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Implementing the 70-20-10 model- insights from a secret L&D manager

This month’s Secret L&D manager is German, based in Germany and works for a global automotive supply company. She has worked in training and development for over 7 years.

Why are you using 70-20-10?

We introduced the 70-20-10 model in 2016, mainly because too many people were thinking that “development” is just about training, and that if our company wasn’t providing “training” the company wasn’t developing people. The 70-20-10 model helped us show that learning and development is more than just training. Training is one tool, but you can develop yourself all the time. The 70-20-10 model is rolled out globally to our whole organisation. There are also individual initiatives that I have developed which are only rolled out in a specific business area in Europe and for specific development programs like our talent development program.

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How did people react?

I would say the majority of the people in our company did not really understand at first. Only those people who joined the sessions where we explained and showed what 70-20-10 is really about – they understood the sense behind it. Learning and development is not such a big topic in our company and is not the highest priority, so many people read about it and ignored it.

So how have you brought 70-20-10 to life in the organization?

I created an individual development plan, built around 70-20-10, specifically for participants in our training programmes.

Which kind of programmes?

A development programme for our most talented young professionals. First of all, I introduced the 70-20-10 model a little bit to them, and I explained what 70-20-10 is about – and what it is not about too. Mainly that 70% of everything they learn is learning by doing, 20% is learning from others and only 10% is learning by “training”. I must say people were quite surprised about this when I started talking to them about it, but they quickly related to it.  They saw it reflected how they had learned their technical skills, and also their softer skills.

I then introduced a new individual development plan, which I have here in front of me.  I structured it in different levels. First of all, people were asked to define an overall individual development goal. Strictly speaking they weren’t all SMART goals – some were closer to a vision for where do I want to be and by when. As most of the goals were very general, I asked them to explain a little bit about what they meant with this goal. Where they are now, where they want to be and what they think would change when they achieve this goal. These were the key questions we asked them to think about.

Then they had to define three key development areas that they need to work on in order to achieve that very goal. These areas had to be really, really specific. They have to be SMART.

Once they had defined key development areas, they had to define development actions. On the tool I gave them, these actions are actually structured using 70-20-10.  They need to define mostly “learning by doing” actions, then partly “learning through others” actions and the smallest part is the “learning in training” actions.

And then, last but not least, for the individual development areas they were asked to define key performance indicators where they can measure the success of their development. Using KPIs is very characteristic for our automotive supply company because everything is measured in KPIs here. This is a step they understand easily, and I didn’t have to explain to them what a KPI is. Everything they do is measured.

How do you get a KPI from a soft skill?

Well, that’s tricky. Let’s take the simple example of improving presentation skills. So development actions can be “I will present my project four times in front of my boss or my team, and one of these will need to be delivered virtually”. The KPI could be the number of presentations you have done.

So you are just tracking that it’s happening?

Yes. Another example for management training is if you give or receive positive feedback – yes or no – it can be measured. It just helps a little bit, like you said, to track it, to know that they have to document their status. It really helps them to be motivated or to stay motivated.

Have you integrated the 70-20-10 into your senior management programs?

We have.  I think the 70 is really covered by the business simulations we use. In these simulations people lead their own company, competing against each other and most of it is really learning by doing. They have to work with the numbers, they have to work with the reports, they have to make their own decisions. They have the chance to contact their trainers for example, or their colleagues, and ask them for advice, so that’s learning by others maybe, but mostly it’s the learning by doing.

How do senior managers respond to being asked to build KPIs for their own development?

I must say I only really push the KPIs with the young professionals. They need the orientation to have this measured and their development areas are way simpler than the ones from the very experienced senior leaders that we’re training. I don’t push measuring of the senior managers and leaders. I think at their level they should be capable of measuring themselves and knowing how far they have come with their development.

What advice would you give to another training manager who wants to try and introduce this 70-20-10 approach to their organisation?

Firstly, I would say it’s a very rational approach to learning and development. You have to look a little bit at your target training audience and at your people. I mean in our automotive world there are a lot of engineers, and a lot of very structured thinking. They need tools that fit into their rational world and I think 70-20-10 does this for them. Learning is quite abstract and 70-20-10 gives them a framework to put it into numbers. So if you would like to apply this in your company you should really look at what is your target group.

