Analysing 70/20/10: can we make a difference to the 90% of learning that we can’t control?
70/20/10 is a hot topic. In this article Jo Ayoubi, CEO of Track Surveys, shines the spotlight on the 90% of the formula that the organisation can't control, and asks to what extent we can influence this in a positive way.
We’re all familiar with the 70/20/10 model of learning – it’s been around for some time, and has had something of a revival in the last couple of years.
Online learning, and the ability to share more and collaborate, has given us the ability to deliver more learning outside the classroom than ever before.
Yet there is still much debate around this model:
- Is it prescriptive or descriptive?
- How flexible are the proportions?
- Does informal include self-directed learning, e-learning?
- How do we evaluate it, if indeed it’s even possible to do so?
- And where does the model leave L&D practitioners and their role?
Why does it matter?
Whilst it may be difficult to capture all this informal learning, it’s critical for us as L&D professionals to be aware of it, to promote it, and to include it in our learning strategies.
Informal learning and on-the-job training can be a much more direct way to link learning and performance, and provides a good opportunity for us to influence the success of individual and team performance.
Stuff is happening out there – but is it really learning?
Before we get into our role, here’s a thought: intuitively we know that a lot of what looks like learning goes on informally within the organisation all the time.
In their daily job, people pick up behaviours and ways of doing things from their managers, from each other, and from their own experience of what works and what doesn’t.
But is it all really learning?
A quick trip back to basics
Back to basics: 3 models for adult learning
- Kolbs learning cycle
Kolbs cycle is simple and puts the key elements of adult learning into a repeating cycle of Experience, Observation, Conceptualising and Action.
For learning to take place, says Kolb, we have to have something happen, step back and look at what happened, work out what really happened and why, and then act based on that reflection, which then feeds into our next experience.
So if there’s no reflection, or review, or discussion, or feedback, has learning really happened? Or are we going to just head off and do the same thing again? If so, have we learned anything?
- Knowles’s Theory of adult learning theory:
Malcolm Knowles’s original theory of adult learning was effectively summarised and updated in 2002 by Merriam.
The key tenets are still the same:
- Adults need to be involved in the planning and evaluation of their learning
- Experience (including mistakes) provides the basis for learning activities
- Adults are most interested in learning about subjects that have immediate relevance to their job or personal life
- Adult learning is problem-centered rather than content-oriented
Taking this as our model, it would appear that without involving people in discussion about their learning (again, a deliberate focus on what’s taking place), adults will not necessarily learn.
The experience and problem-centred approach can make on-the-job learning particularly effective if it’s done right.
- Goal theory
Goal theory has been written about extensively and studies have repeatedly shown that goal setting and tracking can increase both motivation and achievement in learners.
Again we see how important it is to focus on what is being done, why and how it’s being done, and to consciously reflect and review what’s been learned.
In summary, learning happens at the intersection of these three models:
So here’s my idea: instead of worrying too much about the details of the 70/2010 model, we bring value in several key areas:
- Creating a mindset in our organisation that focuses on goal-setting, feedback and reflection. If we can get those three areas of focus into as many workplace conversations as we can, we can support that informal learning and make it both more effective and more motivating – and we might even be able to start to measure it a bit more too, but more on that later.
- By training managers and their teams in the skills of feedback and goal setting, and helping them to build reflection into their daily conversations and meetings (rather than activities that are separate from their daily work)
- By putting some simple tools in place that (prompt) and allow managers and their teams to set and track the goals that are set, get feedback on those goals that can be easily recorded, and build in the ability and skills and opportunities to reflect, after a project, once a week, after contact with a customer or at a team meeting. We can build a culture of reflection, goal focus and feedback that will form the backbone of informal learning. We can then use the tools that support feedback and goal setting to link these activities to performance.
Can we measure all this informal learning?
One of the issues around the 70/20 topic is how you measure all the informal learning that goes on.
Well, the simple answer is, we can’t measure the learning itself – what we can measure is the ongoing activities of goal-setting, feedback and reflection.
This may change our role in the organisation from course designers to enablers of informal learning – surely a key role in a 70/20/10 world.
Jo Ayoubi is CEO and co-founder of Track Surveys.
At Track, Jo has advised on, and led the development of 360 and other online assessments for leading organisations including John Lewis Partnership, Waitrose, Baker & McKenzie, Nuffield Health, Fujitsu and Saudi Telecom.