learning and development

What is the 70:20:10 Model for Learning and Development

Forget boring training! Learn how the 70:20:10 model uses experience & social learning to boost employee skills & ditch the knowledge drain.

Matthew Reeves

CEO of Together

Published on 

March 31, 2024

Updated on 

Time to Read

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Did you know that a whopping 70% of knowledge learned during traditional training programs is forgotten within a month? 

Spending hours and resources on lectures and classroom exercises can feel like a losing battle. Research suggests a more effective approach lies in learning by doing and exposure to real-world situations. 

This is where the 70:20:10 model comes in. This framework emphasizes a holistic learning approach that prioritizes experience and social interaction alongside formal training. 

In this blog, we'll delve into the details of the 70:20:10 model and explore how it can revolutionize your organization's learning and development strategy.

What is the 70:20:10 model?

Have you ever designed a training program and wondered if it truly sticks with learners? 

While traditional classroom settings have their place, the 70:20:10 model provides a compelling framework for understanding how adults acquire knowledge and develop new skills in the workplace.

This research-backed model, developed by experts at the Center for Creative Leadership, proposes that learning happens through a blend of three primary channels, represented by a 70:20:10 ratio:

70% - Learning from doing (Experiences)

This category encompasses the hands-on experiences that make up the bulk of workplace learning.  Studies have repeatedly shown that "doing" is a powerful teacher. 

This aligns with the concept of the Learning Pyramid, developed by the National Training Laboratories (NTL). The pyramid suggests that people retain knowledge much better through active learning methods like practicing a skill (reportedly around 90% retention) compared to passive methods like listening to lectures (around 20% retention).

Through challenging assignments, problem-solving endeavors, and the application of existing knowledge, individuals refine their skills, discover new approaches, and gain invaluable insights.

20% - Learning from others (Interactions)

Humans are social learners by nature, and the 70:20:10 model acknowledges the significant role of interaction in knowledge acquisition

Learning from peers, mentors, managers, and other members of the organization fosters a rich environment for sharing knowledge, insights, and experiences. This could involve formal mentoring programs, peer-to-peer coaching, or simply observing and emulating successful behaviors.

10% - Formal learning (Courses & training)

Formal training programs, such as workshops, online modules, and certifications, still hold value within the 70:20:10 framework.  While not the primary driver of learning, they provide a solid foundation of knowledge and can be particularly effective for introducing new concepts or refining specific skills.

Put simply, the 70:20:10 model recognizes that effective learning and development are not confined to traditional classroom settings or formal training programs. Instead, it emphasizes a holistic approach that integrates learning into the fabric of everyday work experiences, interpersonal interactions, and formal learning opportunities. 

By understanding and leveraging this model, organizations can design more comprehensive and impactful learning strategies tailored to the needs and preferences of their employees.

eBook Social Learning and Its Impact on Employee Development

Debunking myths: What 70:20:10 is NOT

The 70:20:10 model is a popular approach to learning and development, but it's sometimes misunderstood. While it highlights the importance of on-the-job experiences and social learning, it doesn't mean throwing out traditional training. 

Let's clear up some myths to make sure we're using this model to its full potential.

Not ditching traditional learning: It's about synergy

The 70:20:10 model doesn't eliminate traditional learning methods like courses and workshops.  Instead, it emphasizes integrating them with real-world experiences and social interactions for a more well-rounded learning approach.

Think of it like building a house: lectures provide the blueprints (foundational knowledge), hands-on experience is the construction phase (applying knowledge), and collaboration with others ensures a strong, finished structure (sharing and refining skills).

A flexible guide, not a rigid rule: Optimizing learning strategies

The 70:20:10 model is a framework, not a strict rule. The specific percentages can be adapted based on your organization's needs and other factors like:

  • Job role - Technical skills might require more hands-on practice, while leadership development might benefit from a blend of approaches.
  • Learning goals - Introducing new concepts might prioritize formal learning, while refining existing skills might focus on practice and collaboration.
  • Employee preferences - Some individuals learn best through doing, while others thrive in a more structured learning environment.

By understanding these factors, organizations can tailor learning strategies to maximize effectiveness and employee engagement.

