The 70:20:10 Framework
You may have heard the term ‘70:20:10’ floating around in the learning and development field. In fact, I almost guarantee it. The concept has been around for decades now and more recently, it’s grown in popularity along with the emerging technologies used to support learning and development.
Just in case you haven’t heard of it, the 70:20:10 framework is a learning and development model which breaks down learning into 3 distinct subsections.
70% informal, on the job, experience-based
20% coaching, mentoring, developing through others
10% formal learning interventions and structured courses
Although this framework isn’t anything new, it’s hard to pin down its origin. In one review, Kajewski and Masden (2012) of Deakin Prime found that despite frequently credited sources, there is a lack of certainty of the origin. More importantly, they found a lack of empirical data to support the framework. In other words, there is a distinct lack of research to support the division of learning types into the various percentages.
Unfortunately, the more research that has been done, the more unclear the breakdown has become. For example, one study by Aberdeen group broke down the categories into the following percentages:
40% Experiential learning – on the job
17.5% Referential learning – feedback, coaching and mentoring
17.5% Relational learning – learning from managers and peers that takes place in a social context
25% Formal learning – traditional coursework delivered in a classroom or online.
This breakdown will vary again depending on the context. Over time, this concept has grown significantly in popularity. A 2015 survey conducted by Brandon Hall Group found that more than 60% of organisations have adopted the framework in some way. This same survey found that organisations that have adopted the framework achieved considerable benefits.
So remember that, while the 70:20:10 framework is just that: a framework, it does highlight meaningful concepts. For example, it is important to recognise that a large proportion of organisational learning occurs informally. Even the best formal training cannot account for all learning. While it is not a hard and fast rule that 70% of budget, time and resources should be spent on informal learning, it is important to take advantage of this informal learning and ensure that this learning is streamlined, relevant, and measured. Also. it shouldn’t be forgotten that effective formal training can provide relevant and useful learning experiences. In fact, when taking advantage of informal learning or coaching/mentoring, this is best done when supported by formal training.
So if your organisation is wishing to apply the 70:20:10 framework to your learning and development strategy, remember that it is a guide only and not an exact formula for success. This means that the framework is not a formula for time, money and resources spent on each form of learning but rather a concept, or theoretical model, that identifies the need to maximise informal learning opportunities within organisations.
Kajewski, K and Madsen, V. Demystifying 70:20:10 White Paper, Deakin Prime, Deakin University, May 2012
Moon, M. The New 70:20:10: The Changing Face of Learning, Aberdeen Group, September 2015
Wentworth, D. The 70:20:10 Learning Framework: Formalizing the Informal, Brandon Hall Group, February 2015