70:20:10 – The Learning Paradigm for Today’s Workplace

In today’s workplace, most of the information that we need to perform our roles on a day-to-day basis is unstructured and continuously changing.

The information transferred through traditional training interventions, prevalent in most of our organizations, will often be out-of-date by the time we need to use it.

In fact, research indicates that we learn most of what we need to know to effectively do our jobs in the workplace rather than in the classroom. This is what we see reflected in the 70:20:10 model. The rationale behind this is that more or less 70 percent of our learning is through practice and on-the-job experiences; and around another 20 percent is from other people by exposure to feedback and networking; and only 10 percent or even less is through formal learning interventions.

The 70:20:10 model, and other similar models, provide us a framework for thinking outside of our current traditional mindset of learning, and widening our focus to cover the entire spectrum of approaches to learning; workplace, social and formal. In fact, it has become the core of organizational learning strategy in several well-known brands, like American Express, Bank of America, Coca Cola, Caterpillar, Goldman Sachs, HP, Maersk, Mars, Microsoft, Nokia, Reuters, Sun Microsystems, Wal-Mart and many others.

The rise of the Internet; Web 2.0 in particular, has significantly changed our approach to learning. It has boosted our ability to support innovative approaches for workforce development through social and workplace learning. We are now equipped with new ways to deliver and support learning in the workplace. We now have a powerful means to connect and engage with our learners beyond the constraints of time and distance, dissolving the content-coverage limitation of our traditional approaches.

The challenge is for us to re-evaluate the limitations of our traditional approaches to building workforce capability that focus on design, development and delivery of static information embedded in courses, and broaden our outlook with methods that work best in a dynamic work environment. To embrace a holistic approach to workplace learning requires a paradigm shift…

Paradigm #1: Learning is a continuous path rather than a typical event…

Our learning is not a series of events, but a symphony of processes. They are facilitated through experience, novel tasks, the opportunity to practice, and time to reflect. We need to emphasize more on learning by ‘doing’ rather than learning by ‘knowing’.

Paradigm #2: Finding it ‘just-in-time’ rather than storing it ‘just-in-case’…

Due to the dynamic nature and increasing volumes of information that we deal with day-to-day, we will need to move from creating stores of static information to facilitating streams of dynamic knowledge, we will need to move from investing in acquiring and holding volumes of information, to being able to easily access information resources with strategies, to finding required information, just when we need it. This way we can focus more on core concepts and strategies for more efficient decisions and effective actions to excel in our assignments.

Paradigm #3: Focus on the outcomes of learning rather than the process of learning…

We need to be aware that it is the outcome and impact of the learning process that creates drive. We should be evaluating the learning impact, sometimes even beyond traditional metrics to include important intangible assets like the performance and potential of an organization’s workforce. This will help us establish how effective the learning process is in generating the expected results.

Assuming the above paradigms is a good start for us to change the way we structure and support the learning and development of our employees. This will drive us towards creating holistic learning ecosystems that will bring together an effective blend of the elements of formal, social and informal learning. And our learning professionals will become designers and facilitators of such innovative learning ecosystems.


Vishvakanth Alexander holds an MBA in Human Resources Management and is now pursuing a Doctorate in Business Administration. He has spent over 12 years in varied learning and development roles and projects, with the last 8 years spent working in the UAE. As a Learning and Development Professional, he has worked in the Education, Retail and Telecommunication sectors holding positions of responsibility in administration, sales and customer service training, product and technical training, leadership and management development, learning management and technology-enabled learning initiatives and projects. He currently manages Collaborative Learning at Emirates Integrated Telecommunication Company - du, where he manages technology-enabled learning initiatives and blended learning projects.


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