How 70-20-10 Can Help Create a Learning Culture

Posted by

Samantha Martin-Woodgate

on 28 Apr 2023

The Center for Creative Leadership developed the 70-20-10 concept over 40 years ago. But how well does it actually describe how people learn?

How 70-20-10 Can Help to Create a Learning Culture

What are the 70-20-10 segments?

The 70-20-10 model is a learning and development model that suggests a proportional breakdown of how people learn effectively.

It is based on a survey conducted in 1996 asking nearly 200 executives to self-report how they believed they learned. In this survey, respondents reported the following influences on learning:

  • 70% from challenging assignments
  • 20% from developmental relationships
  • 10% from coursework and training

    The model is not a set rule for learning but rather a guideline. It is important to be aware that the numbers are not a rigid formula. 

They simply remind us that the majority of learning and development comes through experiential and social learning in the workplace (the '70' and '20') rather than through formal classes and courses (the '10').

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Here are some examples of how the 70-20-10 model can be applied in the workplace:

Challenging assignments: This could include taking on new projects, working on stretch goals, or being given responsibility for leading a team.
Developmental relationships: This could include mentoring relationships with more experienced colleagues, peer-to-peer learning, or participating in employee resource groups.
Coursework and training: This could include formal training programs, online courses, or workshops.

It is important to note that the 70-20-10 model is not a one-size-fits-all approach. The specific mix of learning and development activities that is most effective will vary depending on the individual learner, the job role, and the organisation.

However, the model can be a helpful tool for thinking about how to create a learning and development strategy that meets the needs of all learners.

Learning Styles Self-Assessment

Using 70-20-10 to create a learning culture

The 70-20-10 model can be used to create a learning culture in a number of ways. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Encourage employees to take on challenging assignments. This could include giving them new projects, asking them to lead teams, or giving them responsibility for solving problems.
  • Create opportunities for employees to learn from each other. This could include setting up mentoring programs, encouraging peer-to-peer learning, or creating employee resource groups.
  • Provide access to formal training and development programs. This could include offering online courses, workshops, or in-person training.
  • Create a culture of feedback and learning. This could include encouraging employees to share their ideas, providing regular feedback, and celebrating successes.

    By following these suggestions, you can create a learning culture that encourages employees to grow and develop their skills. This can lead to increased productivity, innovation, and employee satisfaction.

    Here are some additional tips for creating a learning culture:
  1. Make learning a priority. This means setting aside time and resources for learning and making it clear to employees that learning is valued.
  2. Empower employees to learn. This means giving them the freedom to choose what they learn and providing them with the resources they need to learn effectively.
  3. Create a supportive learning environment. This means fostering a culture of trust and respect and providing opportunities for employees to share their learning with others.

By following these tips, you can create a learning culture that helps your employees reach their full potential.

So how does this work in practice?

A. Link development planning to strategic goals

Finding appropriate opportunities to learn new skills on the job while providing adequate support can be a challenge, particularly if the current workplace culture is falling some way short right now. If current observable behaviours are undesirable, this may actually undermine change. However, integrating development planning to change management and the strategic goals of the company is a potential solution. Here, leaders are assigned a particular task or goal which supports the organisation’s change strategy. They are then encouraged to execute specific tasks which increase their confidence and skills in the company while also boosting their internal recognition.

B. Design an unstructured training process

Unstructured training is often difficult to approach because it has no formal process. It depends on the type of work being done by potential leaders at any given time. However, it is possible to design a general framework, or scaffolding, around which learning can take place. This process should include a development plan template, an assessment before work is carried out to see whether individuals have the soft skills to become leaders, and an implementation plan followed by a follow-up meeting to review progress.

C. Get participants to develop their own action plans

Encourage learners to conduct a self-assessment to identify desired behaviours and any development required to fill the gap. There are two types of action plans that participants need to address when undergoing workplace training. The first is to create an action plan for how they are going to complete their challenging job assignment and in what time frame. The second action plan should relate to soft interpersonal skills that they will need to make sure that the project is ultimately a success. Ideally, participants should identify one or two “mission critical” soft skills to develop throughout the process over the course of nine to twelve months.

D. Create accountability

Finally, in any experience-driven learning process, it’s essential to include methods to ensure accountability of participants. Managers should expect to spend at least five hours working with leadership candidates, going through their action plans and making sure that they are passed up the chain of command to supervisors higher up in the company. This ensures that projects are challenging enough and that they are aligned with cultural change.

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Key workplace learning theories

70-20-10 is just one of six of the most well-established learning theories we've examined to help improve your outcomes.

  1. Instructional design
  2. Microlearning
  3. Storytelling
  4. Lateral thinking
  5. Kirkpatrick Model

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