Breaking down silos: Fostering integrated learning experiences

The 70:20:10 model encourages breaking down silos between formal learning, on-the-job experiences, and social interactions. Here's how:

  • Connect training to real work - Design training programs that simulate real-world scenarios and provide opportunities for practice.
  • Encourage knowledge sharing - Create platforms for employees to share their experiences and expertise with colleagues.
  • Integrate coaching into daily work - Encourage managers to provide regular feedback and coaching opportunities during the workday.

By blurring the lines between these learning sources, you can create a more seamless and impactful learning environment.

Beyond blended learning: Cultivating a continuous learning culture

The 70:20:10 model goes beyond the concept of "blended learning" (combining online and in-person training). It emphasizes creating a culture of continuous learning within your organization. This involves encouraging knowledge sharing among colleagues, providing opportunities for stretch assignments, and fostering a growth mindset within the organization.

Charles Jennings, the visionary co-founder of the 70:20:10 Institute and a luminary in the L&D field, debunks myths about the 70:20:10 model and how it is different from blended learning.

How 70:20:10 is different from 10+

The 70:20:10 model has become a cornerstone for many organizations looking to improve learning and development (L&D) strategies. However, it's sometimes confused with another approach - the 10+ model. 

The 70:20:10 model advocates for a balanced blend of formal, social, and experiential learning to foster a dynamic learning culture conducive to skill development and adaptability. On the other hand, the traditional 10+ approach leans towards formalized learning structures. 

Let’s take a quick look at the key differences between the two learning models:


3 tips to unlock continuous improvement with 70:20:10

The 70:20:10 model can be a powerful tool for boosting your team's skills and knowledge. But how do you put it into action? Here are three practical tips to unlock continuous improvement with 70:20:10.

1. Embed learning in the flow of work

Remember, 70% of learning comes from experience! Don't wait for formal training sessions. Instead, integrate learning into daily work. Here's how:

  • Stretch assignments - Challenge your team with new projects that push their boundaries. Studies show that difficulty can increase knowledge retention by up to 50%.
  • On-the-job coaching - Schedule regular check-ins with team members to discuss challenges and provide feedback. This informal learning approach can be highly impactful.
  • Knowledge-sharing sessions - Encourage team members to share their learnings with each other. This taps into the 20% social learning aspect and fosters a collaborative learning environment.

2. Shift focus from input to impact

Often, training focuses on "what" to do, but the 70:20:10 model reminds us to consider the "why." When employees understand the purpose and impact of their learning, they're more likely to apply it effectively.

  • Connect training to real-world situations - Show how the skills learned in a training will directly improve their work performance and contribute to organizational goals.
  • Gather feedback after training - Ask participants how they plan to use their new knowledge and if they have any questions about applying it on the job.

3. Move from limited solutions to comprehensive strategies

Expand your approach beyond isolated learning interventions to comprehensive learning strategies that encompass all three learning components. A survey of 181 firms suggests that organizations experience a positive change in performance when learning strategies are integrated in HR and entrepreneurial practices. 

Here's how to expand beyond isolated training sessions:

  • Create microlearning resources - Provide bite-sized learning modules (articles, videos) that employees can access easily throughout the day to reinforce key concepts.
  • Develop communities of practice - Foster groups where employees can connect, share best practices, and support each other's learning beyond formal training sessions.
  • Track progress and celebrate achievements - Monitor individual and team learning goals, and recognize progress to keep motivation high.

By following these tips, you can leverage the power of the 70:20:10 model to create a culture of continuous learning and development within your organization. Remember, it's about making learning an ongoing process, not just a one-time event.

Cultivate a learning mindset with Together

The business landscape is constantly evolving, and the skills needed to succeed are changing right along with it.  Organizations that prioritize a flexible and adaptable approach to learning and development (L&D) are the ones best positioned for long-term success.

The 70:20:10 model provides a powerful framework for building an L&D strategy that keeps pace with change. This holistic approach ensures employees develop a well-rounded skillset, combining theoretical knowledge with practical experience and the valuable insights gained through social interaction.

Ready to unlock the full potential of social learning within your 70:20:10 strategy? Consider Together, a mentoring software designed to cultivate effective mentoring relationships.  

Together connects employees with experienced colleagues who can offer valuable guidance, support their development, and help them reach their full potential.  By fostering a culture of social learning and knowledge sharing, Together can be a powerful tool for boosting engagement, innovation, and overall organizational success.

Schedule a demo today and see how Together can help your organization thrive.

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