And I see that structure is reflected in the way you have built your tools. I mean you’ve got boxes that need filling in which fits with your target audience, tick boxes, % etc.

Exactly, I’ve got KPIs. As I mentioned, everything is measured here and that’s their way of working. It is what people are used to and comfortable with. I think if you are trying to implement this in a more “creative” or “service”  company you might see much more pushback to the way my tools are designed and the use of KPIs

Thanks for your time and for sharing!

You’re welcome!


Who is the Secret L&D manager?

The Secret L&D manager is actually many L&D managers.  They are real people who would prefer not to mention their name or company – but do want to write anonymously so they can openly and directly share their ideas and experience with peers.

Practical advice on implementing the 70-20-10 model

The 70-20-10 model has been around for a few years already. It reflects the increasing awareness that people learn not just through “traditional” training. Research shows that we actually acquire most of the knowledge, skills and behaviours we need to perform our jobs through actual experience and working alongside others. The 70-20-10 model has its origins in the work of McCall, Eichinger and Lombardo from the Centre for Creative Leadership.

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Their book, “The Career Architect” (1996), is based on empirical research and concluded that successful managers learned in 3 different ways:

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

Initially focussing on management and leadership development, this conclusion has since been extended to other types of professional learning and development. Today the 70-20-10 model is being used by Learning & Development departments in a wide-range of multinationals operating across a broad range of businesses. (e.g. PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Nike, Dell, Goldman Sachs, Maersk, L’Oréal, and Caterpillar)

Why implement the 70-20-10 model

Whether you are a learning & development specialist, a line manager, a trainer or training provider, or an employee, you should take time to reconsider and refocus your efforts. By doing this you can:

  • shift the focus and expectations towards more efficient and effective types of learning and development
  • ensure that time and money invested in learning and development makes a greater impact
  • support your business by keeping people in the workplace while they are learning

The model has an attractive simplicity, although the exact ratios are contended. As a trainer and manager of a training company I think it’s important to see the model as a philosophy and not a rigid recipe.  The key is understanding and accepting that the majority of learning actually happens outside of the classroom, and that any learning and development program should take this into account and proactively support this.  It doesn’t mean that traditional training is no longer relevant in the 21st century, but rather that this traditional training is just a part of learning and development strategies.

“Almost without exception, in my experience, organisations that have adopted 70-20-10 have achieved greater impact on performance at organisational and individual level at lower cost than was being achieved beforehand.”

Charles Jennings

How to implement the 70-20-10 model

The 70-20-10 model has proven to positively impact organisations in enhancing learning and development programs. Based on what we’ve seen our clients do, and what we’ve tried ourselves, here are some concrete and practical ways to begin implementing the 70-20-10 model in your organization.

Raise awareness and build commitment through conversation 

Everyone involved needs to be brought on board with the idea that learning and development is not just about going on a course.  My own experience as a manager is that it is relatively easy to get people to see 70-20-10 as “common sense”. 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.

Implementing the 70-20-10 model is not a cost-cutting exercise – replacing “training” by a loose learning-by-doing approach. It’s actually a quality driven initiative, aiming to make sure that the company is developing to meet future challenges.

Scott Levey

If, like Target Training, you’re a medium sized company, these conversations are reasonably manageable. If, like many of our clients, you’re part of a larger organization then start small. Find a business unit where managers are comfortable and confident wearing the “developing people” hat. Speaking with our clients, many of whom are multinationals, the general consensus has been that introducing the 70-20-10 model step by step has proved to be the most effective approach. By connecting with managers who have a genuine interest in developing their teams and the employees within them, the model organically spreads to other areas.

