How to Successfully Implement the 70-20-10 Framework

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“When done well, following the 70-20-10 model means offering effective, timely and cost-effective learning.” Jill W.

There seems to be an assumption that learning on the job and in the flow of work just happens on its own, without any specific efforts. Recent research on the 70-20-10 framework finds that this is not true. The framework can work only if the learning is organized, structured and reinforced.

The 70-20-10 Framework

This framework proposes that 10% of workplace learning does, or should, come from formal training; 20% does, or should, come through learning directly from others; and 70% does, or should come from the employee’s learning through workplace experiences.

The Research Study

A 2018 research study looked at Australian public sector senior and middle managers who were supposed to implement 70-20-10. It found that the desired learning did not happen. There were four reasons for this:

“(a) an overconfident assumption that unstructured experiential learning will automatically result in capability development; (b) a narrow interpretation of social learning and a failure to recognize the role social learning has in integrating experiential, social and formal learning; (c) the expectation that managerial behavior would automatically change following formal training and development activities without the need to actively support the process; and (d) a lack of recognition of the requirement of a planned and integrated relationship between the elements of the 70:20:10 framework.”

Why Experiential Learning Failed

It was anticipated that managers would learn on the job, without adequate preparation, additional support, or resourcing to facilitate effective learning.”

Why Social Learning Failed

Social learning was not “supported systematically through organizationally designed learning programs” that integrated it “with formal or experiential learning.”

Why Formal Learning Failed

There were three major issues related to formal learning. First, the training was found to be too generic in content. Second, the line managers did not provide explicit, individualized feedback to reinforce and embed the learning. Third, the managers did not have an opportunity to practice and further develop their new skills.

Lack of Peer Support

Another difficulty surfaced by the study showed that: “Despite managers agreeing that networks and peer support would assist them to build capability and transfer learning to the workplace, there appeared to be few organizationally supported peer learning opportunities.”

The Solution: Peer Learning Groups

Peer learning groups effectively structure experiential learning, organize social learning and reinforce formal learning. They use structured learning and thoughtful practice that leads to real learning in the workplace. This is true whether the peer learning group is a standalone program or an adjunct to formal training.

The six managers who participate in a peer learning group come together to develop new skills to handle a current specific management challenge. They follow a structured agenda that organizes their discussion and learning into two 90-minute sessions. They discuss and explore optional responses and strategies during the first session, and ultimately commit to testing one out.

During the month between the two sessions, the managers practice their new skills to address their specific challenge in the flow of work. Their practice is reinforced through weekly microlearning tips, a weekly check-in with a peer buddy drawn from the group, and a log they keep to record their experience. During the second session, they report and reflect on their experience, receive feedback from their peers and plan how they will handle similar situations in the future.

Peer learning groups are structured to accomplish the intention of the 70-20-10 framework. Through a deep dive into a topic and a month of practice, peer learning groups support the  10% of workplace learning that comes from formal training. The organized discussions in a peer learning group, directed by a specific agenda and supplemental materials, achieve the 20% that comes through learning directly from others. Finally, the emphasis on the daily practice of new skills achieves the 70% that comes from the manager’s learning through workplace experiences.

For more information about how to implement peer learning groups in your organization, schedule a chat with one of our learning specialists:

Deborah Laurel, Chief Learning Officer, The Peer Learning Institute

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