Home > Continuous Learning > Is it Percentage or Performance?

Is it Percentage or Performance?

I just read a post on my LinkedIn Group from Steven Oesterreich, Managing Director Asia Pacific – Ark Group, who is launching a few questions about all types of Learning. His first topic caught my eye [captured below]…and the questions he put forth…and the comments they generated… triggered a thought I felt important enough to share.

Steven’s First Topic: 70:20:10

This concept, has been around for quite a while, based upon research from 30 years ago:

  • 70% of learning comes from on-the-job experiences
  • 20% comes from people (particularly a role model or manager)
  • 10% comes from formal courses and reading

Most will agree that it is to be used as guide, but is [it] still the correct guide to be using? With the advent the constantly changing marketplace and of usable social technology over the last 5 years especially, should it not be 60:20:20 or some have suggested to me 80:15:5?

And here are the high points of the ensuing comments…

  • From Anne Bartlett Bragg, Managing Director, Ripple Effect Group – Asia Pacific

Daring to be even more controversial… perhaps it’s just 90:10 – as the 70 & 20 are very difficult to distinguish in changing workplace.
90% we learn from others, on the job, through experience – informal learning
10% is qualification related – academic, regulatory etc – formal learning.
Or does this over simplify?

  • From Stacey Edmonds, Founder & MD Lively, specialising in Digital Learning & Gamification

ooo… do love a bit of controversy… Could I really put the cat amongst the chickens and suggest we simply leave the concept behind? We are human – we live and we learn in our environment. How we learn will depend on, to name a few… our preferences, situation, availability of resources and, like, bandwidth…

Being a performance consultant at the core, my thoughts; rather, my answers to both questions, are standard consultant-speak – “It Depends!”

And it does…depend…that is…on the true circumstances surrounding the business outcomes we are seeking to achieve to the extent they are restrained by the performance gaps we are attempting to overcome. I cannot think of anything more unique to an individual business than that. While they may fall into categories like competition, regulatory, workflow changes, etc. methinks trying to attach a percentage on how much informal versus formal versus collaborative learning is required, at best, a moving target. If we are skewing design to meet a percentage target, we’ve missed the spirit behind 70:20:10…or 80:20…or 90:10…or even 68:19:13. Step away from the percentage…

I tend to side with Stacey’s comments…“leave the concept behind” and “we live and we learn in our environment”…and I tend to believe that the “environment” defining each organizations’ learning and performance ecosystem is unique. Attempting to put learning and performance support into specific sized boxes is an unnecessary complication. For this camper, the objective is clearly one of driving performance…versus adhering to concept percentages.

Return to your homes…there is nothing more to see here.

Gary Wise
Performance & Learning Solutions Strategist
(317) 437-2555

  1. September 2, 2014 at 11:39 am

    My belief is that we rely too much on percentages, quantifying to justify our spending. Having taught in the classroom I know that there is an advantage to being able to customize “on-the-fly” and meet the immediate need of the student. That is the ideal for any teacher. But trying to create formalized learning in a one-size-fits-all requirement is like trying to satisfy everyone’s taste at a family reunion, it really never works out well.

    My educational philosophy is more along the lines of facilitating learning as in Socrates’ saying that we can only AID the learner not make them learn just as the doctor and the farmer can’t make the patient heal or the corn to grow, they can only create a good environment for it to happen.

    That being said, I think there are really very few well equipped self-directed learners out there. In a flood of information and innovation why are we are still stuck using technologies from the last century if we can so easily learn the new? (My little soap-box)

    Encouragement. Listening. Explaining. These are all hallmarks of good teachers and that is what should be integral to our designed learning. Trouble is it is easier said then done. But then I’m only 40% sure of that. Okay, maybe 50%. 🙂

  2. September 2, 2014 at 11:54 am

    Larry, I’m 100% sure I’m glad you read this and left a comment. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. September 4, 2014 at 2:02 am

    Thanks Gary,

    It is always interesting to see different perceptions of the 70:20:10 and how different people apply/adapt to suit their organisation. I think the beauty of 70:20:10 is that it is easy for workers to understand. When you talk to them about how they develop and improve in the workplace, most will respond with words to the effect of ‘That sounds about right’. This of course opens up conversations around, ‘How can we ensure you get the right balance of experience, exposure to others, and formal education to support your needs.

