Magoosh GRE

Models for Learning and Development

| April 3, 2017



This essay critically appraises the validity of the 70, 20, 10 formula used for giving due recognition to different types of management learning. Using a wide variety of resources, the discussion assesses the current method, future potential and possible shortcomings. The research shows that the process of aiding employees to develop, any form of additional education on the job adds to the natural way people develop, aiding both the person and the company.  Yet, in many cases the method is found to be outdated in the face of developing technology. This study will be of interest to those researching developing trends in relation to long standing practices

1 Introduction

This essay critically appraises the validity of the 70: 20: 10 formula used for giving due recognition to different types of management learning.  Burgess (2017) describes the 70:20:10 Model for Learning and Development as a learning model that seeks to improve overall performance through targeted efforts. Jennings et al., (2010) illustrates the formula in the following manner:

  • Seventy per cent assignments
  • Twenty per cent from relationships
  • Ten per cent from training

Watkins et al., (1992) argues that learning begins with motivation, leading to action.. Whilst this seems to be a simple form of beginning, this start could come in various forms that leave many things in question. For example, a mistake which is a very common beginning point, builds experience, leading to a learning experience.  Yet, Pollock et al., (2015) describes the system as outdated .  With many others critical of this approach including Blackman et al., (2016), the following discussion illustrates the pros and cons of the method.

2 The 70: 20:10 Models

Rentroia-Bonito et al., (2015) argue that the 70:20:10 model helps people to extend their focus beyond the norm in order to build more resilient workforces thereby serving to create cultures that feature continuous learning. Critical of this Blackman et al., (2016) says that  the 70:20:10 isn’t a simple rule as it only outlines the process of learning as it naturally occurs, only then offering a process to support that learning process.  Furthermore, as part of the daily workflow the method helps in the effort to improve working as well as the art of and sharing with colleagues, empowering the entire company or effort to move forward. This seems to generate considerable questions regarding the meaning of the numbers and how this has been defined throughout its term of operation.

The 70:20:10 models, although considered a change agent by most, is described by Watkins et al., (1992) as a consistently useful reminder that learning can also be found in the workplace and not just in the a educational format. Yet, Pollock et al., (2015) are critical of assigning any single meaning to the model, showing that learning is continually dependent on the person, the environment and the motivation. This seems to indicate that learning is a very personal based experience that can be successful for nearly anyone once the correct combination of method and motivation is found. Furthermore, this is a real indication that the influx of numbers cannot be considered a mantra, more of a guideline leading to a potential change. Blackman et al., (2016) supports the contention that many of the past years have continued to illustrate the condition that workplace learning is on the increase with more and more people are using the possibility of learning in organisations. Yet, Jennings et al., (2010) continue to be critical of such an assumption, arguing that alongside each new learning development is an advance in the science of education, which in turn is associated with increasing the ability for organisations to effectively reach their target employees. This seems to be a strong argument for the condition of consistent learning in every situation aiding the person in the entirely. Furthermore, this framework aids the understanding of learning within organisations that is widely considered a step towards more effective know-how learning (Rentroia-Bonito et al., 2015).  Yet, every writer continues to agree that the elements of the method of completely interdependent, with each one impacting the other. This is best scene in examples that illustrate that mentoring and courses seem to be better when they support on-the-job development, leading to a consistent motivation.

Blackman et al., (2016) describe the 70:20:10 formulas as an argument that is made when an organisation tries to innovate and prosper based on the abilities held by the employees. Yet, choosing to add to that description, Jennings et al., (2010) illustrates the method as a model designed to support individual, as well as any form of organisational learning. This seems to be indicative of a desire by this process to integrate each of the three types of learning: experiential, social and formal. Critical of accepting the method on initial value Marsick et al., (2006) argues that organisations assume more responsibility for any organisation’s learning, as a means of improving the entire company whether that education come from formal or informal conditions. Pollock et al., (2015) chooses to believe that the process is of value as a general guideline only, leading to many areas of for improving the effectiveness of learning. Yet, Rentroia-Bonito et al., (2015) is critical of this assessment, being quick to point out that the model is used heavily by organisations around the world.

