands of people who need to ask questions. But there are challenges. The first is in ensuring the organisation, and those whose buy-in to this process is required, understand what it is you're trying to do. If they think that this is a chance to replace formal training and development with unplanned on the job experiences then the process will fail.
"We all recognise that supporting the development of individuals is a key role for managers, the reality is that it is done with very variable results. Some take to this role with alacrity and are extremely skilled, but as everyone in training knows they are usually the exception."
There are two reasons for this. First, on-the-job experiences without support are just as likely to develop bad practice as good practice. Without requiring people to reflect on what happened and identify areas for improvement, then on-the-job learning – far from being an efficient method is actually extraordinarily hit-and-miss.
Second, some rigour about the behaviours required is necessary. What happens in organisations where on-the-job learning is the only game in town is that the existing culture and current behaviours are reinforced. The learning is 'how we do things around here'. In some organisations, that well-entrenched culture is not what is needed for the future. On-the-job learning simply doesn't achieve step changes in behaviour on its own. In fact, on-the-job learning can actively undermine culture change by reinforcing the tried and tested over the new and needed.
The second challenge is to engage with those who will act as the glue in the learning process. Experts, managers, coaches are a pre-requisite for this process to work properly. They may need considerable help to adapt to this role and to have the quality conversations which make up the 20%. In my experience these coaches need practical support.
I find two things work:
- Some ideas and explanations of the kind of on-the-job tasks which will comprise the 70%. This doesn't have to be an exhaustive or definitive list, but should give some ideas and food for thought
- Crib sheets about the things to look out for and observe and the feedback to be provided.
We all recognise that supporting the development of individuals is a key role for managers, the reality is that it is done with very variable results. Some take to this role with alacrity and are extremely skilled, but as everyone in training knows they are usually the exception. Building individual and team capacity is not often on many managers' 'to do' lists and if it's there at all, it often slips down to priority number 27. 70:20:10 goes well beyond what we have previously described as 'blended learning'. It requires...
- Individual training planning based on where they are now and where they want to be
- Planned work experiences and tasks with deadlines and anticipated outcomes
- A chance to learn the essentials before embarking on the on-the-job learning activities
- Quality conversations which acknowledge achievement, support reflection and are the basis for further planning
Those of you who have been wrestling with these issues in the past will recognise that this looks a lot like the elements of the Learning Cycle developed by David Kolb (see here for more information). Unsurprisingly, the concepts which work are based on some universal ideas.
Robin is senior partner at Learnworks. He is a writer, trainer and consultant helping global businesses develop people and improve performance.
For further reading on 70:20:10 download Cross Knowledge’s free whitepaper: Effective Learning with 70:20:10 by Charles Jennings and Jerome Wargnier