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360-degree employee growth with the 70-20-10 principle

70-20-10 for employee growth

In March 2020, just before Covid-19 was announced my team and I were introduced to a tech startup in Gurgaon, India with a problem. This company sold high-value products to a large consumer market in India. They had a sales team of 1500 across the country with 40 trainers that would visit each branch and train new joiners in a classroom format. Unfortunately, training completion rates were consistently less than 30% and employee pulse surveys frequently reported that employees were disengaged and demotivated.

In December 2021, the same company announced that they were one of the top 50 Great Places to Work in Asia. Training completions were now above 85% for 3 months straight, employee satisfaction was at an all time high and attrition at an all-time low against industry benchmarks despite the great resignation.

So how did they do it? This post is about three numbers: 70, 20, and 10, and a 40-year-old idea that will define the next decade of L&D. Let’s take a deeper look!

What does 70-20-10 mean?

‘10’ means that 10% of an employee’s experience in the company comes from formal learning interventions and planned training. These are the facts, figures and foundations of learning. Online and classroom training, ILTs, VILTs, WBTs, mobile learning, game-based learning all come here. This is an essential part of the learning journey but there is more.

Next is 20. 20% of an employee’s experience in the company derives from social learning, or working with others. Reporting managers, mentors, coaches and peers play an important role in the employee growth experience in the company. Learning doesn’t happen in isolation. We learn by sharing knowledge and observing others.

And thirdly, 70. 70% of the employee experience comes from on-the-job experience, experimentation and reflection. “Learning in the flow of work” is a buzzword we frequently hear has to do with finding the right resources while employees are working on new tasks they have never worked on before. “On the job learning” means learning from daily problems and challenges that an employee may encounter. People learn the best by doing and the key idea here is that learning is more effective the closer it is to the point of use.

Learning is more effective the closer it is to the point of use

Our tech startup friends had their trainers go from branch to branch, completing the curriculum they were assigned. The focus of this company was only on the 10% and not the entire 100% of the employee growth journey. 90% of the learning was not measured by their management!

The truth is that this could be any company and the story is the same everywhere. Current employee learning programs only touch on 10% of the employee experience, and 90% is untapped. Activities like behavioral scorecards, mentorship, coaching and on the job learning should be embraced to provide a fuller employee experience in the company.

A big shift is coming

There has been a big shift in the way companies manage their teams. With the great resignation there has been a tremendous pressure to offer employee growth options to retain employees. Managers have become more like coaches and cheerleaders for their subordinates. With remote working at an all-time high, managers are ensuring their teams have what they need to get the job done. That might not just be resources in the form of software, tools and training, but also in the form of professional guidance, counselling and motivation.

Learning is a complex and nuanced idea. Next generation learning platforms must now also capture multiple dimensions of data if they are to provide accurate recommendations to their business teams.

So how can we embed learning in the flow of work into the company? In the next post we will see 10 ways to implement the 70-20-10 principle in the workplace. Stay tuned!

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