2.1 Meaning of the Numbers

Each of the percentages associated with the 70:20:10 methods are associated with specific elements of the learning process (Jennings et al., 2010). This is an indication that there are areas that deserve more attention to and broader funding, leading to the development of priorities. Watkins et al., (1992) argues that the 70 per cent becomes the most beneficial for employees due to the possibility of for these persons to discover and further develop their skills, which in turn leads to better decision making and better performance in the face of ongoing day to day challenges. Although Blackman et al., (2016) argues that the key element of this portion of the program is the fact that the individuals receive immediate feedback on their performance and are able to quickly use this information on the job.  According to this method, persons learn 20 per cent from areas of social learning, collaborative learning and of interaction with co-workers.

Pollock et al., (2015:124) uses the following illustration to demonstrate the range of interpretations:

A multinational company

  • 70%  comes from constant on-the job
  • Encouragement and stimulation such as delegation and job rotation.
  • 20%   from daily contact with colleagues and management.

A professional services firm

  • 70%  on the job such as stretch, projects, problems solving, client interaction, and rotation assignments.
  • 20%  undertaken through others such as social networking, performance conversations; work shadowing, communities of practice and social activities.
  • 10% formal or prescribed.
  • 10%  from formal methods such as e-learning, the classroom, external courses.

A distribution organisation

  • 70%  from work experiences such as stretch assignments, projects and overseas exposure.
  • 20%  others such as mentoring and learning from seniors and peers.
  • 10%  formal and informal channels.

An Australian government body

  • 70%  is experiential.
  • 20%  is relationship based.
  • 10%  is formal.

A not-for-profit organisation

  • 70% on the job.
  • 20% coaching and mentoring.
  • 10% formal courses.

A large multinational organisation

  • 70%  from on-the-job training, projects.
  • 20% from exposure to teachers and other educators.
  • 10%  from learning material including online resources, books and external resources.

The Pollock et al., (2015) approach outlined here only seems content that ten per cent of any class of trainees working to be a professional will complete the course and development optimally.  This condition will result from the combination of the formal instruction alongside the contribution of outside offerings.

2.2 Is the 70:20:10 still relevant?

Jennings et al., (2010) argues that the internet, alongside developing communications technology has altered the training industry’s views of the 70:20:10 models, making some elements more meaningful, whilst reducing others.  Perhaps the fastest and loudest growing criticism of the model is the fact that the old model does not reflect the current market’s fast-growing emphasis any type of learning. This seems to indicate that as technology continues to develop, so too do the opportunities for people to learn anywhere, seemingly lending support for the argument that the model needs to be updated for the modern world.  Another observation that is commonly touted to the negative in relation to this model is the fact that the ratios do not reflect the many opportunities emerging, instead seemingly limiting the effectiveness of the tool (Pollock et al., 2015).  Yet, Watkins et al., (1992) argues that no matter what may come in the markets the model will continue to be as a valuable guideline.

Blackman et al., (2015) argues that the relevance of the method remains in the ability for the model to assist the transition from the formal learning to on the job application. This is best achieved using specific methods such as step by step instructions or allowing a person to instruct themselves leading to potential opportunities during training.  However, Watkins et al., (1992) insists that any attempt to use the model in today’s markets rests on the ability for the course content to remain short in order to tackle a wider variety of concepts. Furthermore, this seems to indicate that any attempt at using the model will increasingly use methods such as micro learning, leading to innovation and development. Yet, Blackman et al., (2015) shows that if a model is not carried out correctly, the learnings will begin to occupy more time than the 10%, leading to a skewed attempt. This element seems to support the contention that the model is highly dependent on management style and ease of any programs use.  Jennings et al., (2010) asserts that job aids aid to provide possible learners with much of the supplementary materials that is needed in to succeed, leading to better skills for the person in the long run. Yet, Blackman et al., (2015) again asserts that the most valuable element of the program is the introduction of the peer learning component that allow employees to find methods of success outside of the norm, again, leading to innovation and possible development in the work place. The relevance of the model has further increased with Jennings et al., (2010) that the addition of mobile content adds a tremendous extension of any learning efforts. This seems to indicate that there is a real potential in this model to extend formal learnings and help in the persons personal efforts to establish a proper educational path. Yet, in every case Blackman et al., (2015) asserts that the most important element, and remaining relevance of this model is the self-assessment that helps each person to learn and apply their knowledge.

