Interestingly, we humans tend to learn 70% of what we need to do our jobs well directly from work-related experiences. We learn another 20% from our professional networks and workplace conversations, as well as from our mentors and leaders. Only 10% of our learning comes from formal training sessions.
Cost-conscious companies are looking to break free from formal, structured learning for many reasons. Classroom courses are inflexible: only a finite number of people can attend them; they adhere to a set schedule with no room for the infinity of variables to which employees are subject; they’re costly, as they require audio-visual equipment, meeting rooms, and professional teachers;– and they cut into employees’ daily work hours.
Most importantly, people forget about half of what they learn in a formal setting within a few days – or even hours!
According to Hermann Ebbinghaus, a psychologist famous for his works on memory retention, we tend to halve our memory of newly learned materials in a matter of days and weeks unless we continuously review the materials. Therefore, unless you provide refresher courses to your employees, they are not likely to remember what they have learnt sitting through seminars and classroom courses.
Harnessing the power of the 70:20:10 model
Many studies have shown that the most efficient learning occurs when people seek out their own answers, either from documents or other tools available to them, or when they ask others who are more proficient in the areas that interest them.
Charles Jennings, the Director of the Internet Time Alliance, explains: “Smart organizations realize that most learning happens as part of the daily workflow. They know that this means they need to extend their support of learning beyond courses. They need to adopt resource-based learning if they’re to enable their people to learn at speed and with the agility that the modern world demands.”
To enable this type of learning, it is vital to support managers by providing self-directed learning resources for their employees. In this way, companies can use the 70:20:10 approach to harness the potential power of informal and social learning. When learning is more relevant to what employees do on a day-to-day basis, and when sharing knowledge with peers is encouraged, it can have a significant impact on both engagement with learning and ROI.
How 70:20:10 fosters workplace success
Highly profitable companies such as SAP, Ernst & Young, Sony Ericsson, Morgan Stanley, PwC, Nike, GlaxoSmithKline, American Express, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Dell, Oracle, L’Oréal and hundreds more, attribute much of their success to employees who are empowered to learn and innovate at great speeds. These organizations have all changed their thinking about traditional styles of learning and development and embraced new strategies. They’ve seen that a traditional approach can’t achieve high growth or efficiency because the way people learn today has evolved from formal ‘structured’ learning’ to informal ‘social learning’.
For many organizations, there will need to be a significant shift in their culture of learning for 70:20:10 to be really effective. Jennings says that employers must commit to an “informal learning first” mindset if they are to succeed.
“What 70:20:10 tells us is that learning is a continuous act that never stops. That it takes place in different arenas, some that we set up, some that we just happen to work in,” says David Robertson of The Forum Corporation, a global learning consultancy. “If you think about it this way, you can help to move your culture away from a situation where people just turn up to a training event not knowing what they’re doing or why they’re there.”