The 70/20/10 Model for Workplace Learning

The 70/20/10 Model for Workplace Learning


Have you heard of the 70/20/10 model as it's used in workforce learning & development? It's also sometimes called the 3 E's (for Experience, Exposure, and Education), and two of the three parts of 70/20/10 (the 70 and 20) are often combined and referred to as informal learning.

Quite a few of you probably have heard of this idea--it's a buzzword in L&D these days--but it's possible that others haven't.

In this post, we'll briefly explain what the 70/20/10 model is, give you some ideas of how to use it, and explain a few reasons why.

We're also curious to hear your own experiences and thoughts (as always), so don't forget to leave your comments below.

What Is the 70/20/10 Model for Workforce Learning & Development?

The 70/20/10 model has been around for quite some time, but it's getting a lot of additional attention lately for various reasons.

According to the 70/20/10 model, workers learn:

  • 70% of what they need to know for their jobs through job experience (this is the "Experience" from the 3 Es model)
  • 20% socially from their coworkers and other sources (this is the "Exposure" from the 3 Es model)
  • 10% from formal, assigned training (this is the "Educate" from the 3 Es model)

Here's what that looks like:

70-20-10 Model Image

Don't get too hung up on the actual percentages. They're in dispute and would vary from person-to-person, and from company-to-company. But the general idea carries with it a lot of truth and is worth considering: although assigned, formal workforce training is valuable, people learn a LOT of what they need to work at work in other ways, including from on-the-job experience and from their peers. Those final two are often lumped together as informal learning.

So workforce learning & development departments should continue the formal, assigned learning (and maybe by improving things here and there, get that 10% figure up higher). But in addition, it pays for L&D to do what they can to facilitate those other kinds of learning too.

Click the following link to read some additional background on the history, source, and accuracy of the 70/20/10 percentages if you're the curious type.

What Does the 70/20/10 Model Mean for Learning & Development Experts?

What this really means is that folks in learning and development should shift their mindset about what they do at work.

It's probably true that a lot of trainers, instructional designers, and people in L&D have focused on creating and delivering formal, assigned training (as classroom instruction, videos, eLearning courses, or in other formats) and assigning the training to workers. It's a top-down, do-what-I-say kind of model. A little like an old-school, centrally planned, Soviet command-and-control economy, and sometimes equally charming.

By contrast, the 70/20/10 model is good reason for learning and development experts to ease up on the control issues. If an overwhelming amount of learning is happening outside formal, assigned training created and delivered by learning and development professionals, then it makes sense that we shift some of our focus and try to facilitate the workforce learning that happens through direct experience on the job and exposure to our coworkers.

This shift of focus in L&D is similar to a recommended shift of focus for managers that we wrote about in a recent article about the importance of not trying to control workers through external measures (rewards and punishments, carrots and sticks) and instead doing what you can to stimulate their innovation, creativity, and problem-solving by taking your finger off the control button and allowing them to pursue autonomy, mastery, and purpose. (If that sounds familiar, it's based on Daniel Pink's book Drive).

So in short, it means learning and development professionals should rethink their jobs, do more to help employees learn and perform better on the job by facilitating experience-based and exposure-based learning, and maybe develop a bit of a new skill set. This might include things like:

  • Social learning, such as learning on social media sites, wikis, etc
  • Helping to facilitate knowledge transfers in "learning communities" at work, perhaps during organized working lunches
  • Helping to create an organized, productive mentoring system
  • Creating a way to help employees create, share, find, and view helpful self-created videos and written materials
  • Content curation (we have a larger section about this below)
  • More

I am a big fan of an L&D expert in Australia named Arun Pradhan. His recent article 8 Skills for Learning and Development Professionals to Future-Proof Your Career does a good job of introducing this and other related issues. More recently, we interviewed Arun on Lifelong Learning and Learning How to Learn, and how we can help employees learn to learn and keep learning.

For those of you with a safety bent, this isn't so far from some of the things that Todd Conklin talks about with his learning teams as part of HOP, either.

Does This Mean I Shouldn't Design, Create, and Deliver Training Anymore?

No. You should still create workforce training courses.

You should just do other stuff, too, to help encourage all that other learning that happens informally.

Where Can I Find Some Good Tips from Wise L&D Experts on How to Facilitate the 70/20/10 Learning Model at My Workplace?

Here are a few:

We're going to continue to add to this list over time. Please let us know if you have some suggestions of your own (the comments section is down there at the bottom).

Using Your LMS to Facilitate the 70/20/10 Learning Model at Your Work

You probably associate your LMS with formal, assigned training. Which you should, actually. An LMS is a great, proven way to get assigned training to workers, inform them of the assignment, allow them to complete it, and track and report on their completions. That's great for all sorts of reasons, including compliance training.

LMS for Assigned and Informal Learning in 70/20/10 Model Image

Formal, assigned learning an employee would see inside a Vector LMS.

But because all of that informal training is important too, your LMS should also facilitate that.

Let's look at two simple ways your LMS can help your employees teach themselves, learn on the job, and learn from one another.

On-Demand Training

Your LMS should provide an easy way for workers to search for and view materials in addition to the training they've been assigned. That's what I mean by on-demand training.

In some cases, your employees will use this on-demand feature out of curiosity. In other cases, they'll do it to develop new skills and abilities to prepare them for a promotion or transfer (or to just make themselves more valuable to the company).

In still other cases, they'll search for training for point-of-need performance support--information they can access to solve problems as they occur during the workday. You know--the way a lot of folks use Google.

LMS for Optional Training Image

Searchable training library for on-demand training as seen in a Vector LMS: performance support when it's needed, where it's needed, by whom it's needed.

Training Content Categorization In Your LMS

It's great if your employees can use your LMS as a searchable knowledge base of job-related information.

It's even greater if your LMS allows you, as an administrator, to divide the learning resources into different categories. This makes it easier for employees to find useful information--whether they came to the LMS looking for something specific, or whether they're more in "browsing" mode.

In the image below, you can see the on-demand training can be filtered by different categories, such as :

  • General Manufacturing
  • Paper Manufacturing
  • Pulp Manufacturing
  • Converting
  • Warehouse
  • Safety
  • Environmental
  • Office Skills

Training materials categorized inside a Vector LMS for easy on-demand searching and instant performance support

Training Content Curation

Your LMS should allow you to "curate" learning resources and present them to your employees as well.

What does that mean? offers this definition (if you're curious for more, check out the entire article):

"Content Curation is the process of sorting through vast amounts of web and enterprise based content and presenting it in an organized and meaningful format. An individual who performs this activity is known as a content curator."

Content curation allows learning & development experts to sift through learning resources beyond the training library in the LMS, find the best ones, and include them in the searchable part of the LMS in addition to the materials from the formal training library. These additional resources can include helpful websites, social learning/social media sites, and more.

By being an effective curator, you can help provide a very valuable learning resource to employees, ultimately making them more effective, productive workers and helping your business reach its key business goals.

Here are some additional sources of information about content curation for workforce learning & development:

Conclusion: Unleash the Learning with the 70/20/10 Model for Workforce Learning & Development at Your Company

You, your company, and the employees stand to benefit greatly if you can overcome an exclusive focus on creating courses and shift some of your efforts to facilitating other forms of workforce learning using the 70/20/10 model.

We hope you give it a shot and let us know how it works for you.

Please feel free to leave comments below, either now or once you've started your 70/20/10 journey.


Want to Know More?

Reach out and a Vector Solutions representative will respond back to help answer any questions you might have.