2.3 Potential

Pascale (2017) asserts that learning programs provide potential as they are addressing employees as well as providing experience and the benefit of increased confidence. This seems to indicate that Pascale (2017) sees the method as learning that can be attributed to any single person’s capacities which in turn assist the person’s entire workforce. Yet, Jennings et al., (2010) cautions against this form of over optimism, stating that these skills are the employees, and the person may choose to use these emerging skills elsewhere or in a different manner than the company may have anticipated. Jennings et al., (2010:20) says that the system has the potential to “forces us into a mind-set of extending learning solutions beyond classes and courses and out into the workflow. It creates great opportunities to leverage work for learning and to bring learning closer to work. As the workflow is where the majority of learning happens, re-focusing there is not only a sensible approach, but it’s an effective one as well.” This seems plausible with a real opportunity for persons to learn through practice and establishing as well as learning through the day to day employee conversations. Yet, Watkins (1992) assert that the best possible element of the program rests in the element of reflective practice that both enhances the organisational learning as well as adding to any form of personal educational experience. This seems to indicate that there is support for a system that helps a person becomes the best form of themselves that they can be, which in turn seems to require a little more flexibility than a rigid model. Burgess (2017) describes this art of reflection as a link across any activities that assist to assess a person’s success or failure, which in turn adds to the likelihood of success in a new challenge.  Furthermore, extending this principle shows that reflecting on improvement, alongside practice and is a natural and practical way for a person to improve their potential for growth. With intuitive elements already a large part of every person’s life in the form of  teachers, coaches and mentors with endless sessions of  practice in any number of educational efforts, the method provides a framework that adds to the potential for anyone to succeed (Watkins et al., 1992).  However, this is not the same attitude evinced by the later studies such as Burgess (2017) citing the need for more flexibility in order to provide the proper potential for growth and innovation.

2.4 Challenges

Jennings et al., (2017) argue that the biggest challenge of using the 70:20:10 frameworks is how to do it correctly in any environment. Yet, Pascale (2017) cites the largest challenge as matching the various levels of understanding among the persons being educated. Whilst Pollock et al., (2015) argues that the largest challenge going forward is going to be the nature of the process and the inability of method to effectively integrate technology. Although, this contention is debated among many professionals with Jennings et al., (2017) making arguments clearly in favour of using innovative technology to aid in both reaching employees and the manner in which they would understand their material. This all seems to sustain the contention that although there seems to be a solid structure to the system overall, the lack of a solid step by step system that can be applied in nearly any circumstance is a drawback.  Furthermore, it would seem as if the area of technology remains a key weakness that needs to be developed.

Pascale (2017) cites the fact that leaders are actively seeking out new ways to train employees, that there is a need for more innovation and development. With nearly seventy per cent of hands on training, considered to take too long, the mistakes made by employees only serve to reduce effectiveness and potential revenue. Furthermore, Watkins et al., (1992) notes this same condition,  with the companies that using temporary workers hit hardest. This seems to support the arguments that technology has brought on training that provides a focused way for people to speed up learning whilst keeping overall cost low.

3 Conclusion

This essay critically appraised the validity of the 70: 20: 10 formula used for giving due recognition to different types of management learning, with the understanding that the learning model seeks to improve overall performance through targeted efforts. With considerable debate on the subject, the central area of challenges to the system was the assertion that it was becoming outdated and that the seventy per cent assignments, twenty per cent from relationships and ten per cent from training were not effective in the modern market, making the entire method questionable. Yet, support for the method centred largely on the ability for the educational material to provide a source of growth and reflection for the employee that would in turn aid them in learning in a natural manner that would easily integrate into their professional lives.  This seems to support the Watkins et al., (1992) argument that learning begins with motivation, leading to action.  This motivation is built upon the desire to better them through education, and the method does seem to provide a valid and practical process for attaining that goal.  However, the critics of this process are a quick to point out that any mistake will build a faulty knowledge base that should be better controlled to ensure quality.  However, with time being a key element of any business community, it does not seem practical for employees to expect to receive any long term education that many received in the past in formal educational settings.

