The 70:20:10 Model: Rethinking Your Approach To Training

Anna Roberts

Mar 2016 ⋅ 3 min read


Staff training and development isn't the most exciting area of business, yet in labour intensive industries like food service and hospitality, it's one of the most important parts. Your staff are your business, so investing in them is only logical - particularly if you want them to stick around.

Traditionally, employee training took a formal approach - seminars, reading, courses and so on. However, experts believe that a different way of training is often more effective. Introducing: the 70:20:10 model.

What is the 70:20:10 model?

If you work in HR, you may well have heard of the 70:20:10 model - it's been a slightly trendy concept for a few years now. In a nutshell, the model says that learning and development should be achieved through:

  • 70% informal, on-the-job learning
  • 20% through people, such as managers, mentors or supervisors
  • 10% through formal methods such as courses

Essentially, this approach is all about informal learning and stepping away from the rather rigid structure of traditional courses. It implies that we learn best by 'doing' - not by learning through books or online resources.

How does the 70:20:10 model work in practice?

The 70%

Experiential learning in a busy working environment is more than just throwing employees in at the deep end. Employers should try to give stretch assignments to employees who've shown a hunger to gain new skills. You might also offload more responsibility to staff to encourage them to make decisions, gaining valuable business skills.

The exact way you use hands on learning will depend on the nature of your business, but it's important to note that the learning experience shouldn't be restricted to an employee's first few weeks and months on the job - it should continue throughout their time with you.

The 20%

We all know the difference that a good mentor can make. Whether it's a colleague who's risen the ranks, a friend who made it as entrepreneur, or your middle school English teacher - we always remember the lessons taught to us by incredible mentors.

The 20% can include coaching sessions, work shadowing, and regular, informal advice and comments from leaders.

This type of learning doesn't just have to take place from boss to employee. Employees can also learn from their peers through collaborative work and projects that cross several teams or departments.

The 10%

Directors love training programmes through which they can clearly measure return on investment, and courses certainly fit that bill. They're perfect if you need to teach staff about a change to legislation or business process that will equally affect large groups of staff.

The benefits of 70:20:10

The 70:20:10 model is best thought of as a training and development philosophy rather than a formula. There's no point wasting time painstakingly tracking training efforts to ensure they meet that 70:20:10 ratio.

In many ways, the model calls for a change of mindset, away from formal training and towards something a little more informal and personalised.

The benefits of taking this approach include:

  • Lower costs. Formal courses tend to be pricey, so moving away from them is likely to reduce upfront training costs.
  • Improved employee engagement. Many staff value continuous learning - it adds variety to their job and gives them new skills that can boost their salary in the future. Employees will appreciate the resources you continually invest in them and that you don't just give new staff training opportunities.
  • More effective teamwork. If you place more emphasis on collaborative learning, your staff will work better together in the long term.
  • More personalised training. During the learning process, we shouldn't assume that one size fits all - training is more effective if you understand the individual's current skills, strengths, weaknesses and ambitions. Managers will also learn more about their employees through this approach.
  • Recruitment will be easier. If the 70:20:10 model works for you, shout about it! On job ads mention your continuous approach to training and use it as a selling point.

Is it right for your business?

Some organisations will benefit from continuing with a more traditional approach to training. It's difficult to calculate the return on investment of on the job learning, and there might not be an easy way to measure its success through other means. There's not much in the way of science behind the model either.

However, for many businesses the 70:20:10 model is common sense - and a fancy way to describe an approach to learning that they already use.

What do you make of 70:20:10 learning? Let us know in the comments section below.