Why 70:20:10 is Failing

The 70:20:10 training principle, where 70% of training is gained on the job, 20% through mentoring and coaching, and 10% via structured training, is often cited as industry best practice. Unfortunately, apart from providing the outline and booking the occasional formal training course, very little support is provided to workers to adhere to this dictate. Millennials and Gen Z are continually lauded for their digital know-how and ability to locate knowledge online as and when it is needed, but is Googling (or Binging or Yahooing) really the way you want your workforce to access 70% of its learning and development? Without proper structure around mentoring and coaching, 20% could just be asking the person who sits next to them, or emailing a friendly circle of colleagues when a worker hits a brick wall. Organisations need to do better.

Worryingly, in a 2014 Learning in the Workplace Survey only 37% of workers felt that their Company Training/eLearning was very important or essential, compared with an 80% rating for Web Searches for Resources (such as Google) (1). A company-wide online learning system which provides on demand access to micro-learning, wikis, process documents and professional resources is a much better avenue to support the 70% element of the model. The best way to ensure learner retention is by providing training where and when it is needed, such that it is immediately utilised, some claim that this method can result in as much as 90% of the learning being retained (2). Furthermore, if staff have access to resources that promote internal best practice, outcomes like efficiency and effectiveness of work completed will improve, as will staff morale due to increased competence and confidence when completing the duties attached to their role. It’s a win-win solution. Finally, if your organisation has worked to develop its own best practice, why are you encouraging your staff to utilise the best they can find online when it could compromise data integrity, undermine processes that are in place for compliance reasons, or promote non-industry standard policies within the business? If you expect your staff to develop themselves on the job, provide them with the resources they require to develop themselves in the image of a best practice employee of your organisation.


One of the most effective ways of modelling best practice, of ensuring adherence to policies and procedures, of increasing learner retention and integration into daily duties, managing high flyers on Talent programs, and conducting effective performance management is through coaching and mentoring. In the survey mentioned earlier, 87% of workers rated ‘Knowledge Sharing Within Your Team’ as Very Important or Essential, while 79% felt the same way about ‘General Conversations and Meetings’, and 75% for ‘Personal and Professional Networks and Communities’, making up three of the top four ranked results. Clearly peer to peer learning, along with coaching and mentoring, are key drivers of workplace learning and development, proving once again that Social Learning is being underdeveloped as a resource by organisations. It is also important to note that it isn’t just older workers who value face-to-face development; 75% of Millennials want a mentor, while 65% of Baby Boomers have been sought out for guidance by Millennials (3). If organisations want 20% of their staff to learn through their business relationships, then they need to ensure that the structures are in place to boost the effectiveness of Social Learning, while also ensuring that a mentoring and coaching program is developed that provides senior management with the impetus and opportunity to mentor junior colleagues, while line managers are given the resources and training necessary to run effective and productive coaching sessions that don’t devolve into disinterested, infrequent meetings or run the risk of turning into micromanagement.

There is no reason why the 70:20:10 model can’t be successful, however using the model as a reason to abandon all but 10% of the responsibility for your staff’s learning and development needs is not going to provide businesses with the human capital they need to navigate the skills drain that has been predicted with the retirement of the Baby Boomers. Indeed, with 66% of all businesses with employees being owned by Baby Boomers in the US alone, that is nearly 4 million companies (4), the impending loss to the knowledge economy with their retirement means that no organisation can afford to ignore 90% of their staff’s learning and development. Instead, organisations need to put structures in place which support the development of their staff, even when 70% of that development is employee-led.


For more information on Micro-Learning best practice, click here.

For more information on Social Learning and how to make it work for your business, click here.


  1. http://c4lpt.co.uk/litw-results/
  2. http://www.psychotactics.com/art-retain-learning/ 
  3. http://hirevue.com/blog/infographic-how-to-combat-the-baby-boomer-brain-drain
  4. http://www.axial.net/forum/baby-boomers-deal-flow/


What is your experience with the 70:20:10 model? Do you feel supported using it? What structures are in place to ensure that your development is ongoing and evolving, keeping you current in your industry?

2 thoughts on “Why 70:20:10 is Failing

  1. Pingback: Video: Why 70:20:10 is Failing | LearningYourDevelopment

  2. Pingback: Benchmarking Shows Leadership Development Programmes Aren’t Producing Great Leaders, but They Can | LearningYourDevelopment

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