The material in this study seems to support the contention that when seeking to determine how long someone needs to train, it remains vital to look at the method and manner of training. There are many choices for each unique person, making some critics of the system point out that the need for flexibility is a real and lasting component of any system.. This works to build confidence in the assessment that a person’s learning program will help to build better overall working practices that will in turn benefit the company or organisation that the persons is associated with. Furthermore, the material clearly shows that there is more to learn than how to make the connection in the classroom, that there must be deeper elements that serve to encourage and develop the innovative nature of the person, whilst not relying on a single model for universal education. The research shows that the process of aiding employees to develop, any form of additional education on the job adds to the natural way people develop, aiding both the person and the company.  Yet, in many cases the method is found to be outdated in the face of developing technology. This study will be of interest to those researching developing trends in relation to long standing practices.

This study shows that formal training and development serve only a portion of a person, or employees learning and educational development, with valuable sources of education and knowledge coming from practice, reflection and the proximity and mentorship of experienced professionals in the field. The research illustrates that by aiding people, employees and leaders to work and develop educational process whilst on the job, the ability to naturally integrate this knowledge into their professional lives grows.  This growth not only seems to aid the person on many levels, but aids the efforts of the companies associated with the person, supporting the contention that the 70:20:10  model is not only relevant but needed in the modern community.  This continues to show that people develop on the job and in order to companies to remain or become successful education must be a cornerstone of that process.


Blackman, D. and Johnson, S. (2016). The 70:20:10 model for learning and development: an effective model for capability development?. International Journal of Engineering and Technology, 2(1), pp.112-116.

Burgess, J. (2017). Is a Blended Learning Approach Suitable for Mature, Part-Time Finance Students?.. [online] Available at: [Accessed 24 Mar. 2017].

Cotton, J. and Rechtschaffen, A. (1958). Replication report: Two- and three-choice verbal-conditioning phenomena. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 56(1), pp.96-96.

Gardner, R. (1957). Probability-Learning with Two and Three Choices. The American Journal of Psychology, 70(2), p.174.

Jennings, C. and Wargnier, J. (2010). Experiential learning – a way to develop agile minds in the knowledge economy?. Development and Learning in Organizations: An International Journal, 24(3), pp.14-16.

Jennings, C., Jennings, C. and profile, V. (2017). 70:20:10 Primer. [online] Available at: [Accessed 24 Mar. 2017].

KMI Learning. (2017). 70-20-10 Training – A New Approach | KMI Learning. [online] Available at: [Accessed 24 Mar. 2017].

Pascale, C. (2017). 70:20:10 Guide: Provide Structure to the 70%. [online] Docebo. Available at: [Accessed 24 Mar. 2017].

Pollock, R., Jefferson, A., Wick, C. and Wick, C. (2015). The six disciplines of breakthrough learning. 1st ed.

Rentroia-Bonito, M., Gonçalves, D. and Jorge, J. (2015). Clustering Students Based on Motivation to Learn:. International Journal of Mobile and Blended Learning, 7(3), pp.18-39. (2017). 70:20:10: Where Is the Evidence?. [online] Available at: [Accessed 17 Mar. 2017]. (2017). 70:20:10: Where Is the Evidence?. [online] Available at: [Accessed 24 Mar. 2017].

Training Magazine. (2017). Fear Not the 70-20-10. [online] Available at: [Accessed 24 Mar. 2017]. (2017). The 70:20:10 Model for Learning and Development | Training Industry. [online] Available at: [Accessed 24 Mar. 2017].

Watkins, K. and Marsick, V. (1992). Towards a theory of informal and incidental learning in organizations∗. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 11(4), pp.287-300.

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