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70-20-10 Model: Does it transfer to Business English training?

In a nutshell, yes it can – and language training beyond the traditional approach is key to making an impact on performance. The 70-20-10 model reflects the increasing awareness that learning is not just about  “traditional” training. The model concludes that successful managers learn in 3 different ways:

    • 70 percent of learning comes from real life on-the-job experiences, tasks and problem solving
    • 20 percent of learning comes from feedback, working with and observing role models
    • 10 percent of learning comes from “traditional” formal, classroom training

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In more detail…

Although the ratios are debated, most training professionals agree that the philosophy is valid. As Charles Jennings highlights, “It’s important to be aware that the 70-20-10 model is a reference model and not a recipe. The numbers are not a rigid formula.”   Just consider your own professional development for a moment – to what extent have you acquired the knowledge, skills and behaviours you need to perform your jobs through actual experience? Through watching and talking to others? And through courses and seminars?  Everyone can agree that all three aspects play a role, and that courses and seminars are not the “be all and end all” of an effective learning and development program. Most learning happens as part of a broader workflow and not just in an “away-from-work” classroom situation.

The model was based on research at the Center for Creative Leadership into management and leadership development. Today, the 70-20-10 model has been extended to other types of professional learning and development – and can be applied to corporate language training too.

How can the 70-20-10 model be applied to Business English training?

Language training is traditionally at home in the “10% zone” (learning through formal classroom-based training). Your own language learning experiences probably reflect this. Perhaps you took part in the standard “weekly classes” approach with a teacher coming into your company, or joined intensive seminars. More recently e-learning and blended-learning  have become a key component in most corporate solutions.

This formal classroom-based approach will always have a clear part to play in helping employees boost their language skills – and is essential for many learners at a beginner or intermediate level (CEFR A1 – B1). Learning through exposure alone may work for young children but sadly not for busy professional learners. What is surprising, however, is that many companies still rely solely on traditional classroom training (face to face or virtual), despite it being both costly and administratively challenging.  There are other effective ways of learning a language which mirror the urge to integrate informal social learning and real-life on-the-job-training into any learning and development program.

Learning Business English through “On-the-job” experience

“Learning by doing” through real-life on-the-job experience is obviously beneficial. Not only does it provide an opportunity to transfer what has been learnt in the classroom to the workplace (multiplying the impact), it also creates new opportunities to learn from partners (vocabulary, phrases, listening skills – the list goes on).

If the “learning by doing” is supported by a trainer offering on-the-job support and feedback, the impact is multiplied. Similarly, a trainer shadowing the performance and giving feedback strengthens the learning.  Finally, social and on-the-job learning help employees see a reward for their efforts which in turn helps to build a sense of motivation (or a sense of personal urgency). With the right framework in place, this renewed sense of motivation can make the formal training even more effective – and the efficacy of the training program quickly snowballs.

On-the-job and social learning can be applied to business English training. In fact, they MUST be applied if we take into account the cost and time pressures that most HRD departments work with.

These conversations are essential as the 70-20-10 model depends on L&D working closely with line managers, and on line managers communicating with their staff. Managers need to be aware of the pivotal hands-on role they play in developing their staff, and employees need to appreciate the context for new decisions.

The 70-20-10 model has proven to positively impact organisations in enhancing their learning and development programs. Now that you know a little bit more about it, next week we will discuss why it is a MUST to apply it, and how to implement it, in your Business English training. Let us know if you have any experience with the 70-20-10 model in the comments area below. Want to learn more about how we use the 70-20-10 model in our training? Click here.