One of the significant developments for the training and development profession over the past 15 years has been the emergence of new approaches that extend the focus on learning beyond formal events such as classrooms, workshops and e-learning modules.

Many training and development departments are evolving from a world where learning implied training events to one where learning is something that needs to be encouraged and supported as a continuous process.

The first steps to break the mold that created a tight link between “learning” and “event” involved the blending of face-to-face learning with technology. Early blended learning was created using the sandwich model where structured learning was wrapped with e-learning pre-work and post-class work-based activities. These two wrappings were designed to support face-to-face learning activities.

More recently, blending has become more sophisticated to incorporate a range of channels and increased use of self-directed learning approaches.

Beyond the blend

Today, we are moving beyond the blend by exploiting a wider range of learning opportunities in the daily flow of work. Two major areas that offer opportunities are social learning and experiential learning. The challenge with both of these is that they occur naturally, continuously and usually out-of-sight of HR and the training and development department.

Social learning has always occurred. People learn implicitly as part of daily work as they share insights and experiences in teams. More recently, with the rise of social media, natural social collaboration has become a major factor in performance development.

Experiential learning is being used increasingly in formal training and development, particularly with support of technology innovations such as virtual reality, augmented reality and gaming. However, there are also huge opportunities to exploit experiential learning beyond formal learning – by focusing on the learning that happens on a daily basis as part of the flow of work.

One of the key concepts that has emerged to exploit social and experiential learning, and to leverage the effective elements of structured training, is the 70:20:10 reference model.

The 70:20:10 approach

The 70:20:10 approach has helped bring three aspects of development together: structured education, social learning through exposure to others, and experiential learning.

Through the lens of the 70:20:10 model, formal, social and experiential learning are not seen as separate “boxes” but rather as different aspects of learning that can be integrated to deliver a “whole greater than the sum of its parts.”

By applying a 70:20:10 mindset, training and development professionals are able to extend their focus beyond away-from-work learning. The importance of 70:20:10 is not in the numbers, but in a shift to think more about the destination (improved performance) rather than the journey (learning). Achieving this shift requires new skills and attitudes.

Start with the ‘70’

One of the major changes required when working with the 70:20:10 model is “reverse working.” Once the cause of a performance problem has been identified, the solution design needs to “start with the 70.” In other words, first explore how the problem can be rectified in the flow of work, not by a course or e-learning module.

This way of working is counter-intuitive to most training and development professionals. However, it is based on the fact that learning which occurs closest to the point of need is likely to be the most impactful, and to result in behavioral change. Also, that continuous development results in greater realized value than one-off point solutions (away from work classes, courses or e-learning).