Don’t be tyrannized by the “70-20-10” formula of organizational learning

by on October 1, 2014 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Cafe
Businesspeople working on laptop in an office.

There’s nothing like the tyranny of numbers to depress a person.

You know your Body Mass Index (BMI) should ideally be under 25, yet yours continuously hovers between 26 and 28. You know you should be saving 10% of your salary each pay period, yet you can’t seem to put away more than 3-4% on average. You know you should be reading at least one book a month just for pleasure or enrichment, but you struggle to read five books a year for purposes other than work.

And perhaps, as a learning professional, you also know about the 70-20-10 rule, which holds that the most efficient and effective learning mix for organizations is 70% hands-on experience, 20% social learning — i.e., learning from supervisors and co-workers — and 10% formal training.

Are you put out by the fact that your own organization’s mix is different, that your people get more or less informal or formal learning than the formula says they should?

You’re not alone
Well, you needn’t be, if the experience of other people like you is any guide.

A recent survey of learning and development professionals by the talent management consultancy Lumesse indicates that the average organization’s mix differs significantly from the formula, coming in at 50% experiential learning, 26% “informal training” — which corresponds to social learning — and 24% formal training.

What does this tell us about what your learning mix should look like?

First, Lumesse says different kinds of organizations in different business sectors report different mixes. If, for instance, your company relies on highly specialized technological processes that require intensive employee training, your mix may lean more toward formal training than that of a lower-tech company. And that’s OK.

Second, while the 70-20-10 rule isn’t set in stone, it still provides a useful template. If, for example, experiential learning accounts for only one-quarter of the learning that goes on in your organization, you may well be spending too much money on formal training that doesn’t translate into rubber-meets-the-road action.

What’s best for you
In the final analysis, you’re the one who knows best what learning mix is of greatest benefit to your people and your organization.

But if you keep the 70-20-10 rule in mind, you’ll have a “stake in the ground” that will allow you to tether your organizational learning to best practices.

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