The widely used 70:20:10 model for learning and development holds that 70 percent of an individual’s learning comes from job-related experiences, whereas formal training events contribute to only 10 percent. Furthermore, Dr. Brent Peterson’s research has found that 85 percent of an organization’s training budget is invested in training events, and only 5 percent is allocated to post-training activities.

Don’t these data point to something amiss? Are we working on an inverse Pareto – putting 85 percent into what yields 10 percent and only 5 percent in what can produce 70 percent? Even if we brush aside the figures, we cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that our work in L&D is predominantly occupied with formal training, and what we do at the workplace is mostly limited to evaluating training effectiveness. The crucial piece for ensuring ROI on training is the transfer of learning to workplace. Ideally, the following two things should happen to make training effective:

  1. Actual workplace behavior should flow from classroom learning.
  2. Workplace learning should be insulated from non-productive influences.

Though formal training may contribute to only 10 percent, it is where we sow the seed for the right actions by imparting knowledge of doing the right things correctly to achieve organizational goals. Converting the “knowing” in the classroom to “doing” at workplace cannot be left to chance and must be nurtured by carefully-crafted strategies.

70:20:10 Model Revisited: From Classroom to Workplace

People learn, consciously or unconsciously, from myriad sources in and around the workplace. These sources may or may not be the right ones; they could even be counterproductive. It is too utopian to think that we can insulate learning from such influences; nevertheless, we can mitigate the undesirable effects by providing the right role models who can engage with learners to give them the right inputs and impart the right values. For this process to happen, we need to create a climate of learning and openness through multiple channels of generative conversations like mentoring, coaching, peer learning networks and common interest forums.

As L&D professionals, we need to invest more effort in aligning the classroom with workplace performance and devise strategies for learning transfer. Here are five surefire approaches.

1. Small Chunks

The buzzword is “bite-size,” and rightly so, with dropping attention spans and rising distraction levels. Roll out training in micro-modules, allowing intermittent space for capturing insights and action commitments.

On-the-job methods like coaching and toolbox talks are approaches to small-chunking training. On-the-job coaching (OJC) can translate tacit islands of expertise within the organization into organizational talent. Given some training on coaching skills, exemplary performers can turn into OJC champions.

Short talks, similar to toolbox talks on the shop floor, can be another effective tool for short-run training in all domains. To institutionalize this method, identify tasks and develop concise one-point lessons, or single pages on the task’s what, why and how, including tips and cautions. Have team members rotate to deliver talks on a daily basis.

2. Memorable Experiences

Recalling information during practice is key to better performance. For tasks like remembering procedures, concepts and policies, acronyms can serve as powerful mnemonics. You can create tools using memory pegs to help employees remember critical aspects at work. For practicing new behaviors and skills, memorable experiences are vital. There are many ways to create memorable experiences, like jolts and action mazes.

3. Application Opportunities

Providing challenging opportunities to learners immediately after the training can shake them out of their comfort zone to try new behaviors. Though this process may be the domain of line managers, L&D professionals should create support systems and processes for voluntary projects, sharing success stories, case clinics, job shadowing, role-play labs and other initiatives for the workplace application of training.

4. Reinforcement

There should be mechanisms for reinforcing classroom learning in the field and for field learning to flow back to the classroom. Reviewing training should be an agenda item in meetings so that learners can share their challenges in applying their action commitments and seek help. Similarly, when a team reviews a completed project, lessons learned should be captured and incorporated into training.

5. Testing Ground and Trust Groups

Providing a safe space for rehearsing new behaviors is essential for learners to gain confidence. Create a testing ground by bringing together learners with common interests and goals and engaging them in trust-building activities. They can emerge into a powerful self-directed group, which can support individual growth through generative dialogues and constructive feedback.

SMART Checklist for Leveraging Classroom Learning