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Why 70:20:10 doesn't work for millennials

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26th Aug 2015
Founder, Author, Consultant Making Greatness
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Think 70:20:10 works for everyone? Think again, says Alexis Kingsbury.

The 70:20:10 model has been used by many to emphasise the importance of on-the-job informal learning and learning through peers or social learning. The model is a good reminder that there is much more to learning than classroom experience. For decades this has resulted in much discussion about how L&D professionals can support more learning in the 70% and 20% areas.

However, the 70:20:10 model will become less important as millennials in the workplace now outnumber other generations. This is because, although Millennials have received a lot of (inaccurate) negative commentary in the press over the last few years, one thing they rarely highlight is that millennials are very good at learning and personal development.

Millennials proactively use technology to support their personal development

Millennials have grown up in a world of Google, social media, on-demand video and mobile technology. They are used to searching for how-to videos on YouTube, listening to audiobooks on their smartphones, reading blogs on their tablets, and asking their connections for advice via Facebook and Twitter.

This is not a generation that struggles to get information, advice or opportunities to learn, outside of a classroom. They don’t just consume free resources either; research shows that nearly 25% of millennials spend more than $300 per year on personal development resources.

As a result, millennials probably don’t need their employers to consciously review the 70:20:10 model to the same degree as they used to. Instead, they need managers and L&D professionals to help them with the direction and planning of this activity – so that they can ensure it aligns to their purpose, and that it is supporting their career and personal development as efficiently as possible.

Millennials understand the importance of soft skills

Another reason millennials need a different kind of support is that they have been educated by their parents more than any previous generation. Not particularly in academic subjects (although that may be true too), but in the areas of emotional intelligence and soft skills.

They’ve been told by schools and careers advisors to ensure they are ‘well rounded’ and that university applications with ‘straight As’ are not enough – they must demonstrate their other competencies via extra curricular activities such as charity work, team sports, and the ‘Duke of Edinburgh award’ (in the UK).

So, millennials already understand that skills and capabilities are more important that knowledge. You shouldn’t need to do much to convince them that wider skills development (beyond classroom learning) is important. However, millennials do expect management and L&D support to help them identify the areas they need to focus on, address these areas, collect feedback on the impact and repeat the process.

Millennials don’t expect all learning to be at work

During their childhood, millennials have been encouraged to attend (and often transported to and from) pre- and post-school clubs that cater to a wide variety of interests. Whether they were interested in acting, chess, cricket, guitar, or learning Japanese, there was a club or online community they could join. They became part of multiple communities and invested their personal time in these. As mentioned earlier, they also proactively use technology and even invest their own money for personal development.

As a result, they expect that lines between being ‘at work’, ‘working from home’, and ‘learning’ are blurred and instead expect fair, flexible and supportive approaches to how they will learn and work best. They also expect to be part of groups of interest and to contribute meaningfully, rather than be considered a member of the audience. Although millennials will be open to spending their own time on development, they value their time, so learning professionals need to be very clear about the benefits they will receive from attending a course or using some other development resource. 

For L&D departments, this may require that employees be provided with (and can select from) a curriculum of suggested development resources based on their individual objectives and needs, and those of the organisation. 

In conclusion

As millennials will increasingly self-manage the 70:20:10 split of where their learning is received from, L&D should instead ensure that the ways they support employees meet their needs. 

Failing to do so will result in your top millennial talent becoming frustrated that they aren’t getting the support that they need. If this happens, they know exactly where to find other organisations that support them better – they’ll just ask social media, and read reviews on employer-review websites.

If you’d like to learn more about how to support the development of Millennials and keep your top Millennial talent, watch this recording of a webinar on the subject, co-hosted by Jo Dodds and Alexis Kingsbury.

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