70:20:10 training model is ‘most effective for learners’, research finds

The 70:20:10 model of learning is more than just a training fad, it can help predict better organisational success, according to research that suggests it is the most effective learning model.

A study by business transformation consultancy ‘Towards Maturity’ found that learners that keep to the ratio that 70 per cent of knowledge should come from on the job experiences, 20 per cent should come from observing others, and only 10 per cent should come from formal training programmes; will be much better equipped.


The research revealed that staff following this model were four times more likely to demonstrate a faster response to business change (30 per cent vs 7 per cent); were three times more motivated (27 per cent vs 8 per cent) and were twice as likely to report improvements in customer satisfaction scores.

Towards Maturity said that better learning outcomes are gained using this model because the ratio acts as a good rule of thumb that then enables a culture of continuous learning to flow. It found organisations who stick to this methodology will naturally be four times more likely to provide staff with access to job aids; four times more likely to encourage managers to support learning, and eleven times more likely to help staff find what they want through content curation.

Laura Overton, founder of Towards Maturity, said: “What is clear from our analysis of the 70:20:10 methodology is that organisations active in these areas are delivering better benefits than those who are not.”

The study also found those who do use the 70:20:10 model are two times more likely to analyse business problems more thoroughly; three times more likely to involve users in the design of their learning; and seven times more likely to use spaced out learning to aid retention of information.

It is important to remember, however that the 70:20:10 model is exactly that – a model, not a fixed rule or formula.  The ratio of experiential, informal and formal learning will be dependent on factors that are specific to the individual business and its operational focus.  For example in a highly regulated environment there would be a greater emphasis on the 10%, whereas in a highly creative environment that would move towards more of the 70% & 20%.

The underlying principles of the model are:

  • Learning is a continuous process, not a series of events
  • Most learning happens as part of day-to-day work and by interacting with other people in the workplace & its contacts
  • The business, its managers and every individual employee all hold responsibility for incorporating opportunities for learning into everyday work
  • Equally, they all hold responsibility for extracting and sharing learning from work


Success of the 70:20:10 model depends heavily on the actions of team leaders and managers.  People managers have greater impact on improving performance than anyone else.  Managers need to select the right people for the right training, work with the trainer(s) to ensure that the training is aligned with business expectations; and support their people once training has been completed, providing opportunities for the new learning to be applied.

Managers also determine whether people stay with the business – the old adage of ‘you join a company and leave a manager’ has been validated many times.  So not only are managers best placed to support employee development, they are best placed to help maintain that high performance.  A key part of your learning strategy should therefore focus on ensuring your team leaders and managers understand the benefits of developing their people and ensure that they have the tools to help them deliver on the people development aspect of their job.



Peter Crush  (CIPD)