Enable experiential learning

This is key when we consider that 70% of learning comes from “doing”. Giving employees the opportunity to learn through challenging yet achievable experiences is one the most powerful and practical tools in a manager’s toolbox. Experiential learning can come through new roles and equally occur within existing roles. Three approaches we’ve seen clients benefit from are:

  • extending the scope of responsibility and control
  • enabling and increasing decision-making power
  • expecting staff to build new relationships (e.g. other business units, senior managers, virtual teams , suppliers, partners, clients…)

 

Be prepared to accept a compromise between optimal efficiency and developmental opportunities

You can expect to see specific requests upwards, where an employee is keen to get involved in a challenging project specifically to build their skills. Naturally they won’t be as effective or efficient as somebody who can already perform this role – so look at it as a learning and development initiative rather than just a question of resources.

Engage with internal and external trainers and training providers early on

Discuss how to connect the dots between on-the-job, social and formal learning. The goal is to identify critical skills and behaviours and then look at building and reinforcing these using all options.

Coaching and mentoring

These are great ways of integrating social learning into a traditional program. Although the two terms are often used interchangeably, and both draw on a similar skill set I’d argue there are differences. For me mentoring is deliberately connecting an experienced person (the mentor) with a less experienced one (the mentee). The mentor could be a colleague, a manager, or the line manager. The mentor then tutors, shares experiences, models, counsels and offers feedback.  Coaching does not necessarily imply directly related experience, tends to be less directive, and is aimed at improving performance in specific areas.  Regardless of how you define them, both approaches have a lot to offer.

When it comes to traditional training the key is early and explicit management involvement

The single most powerful step a manager can take is to clearly explain to their staff  why the training is relevant to the business and that there are clear expectations. This simple step drives motivation, participation and transfer. This transfer is crucial and I’d suggest that any traditional formal training has to integrate a transfer plan. In this simple document the employees are challenged to consider how they will actually transfer the learning into their workplace, when they’ll do this, who else needs to be involved and how will they know when they have achieved this.

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70-20-10 model: Why we MUST apply it to Business English training

I recently outlined how the 70-20-10 model can be applied to Business English training solutions.  By applying the 70-20-10 philosophy to Business English training and integrating on-the-job and social learning alongside traditional approaches, companies can comfortably overcome the challenges they face:

  1. the challenge of urgency – training needs to deliver tangible improvements quickly
  2. the challenge of availability – taking people out of the workplace for training is becoming increasingly difficult

Put simply, time is money and the sooner your employees can perform the required tasks to an appropriate level, the greater the benefit to your company.  This means that learning has to be engaging, relevant, and above all easily transferable to the workplace.

Obviously, on-the-job learning (the 70% guideline) is as relevant and transferable as possible. Without the traditional training (the 10% guideline), the informal learning may never happen – but the key is to make this 10%  a “multiplier”.  Explicitly connecting this on-the-job and social learning to traditional approaches is essential. You should expect that traditional training becomes increasingly relevant and transferable by using the on-the-job learning as a springboard.  What have you seen on-the-job that also needs attention away from the job ?  Following the 70-20-10 philosophy means that speed of performance improvement increases due to training at and in the workplace.

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How the 70-20-10 model,when applied to Business English training, can save time and money

As we all know, time is a precious commodity in today’s workplace. Traditional training approaches mean time away from the workplace. Whether it be technical, management, IT or language training, this time away from the workplace is costly and limited.

The issue of availability is compounded even further when we look at how much time language training can eat up.  The training time and investment required to develop language skills is truly daunting.  Industry guidelines talk about 150- 200 hours to move from a CEFR B1 to B2 level. Relying solely upon a formal classroom-based approach (face to face or virtual) just takes too long. For example, if a learner has one “class” per week of 90 minutes, and they consistently take part 3 out of 4 times (an optimistic target for most busy professionals) the learner will need at least 3 years of continuous training to “move up a level”. These figures are quite rightly shocking to any manager and to their budget! Traditional formal training alone cannot be the answer. This is where the 70-20-10 model becomes invaluable.

By setting up a more holistic approach and supporting, nurturing and creating opportunities for social and on-the-job learning you can reduce both the time and investment required – while at the same time building motivation and engagement amongst the employees.  The ratios do not have to be strictly followed – rather each of the three approaches needs to be encouraged.

Next time we’ll look at some proven practical tips for integrating the  70-20-10 philosophy into your Business English programs. 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.

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.