    Charles Jennings says, ’70:20:10 is a reference model, not a recipe’. Learning is about context, so the right balance of experiential, social and structured learning will be different for each situation. For this reason, I believe that people arguing the percentages are missing the simple point that most of how people develop and improve occurs through challenging experiences and through others in the workplace.

    The numbers are useful for the learning function as they help reinforce where the bulk of their resourcing effort should be focused – towards workplace learning, not the other way around, which is the traditional case.

    I agree that the numbers can be distracting and for this reason, many organisations using 70:20:10 remove the numbers or use an analogy to present the framework to their workers. Some use the 3Es – Experience, Exposure and Education. Others use the 3Ps – Practice, People, Programs. NAB, an Australian bank uses the numbers, but links them to a learning to drive analogy – 10 = passing the licence test, 20 = learning to drive under supervision, 70 = hitting the road with your probationary licence, which is really a licence to learn.

    I think 70:20:10 is a really simple and effective way to communicate how workers can be supported to develop and perform. It is also a powerful platform for enabling change in the learning function. The pwer of the framework is its ability to start conversatiosn and support change.

    At the end of the day, it’s not the numbers, it’s what you do with them that counts!

    • September 4, 2014 at 6:49 am

      Hey Andrew!
      Thanks for visiting and sharing a thought. Your statement about 70:20:10 “opening up a conversation” is key. There truly IS a balance to be found that is as unique as the organization seeking it when it comes to the right mix of learning components. And to Charles’ point, the “framework” helps to evolve that conversation beyond a limited training paradigm.

      Again, I appreciate your comments!

  4. September 4, 2014 at 8:01 am

    You’ve posed a good question, Gary. ‘Percentages or Performance’? Of course it’s all about performance.

    I’ve had a lot of conversations with people about ‘the numbers’ in the 70:20:10 model over the past 15 years that I’ve been working with it. As Andrew alludes to above, the numbers serve a useful communication purpose, but if you get tied up on numbers or ratios it’s clearly not going anywhere. It’s not surprising Andrew and I agree, we worked together when I was associated with the 70:20:10 Forum.

    The 70:20:10 concept helps people understand, in very simple terms, that most adult, work-focused learning occurs in the workflow – far away from classes, courses and curriculum. However, most HR, talent and learning professionals still spend most of their time heads-down focusing on providing content-centric, structured learning events.

    I’ve written quite a lot over the years about the ‘numbers’ in the model – most recently in the blog article titled ‘It’s Only 65%!’ (http://charles-jennings.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/its-only-65.html).

    Whether the numbers are 70:20:10 or 65:30:5 or any other ratios for any specific situation is irrelevant. What matters is an awareness that learning is a process and not a series of events, that most adult learning is self-directed, and that learning is just a step on the path to high performance. In the end it’s the performance that matters, not necessarily the way we get there – although if we can support people, teams and organisations to reach high-performer levels quickly then we’re doing our job.

    • September 4, 2014 at 8:07 am

      You are so right, Charles! It’s not the methodology we choose to follow, it’s the performance results we sustain because of our efforts. Thanks for stopping by and sharing helpful thoughts!

  5. September 7, 2014 at 4:50 pm

    Which ever way you cut the numbers, the principle comes out the same. The most important learning is ‘accidental’ – it happens on the job when I wasn’t trying to learn anything, just trying to get my job done. More good accidents happen when I am properly supported in my job.

    • September 7, 2014 at 6:50 pm

      Amen, brother!

      • September 7, 2014 at 6:55 pm

        Ted, and I must add….if intentional design is used effectively “accidents” will happen! 🙂

  6. September 8, 2014 at 1:00 am

    I agree Ted – we want to make workplace (informal) learning intentional, rather than left to chance as it has been in the past. L&D’s job is to guide, support and enable (not manage) workplace learning, the impact of which is measured through performance outcomes.

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