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Create a Workforce That Never Stops Learning with the 70-20-10 Model

In today’s ever-evolving IT environments, the skills your workforce needs tomorrow are almost guaranteed to be different from what they need today. Training and development are critical for building a successful workforce, but many organizations struggle to find the right balance between on-the-job training and formal education.

In the 1980s, a nonprofit educational institution called The Center for Creative Leadership studied the effectiveness of corporate training programs and detailed what is best known today as the “70-20-10 Model for Learning and Development” [1]. Their findings indicated that successful training programs rely on an employee learning the skills they need from three types of experience, using a 70-20-10 ratio:

  • 70 percent: Challenging assignments
  • 20 percent: Social interactions at work with coworkers, managers and mentors
  • 10 percent: Traditional training

The goal of any corporate training program is to ensure employees and teams are productive and innovative while doing their jobs. Most often, people think corporate training means attending classes or online courses to learn new technologies or new ways of using existing solutions. But a well-rounded corporate training program should consider all the time each employee spends at work instead of only the time specifically designated for training. The key to effective training is determining how to best support your employees so that they are continually learning, whether during their daily tasks, peer interactions or training classes they attend.

Finding Your Learning Ratio

Recent research shows that the ratios for companies that use the 70-20-10 model fall more along the lines of 55-25-20. Various factors alter these learning ratios, including employee role, company size and country [2]. The point isn’t to mathematically dissect each employee’s workday, but rather, to incorporate professional development daily in a holistic way that both fuels company success and drives employee engagement and satisfaction.

You can determine whether your current ratio is successful by surveying your employees regarding the following areas:

  • Are your employees excited about their jobs and committed to company success?
  • Are they collaborating and sharing knowledge?
  • Is your company able to quickly adopt new technologies?

If your employees are struggling in any of these areas, consider aligning your professional development strategy with the 70-20-10 model. The good news is that there are only two components you need to adopt this natural, flexible methodology, and you already have them — your workforce and their desire to learn.

70: The Relationship Between Challenges and Skills

It’s a safe bet that your IT team members look forward to challenging tasks. Most technology workers go into their fields with the understanding that their roles, responsibilities and competencies will change significantly over time. But many of them find themselves in repetitive assignments where their skills stagnate. Often, employees leave jobs due to boredom and monotony, and IT workers are no exception. The resulting skills gaps and turnover can cost companies millions of dollars in lost productivity [3].

IT workers are typically driven by curiosity, and many are self-starters when it comes to learning about new technologies. But their knowledge can only take them so far. On-the-job experience in challenging roles enables your workforce to continually build and hone the skills they need to accomplish tasks and meet company goals. As your management teams embrace the idea of giving their teams challenging assignments that use new and emerging technologies, up to 70 percent of each workers’ time can be spent growing the collective knowledge of the enterprise.

20: The Power of Collaboration

Over the last couple of decades, the IT industry has embraced multiple ideologies rooted in teamwork. From agile development to DevOps to formal mentorship programs, IT leaders have discovered new ways of helping teams work together to foster information-sharing and drive innovation. In a recent report, Training Industry indicated that during social interactions with peers, employees who work in high-performing teams gain highly beneficial knowledge that helps them with their jobs [4].

While most of an employee’s time is spent working on individual tasks, roughly 20 percent of their time should naturally include information-sharing through team interactions. Cross-functional teams have unique opportunities to introduce each other to new perspectives and concepts, which can lead to greater innovation. Additionally, working together allows subject matter experts to cross-train their coworkers, and internal mentorship programs can help employees grow into new roles while also learning from their peers.  

10: Formal Training is Foundational

The average employee works 260 days per year [5]. Although most of your employees’ learning happens while they work, there will always be a need for formal training. About 10 percent of each employee’s time at work per year should be set aside for the online or on-site classroom training they need to build the skills they can’t acquire from their normal day-to-day job duties. That’s 26 days per year, or just over two days per month.

The majority of your employees’ time is spent finding information on their own or through peers to accomplish tasks. Formal training is foundational for both on-the-job and peer-to-peer learning. It  helps employees validate their knowledge and provides opportunities for growth into new areas. After taking training classes, your employees can bring back what they have learned and share that knowledge with their peers.

Start Building Your Training Strategy

The best way to make sure all your employees are getting the formal training they need is to partner with a comprehensive IT training vendor who can provide a variety of expert training classes through flexible learning modalities. ExitCertified offers more than 9,500 vendor-approved courses to train your teams on existing and emerging technology solutions. Whether your staff attends courses in person, on site at your facility or online through the iMVP® learning platform, they will experience immersive, expert-led training. And when going the iMVP route, your employees can minimize time away from the office by taking instructor-led training from their home or desk.

The key to ongoing training success is employing a proven strategy. 

Contact us today about your goals and challenges, and together, we’ll foster a culture of self-driven learning, shared knowledge and innovation on a foundation of expert IT training.

[1] Training Industry, “The 70-20-20 Model for Learning and Development,”, https://trainingindustry.com/wiki/content-development/the-702010-model-for-learning-and-development/

[2] Training Industry, “Deconstructing 70-20-10,”, https://www2.trainingindustry.com/Deconstructing_70-20-10

[3] CareerBuilder, “The Skills Gap is Costing Companies Nearly $1 Million Annually, According to New CareerBuilder Survey,” http://press.careerbuilder.com/2017-04-13-The-Skills-Gap-is-Costing-Companies-Nearly-1-Million-Annually-According-to-New-CareerBuilder-Survey

[4] Training Industry, “Deconstructing 70-20-10: Full Report,” 2018, https://www2.trainingindustry.com/Deconstructing_70-20-10