70:20:10 Rhetoric or Reality? – Part 2 Solutions

70:20:10 Rhetoric or Reality? – Part 2 Solutions

In Part 1 of 70:20:10 Rhetoric or Reality? we asked the question “What’s stopping the rollout of true 70:20:10 programs?”  We identified a number of blockers as we lamented at the large number of learning programs that continue to be dominated by workshop led learning. 
In Part 2 we ask the question – what should L&D professionals and line managers do differently to overcome the blockers and enable the roll out of true 70:20:10 programs?  


1. Start with the end in mind when designing learning programs

We’ve all heard the term ‘start with the end in mind’ and learning practitioners are usually pretty good at noting learning outcomes.  But do these go far enough?  Are we clear enough on what our participants will be doing when they apply their learning successfully?  “They’ll be better at influencing” is probably not enough.  We need to understand the context within which they will be influencing and the specific behaviours they will be executing.  Why?  Because without the full story we will be providing participants with abstract learning that may be difficult to relate to the real situations they’ll be going into. 

Let’s take an example of a group of workplace inspectors undertaking influencing skills training.  The learning outcomes that need to happen for this group centres on influencing building site workers to be more compliant with OH&S procedures.  It requires the inspectors to demonstrate understanding if workers are unaware of legislation, skills in de-escalation of conflict if workers become defensive, and skills in rapport building to relate to the different personalities on a building site. 

The nuances of the situations and skills required will be lost if we are just thinking this is another influencing skills program.  Real learning takes place when we know the context and behaviours and can address these all through the learning program.   This requires L&D to make more time to understand the work done by business units.  They have to become ‘at one’ with their client group to overcome this disconnection between HR and the line.         

2.    Create systemic approaches to adopting on-the-job learning

For many L&D professionals, the concern about making on-the-job learning a bigger part of a systematic learning program is largely logistical.  How do we coordinate and keep track of on-the-job learning when it’s so dispersed geographically and time wise?  In a workshop the supposed learning is controlled with all the participants together in the one place, at the one time, doing the same activities.  On the job learning is often different for different individuals and is integrated in their daily work which is done here, there and everywhere on an ongoing basis. 

Perhaps L&D professionals need to look at it in a different way.  Rather than attempting to control the learning process, they can equip managers with the skills to develop their own coordinated approach with their teams. There are two things L&D professionals can do to assist in making this happen. 

The first is to use the workshop as a preparatory step for on-the-job learning.   With a captive audience an opportunity exists to set expectations for how learning can happen on the job, to outline examples of activities participants can undertake as part of on-the-job learning, and to train participants in how to plan, enact and evaluate their development as well as seek feedback.  It is important that right from the start, the tone of the workshop is that this is merely the start of the learning program and that success can only occur through repeated practice and implementation on the job.  Too often the workshop is devoted entirely to teaching participants the skills related to the subject matter.  What about the skills required to successfully implement and embed learning? 

Secondly, the L&D professionals must provide participants with tools and resources to make on the job learning a reality.  This can include the use of apps, learning journals, action learning tips, action planning templates, ‘seeking feedback’ guides, and evaluation templates.  The process of making learning as easy and as integrated with work as possible has got to be at the forefront of the L&D professional’s thinking.       

3.    Intentionally assigning people to challenging assignments.  

A critical role for L&D professionals is working with managers to not only help them make learning for their team members easier, but to also influence managers to change their perspectives on issues where required.  An example is challenging those managers who find it hard to think past short term results, who as a result, don’t give their staff the developmental ‘stretch’ assignments they need.      

In these situations it is critical that we bring the evidence to the attention of these managers.  The research is clear that the most significant professional development for employees occur when we give people the right level of challenging work experiences.  For businesses to grow and generate sustainable results, employees must be taken out of their comfort zone and put in situations they have not yet mastered.  This is a risk for the organisation as it exposes it to mistakes which can have an impact on revenue and service. 

However, the risk of not developing staff is far greater.  Without development the organisation will have no succession plan, it will not be ready for new challenges and markets, and it will not be providing staff one of their most prized possessions that keeps them retained and engaged. 

L&D professionals won’t win every argument about the need for managers to assign staff to stretch assignments, but through a diligent commitment to having conversations about this issue with managers they are sure to win enough.           

4.    Capitalise on what many are already doing.

In the process of going about our daily work it is easy to forget about what we are already doing to learn.   What we are not doing enough of is noting and reflecting on that learning. 

Every day we have conversations with managers, peers, and stakeholders, search for new information on the internet, we solve problems and undertake various challenging or new tasks as part of our job.  But somehow we don’t give those activities the credit they deserve.  We label them ‘work’ but not ‘learning’.  The fact is that any activity that enables us to acquire, practice and apply knowledge and skills is ‘learning’. 

Whilst it is important to recognise that we are constantly learning through our work, we do need to take time to reflect on the learning and ensure it is consolidated for future application.  A combined study by Harvard Business School, University of North Carolina and HEC Paris found that employees who spent 15 minutes writing and reflecting on what they learnt at the end of training achieved 23% better marks in their final training test. 

Organisations doing innovative work to help people maximise the ‘70’ in the 70:20:10 are building frameworks for daily reflection, task review and regular feedback.  They are assisting their employees to do that consolidation work so that learning achieves its ultimate aim – improving performance. 

Moving past the rhetoric and making on-the-job learning the core of learning programs is the next frontier for L&D. What is your organisation doing to be ahead of the curve?


  • Lesley Halligan Tuesday, 09 September 2014

    I am doing a workshop with our staff today, this article is so timely as we usually pump them full of information and send them off. Today I am going to take the opportunity to spend the last 15 minutes for them to reflect on the information provided and how they will the implement and embed their learning to assist their schools, our schools

  • Paul Clifford Wednesday, 10 September 2014

    Hi Lesley,

    I am really glad our article was able to assist you. It is easy at times to focus on what we want people to learn and forget about how we can ensure they learn effectively. Well done on being willing to adapt your approach. Please keep us informed about how they go in making practical use of the information you give them.

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