The modern organization has a diverse workforce and a varied set of learning preferences. As learning leaders, one of our most difficult tasks is creating a compelling and effective learning process that enables the multigenerational and diverse workforce to succeed and accomplish the organization’s mission while engaging the target audience in all its various environments and diversities.

Over the past decade, the 70/20/10 model has come under scrutiny as societal changes have led to changes in the proportions of this learning model; however, there are still strong reasons to integrate this tried and tested model to ensure performance adoption and behavioral changes in today’s workforce. In 2018, Training Industry, Inc. published an infographic based on research finding a notable change from the 70/20/10 model to reflect a more equally weighted model of 55/25/20 for employees and 41/31/28 for executive talent.

Let’s take a quick look at the three pillars of the 70/20/10 model and explore how we can better adopt and align this model to address today’s multigenerational workforce.

The 70-20-10 Model

The 70/20/10 learning model posits that 70% of adult workplace learning occurs through experiential learning, 20% through social learning or interactions with others, and the remaining 10% through formal learning processes. The model’s origins are largely credited to Morgan McCall and his colleagues Robert Eichinger and Michael Lombardo at the Center for Creative Leadership. The model also has links to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report from the mid-1990s, and Allen Tough suggested a similar learning model in his book “The Adult’s Learning Projects.”

In the early 21st century, this model was widely adopted by many Fortune Global 500 organizations, but as we head into this next decade, we need to account for several changes:

Many learning organizations continue to focus both time and budget in opposite proportions, building complex formal training programs that are heavy on didactic learning practices rather than immersive experiences. With the influx of technology, these didactic programs have become increasingly expensive to produce.

The key is recognizing that the 70/20/10 model suggests that a significant percentage of learning comes through experience. Clearly, this model is amplified by today’s challenges. The solution is designing more experiential interactions.

Learning Considerations: Don’t Lose Sight of the Goal!

Remember, our ultimate aim as training professionals is to drive maximum learning adoption, leading to improved performance. Therefore, it is important to focus on how you are developing your learning audience and not to fall prey to the temptation of being overly prescriptive in regards to the percentages of the 70-20-10 model.

Experiential Learning

    • Design your learning to maximize the hands-on aspect as much as possible. Structured on-the-job training (OJT) walks learners through the task, has them perform the task with a coach or mentor beside them, and then asks them to demonstrate that they have mastered the skill and understanding and can safely and effectively complete the task by themselves.
    • Integrate multiple checkpoints or evaluations along the way so that learners can demonstrate their understanding and mastery. This approach also helps you create a learning process that involves “digestible chunks,” which lead to better retention and application.
    • Leverage technology to develop virtual simulations that require learners to apply their experiences in a problem-solving or gamification. This approach also makes the experience more fun!

Social Learning

    • Provide and encourage coaching, networking and collaboration within the structure of the learning and within the culture of the organization. The greater the social interaction, the broader the range of perspectives, experiences and inputs. Consider your learners’ preferences; some people may prefer face-to-face exchanges and others a more digital form of networking.
    • Open your learning infrastructure to enable learners to share. Instant messages, discussion forums and informal videos can improve social learning. Again, consider blends of face-to-face (virtually for now) and digital means of sharing content and messages.

Formal Learning

    • Regardless of the content provided in formal learning, the important part is to ensure that the learning experience is engaging, digestible and relevant.
    • Technology can help you design training that is deliverable in bursts, anytime and anywhere, via multiple delivery platforms (e.g., desktop or mobile).
    • Factor in the diversity of your audience into your designs, recognizing that individuals learn in different ways and that their unique experiences, background and environment can impact learning.


Learning is a process, not a single event or even a series of events. Take care not to become too rigid in following the 70/20/10 model. Rather, focus on creating learning that is focused on the target audience, designed to maximize experiential and social learning, and supported with formal learning.

Don’t ever lose sight of the primary objective: learning that supports employees so they can safely perform their job, in alignment with regulatory requirements, and act as a catalyst to organizational success.