Exploiting learning in the workplace —Is 70:20:10 an answer?

  • DeakinCo.
  • 28 April 2015

By Wendy Palmer, 

Head of Learning Design, DeakinPrime

We recently had the opportunity to host a boardroom session with Charles Jennings and some of our clients, where we  spent a few fascinating and invaluable hours focusing on the question ‘‘Exploiting learning in the workplace—Is 70:20:10 an answer?’’.

Charles led us on an exploration of the changing workforce and workplace and what ‘good practice’ learning might look like. This is a nice distinction from ‘best practice’, which implies there is an absolute. With the increasing use of technology, the options for learning are expanding and Charles focused on how we could explore and use all the new possibilities. He talked about the old models of learning requiring a choice between richness or reach, but with new technology we can have both—rich learning experiences that can reach a mass audience.

Not surprisingly, an important focus was on the role of the line manager and how critical this role is in the transfer of learning. Line managers can play a crucial role in extending learning into work by managing and supporting:

  • adding learning to work— action learning projects, workplace-based learning;
  • embedding learning within work— performance support tools);
  • extracting learning from work— learning logs, PIRs; and
  • sharing and learning with work colleagues—storytelling.

Charles talked about simple ideas that could be easily integrated. This included focused development discussions, where you ask just the following three questions:

  • What have you done since we last met (successes/challenges/obstacles)?
  • If you had the opportunity again—what would you do differently?
  • What learning has come out of this?

He also raised the question of team-based performance reviews—achievement comes through team work, yet performance is seen as individual. This is an interesting point to ponder and quite a different paradigm.

The discussion then moved on to looking at some of the common development experiences that high performers share. The steps to develop a high achiever include:

  • structured development to master the basics;
  • hundreds of hours of practice under guidance;
  • participation in a professional community with leaders who coach, mentor and support them;
  • access to on-the-job performance support at fingertips; and
  • thousands of hours of independent experience, practice and reflection.

While structured development to master the basics is within the 10 per cent, the rest are clearly in the 70:20 segment and are what takes a person from competence to high performance. The statement about independent experience, practice and reflection really resonated but it can also be the hardest to support. People need time to develop—they don’t necessarily need time in formal training, but they do need time to practice and hone their knowledge and skills.

We rounded out the session with a look at how we measure L&D performance. To embed learning in the workplace, we need to move away from the State of the Industry metrics (e.g. number of hours of learning developed, seat time or occupancy rates. These might be relevant to how efficiently an L&D department is being run, but they are not relevant to the bottom line. For L&D metrics to be relevant, they need to focus on stakeholder needs and requirements. Measures could include such questions as ‘Does our new on-the-job induction program raise retention levels for new employees and cut the time to job readiness?’

By the end I think we were all in agreement that a focus on 70:20:10 or workplace-based learning, coupled with the new opportunities provided by digital tools, was a direction well worth exploring and exploiting.

The following links provide more information about some of the interesting ideas and research discussed during the session.

View a ten minute chat with Simon Hann, CEO DeakinCo. and Charles Jennings.