Why the 70/20/10 Development Model Doesn't Always Add Up - Part 1

by Julie Winkle Giulioni | Posted | Learning

Why the 70/20/10 Development Model Doesn\'t Always Add Up - Part 1

Many organizations are putting into practice the ideas generated by the Center for Creative Leadership and popularized by 3M and others, commonly referred to as the 70/20/10 development model.

In its simplest form it’s a shuffling of focus among employee and leadership development approaches with the aspiration that:

  • A mere 10% of learning will occur through traditional, formal instruction (education);
  • Only approximately 20% will occur through others, including coaching, mentoring, job shadowing and networking (exposure);
  • And the bulk of learning — approximately 70% — will occur through informal, on-the-job activities happening within the workflow, including projects, team roles, stretch assignments and the like (experience).

Some of the benefits of the 70/20/10 development model

The shift of focus toward experiences is attractive to many executives, human resources professionals, and line managers alike as it offers a range of powerful benefits:

  • As found by countless studies, it’s through experience that humans learn best and most.
  • This approach democratizes the learning process and makes it accessible to more people.
  • It allows people to develop in role (at a time when employee or leadership development via promotions is less abundant), while getting real and necessary work done.
  • It also democratizes the teaching process and helps others enhance their own expertise because of the crystalizing of understanding that occurs as a result of teaching others.
  • It makes better use of limited funds and resources.

What's missing from this employee development model? A few more Es

But even organizations that are striking the illusive 70/20/10 balance continue to report less than exemplary results. 70% + 20% + 10% doesn’t necessarily add up to 100% of desired learning and performance success. Something in the equation is often missing.

While the 3Es — education, exposure and experience — are critical, there are a few other “E”s that need to be taken into consideration if we’re going to optimize our investment in learning.

a few more es

E is for expectations

Start with expectations.  All of the most well-conceived and well-constructed education, exposure, and experience will fall short of their potential if the table hasn’t been properly set with expectations.

If you as a leader honestly believe that everyone can learn, develop and grow, then you have a responsibility to the organization and your employees to explicitly and consistently communicate that expectation.

It’s important to do this informally day-in and day-out. But it’s also important to do it formally in preparation for learning activities. Even five minutes to share what will be happening, why, and what the employee can expect from you establishes powerful expectations and greater focus for what’s to come.

Add "what’s in it for the employee" and you’ll frame the learning in a way that allows others to personalize it, buy into it, build genuine receptivity, and put the development effort into a more meaningful and motivational context.

E is for engagement

Setting expectations helps to build engagement and motivation to learn, which is particularly important in today’s information-rich environment.

In Adam Grant’s book, Give and Take, he describes the work of pioneering psychologist, Raymond Cattell, who in the 1960s developed the investment theory of intelligence. Simply stated, interest is what drives people to invest their time and energy in developing particular skills and bases of knowledge.

“Motivation is the reason that people develop talent in the first place.”-Adam Grant

As a result, to make the most of learning opportunities, we must really engage employees, grabbing them by the heart not just the head.

A few more Es

Next month, we’ll explore concrete ways to enhance learning engagement. We’ll also address three more important Es — execution, evaluation, and embedding new behaviors into the workplace — that will help you move the needle and ensure that the numbers all add up to measurable results for the individual and organization.

Your turn: How do you foster employee and leadership development? Do you have any other Es to add to the list?

How to support employee career advancement

Learn the critical role of employee and leadership development.


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How to support employee career advancement

Learn the critical role of employee and leadership development.


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