Developing world-class employees with the 70:20:10 model

In recent years, the 70:20:10 model for learning and development has been adopted by organisations all over the world. What started out as a simple concept has become a trend, with organisations recognising that the traditional approach to structured learning and development no longer supports their strategic goals. In addition, they’re also recognising that significant development happens outside of formal learning opportunities.

So what is the 70:20:10 model, why are organisations adopting it and how can it help high-performance employees?

Understanding the 70:20:10 model

Organisations describe the 70:20:10 model in a variety of ways, but essentially It’s a strategic workplace learning framework that can be used to boost staff effectiveness by supporting the three types of learning: experiential (70), social (20), and formal (10). The 70:20:10 model is also known as performance-oriented learning that happens on the job. While traditional models of learning through formal programs might be most-effective in cases of skills deficits, performance problems or retraining, 70:20:10 focuses on learning in the context of the workplace, to make good employees even better.

The ratios are not set in stone. Rather, they act as a general guide for each type of learning, and these numbers can vary significantly from enterprise to enterprise. Indeed, in some organisations have experienced the ratio as closer to 40% on the job, 30% coaching and mentoring, and 30% formal training, and others have observed it as 50%, 30%, and 20%.

Experiential learning (70%)

Experiential learning can be described as informal, on-the-job learning. Employees are learning and practising while doing the job, in the absence of a formal program.

Social learning (20%)

Social learning involves coaching, mentoring, and developing through others. You learn with and through others, by drawing on your personal network and by taking advantage of cooperative opportunities.

Formal learning (10%)

The third type of learning is what we commonly understand as traditional training and development at work. In this type of learning, staff members are learning through formal courses.

The 70:20:10 model in practice

So what does 70:20:10 look like? Well, it’s guidance without control, support without supervision, and the enhancement of existing pathways to productivity. Organisations using the 70:20:10 principles might learn through conversations, sharing, searching, reporting, reflecting, hacking, creating, watching, and reading. The emphasis is on work, performance, and activity. The 70:20:10 approach supports what is already taking place.

And In a world where everyone has access to enormous quantities of information, employees need to learn more effectively than ever before. New learning approaches like the 70:20:10 model can help create high-performance employees who ensure organisations are competitive.

Benefits of the 70:20:10 model

In addition to allowing your organisation to take advantage of every learning opportunity, the 70:20:10 model offers benefits like flexibility, learning synergies, and engagement. These benefits are essential elements for creating high-performance employees.


Since 70:20:10 is a reference model and not a formula, it’s flexible enough for businesses to use it in a variety of ways. Some organisations use it to target specific performance development outcomes, while others use it strategically, to assist with wider learning philosophies.

Learning synergies

While each learning type in the 70:20:10 model occurs separately, they can support each other. For organisations looking for learning synergies, 70:20:10 can be particularly beneficial because the 20 informs the 70 while improving the 10. For example, you can use social learning to guide the design of effective informal (experiential) and formal training programs.

Staff engagement

Organisations that implement the 70:20:10 model have observed enhanced staff engagement. Staff are realising development happens all the time, and this is driving higher engagement.

Increased involvement of managers

Organisations using the 70:20:10 approach see increased involvement of supervisors and managers in employee development.

More effective problem solving

Experts suggest the problems in organisations are best solved with a 70:20:10 approach rather than traditional learning models. This means with a 70:20:10 model, you can more effectively solve your organisation’s problems, whether it’s through communities, collaboration, sharing, increased access, and greater motivation.

Potential challenges

Research suggests potential challenges for organisations are getting buy-in and measuring the impact of their 70:20:10 strategy. Some organisations also find convincing stakeholders that learning and development can occur outside a traditional setting a challenge.

Some have also had difficulty helping managers understand their role in a 70:20:10 approach. Others experience resistance from HR and their learning and development teams.

Applying the 70:20:10 model

Deciding how to apply the 70:20:10 model requires an examination of what’s happening in your organisation and what you want to achieve. It might also require a close inspection of your staff and what they need to become high-performers. Since it’s a general principle, not a prescriptive formula, how you carry it out can vary significantly between organisations. However, you’ll want to appoint champions and embed the principles into your practices and processes as much as possible.

Start with what’s happening

Experts suggest a good place to start is to look at existing practices. What does learning and development look like in your organisation? Where is it happening? What can you do to make this more effective?

Engage your managers

Your managers could be the sweet spot when it comes to applying the 70:20:10 model in your business. Obtain their buy-in and encourage them to act as ambassadors for change. Hold them accountable for implementing the model, and encourage them to be mentors or coaches where appropriate.

Novice, practitioner, and expert learning

Leverage the 70:20:10 model to suit different learning approaches as required. Generally, the more junior your employee, the higher the ratio of formal training to informal learning. Experienced Practitioners, on the other hand, could benefit from less formal training, so use informal interventions with staff at these levels.

Focus on conversations

Focus on conversations rather than presentations, as effective learning happens through engagement and social interactions. In your learning interventions — formal and informal — see your staff members as peers and professionals rather than passive subordinates.

Use it as a guiding metaphor

You could maximise the benefits by highlighting 70:20:10 as much as possible. For example, you can use the 70:20:10 model as a guiding metaphor for your learning and development initiatives. By encouraging HR and all staff to value and apply the model, organisations can keep employees focused on the ways learning happens.

Embed it in your processes

Some organisations that use 70:20:10 have successfully embedded it in their performance
evaluation models. The outcome could be a boost to your business’s overall training mindset, and an enhancement of staff awareness of informal learning. All of these lead to the high-performance teams you need.

Appoint champions

Another way to boost the adoption of the 70:20:10 model is to appoint champions in your organisations. For example, you could have a governance committee made up of senior leaders who advocate for the application of the 70:20:10 model. These leaders should be tasked with aligning the principal with the business’s strategy as well as championing the concept across all levels. Be prepared for resistance, and make sure your champions are managing it with clear communication.

Revise and review

Your organisation and its needs will continuously change, so be prepared to review how the 70:20:10 model is being used. In addition, continue communicating the importance of the model so every staff member understands.

The 70:20:10 model is a concept that’s gathering momentum. Your organisation could be the next to apply its insights and principles. The model can be defined in different ways, but it caters to all the  ways employees learn. Its advantages include shifting the focus from formal training to supporting performance development and learning on the job. Implementation will vary across every business, but champions and ongoing revision are essential. By successfully applying the 70:20:10 model, organisations can develop the high-performance employees that make them more competitive.

DeakinCo. provides learning and development solutions that measurably enhance the performance of individuals and organisations. With our workforce solutions that range from micro-credentialling to bespoke programs, we can support your organisation and its 70:20:10 strategy for high-performance employees. Contact us today for an obligation-free discussion.