The Unintentional Trainer’s Guide to the 70:20:10 Learning Model

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The 70:20:10 learning model basically provides a formula for trainers and L&D professionals to use as a guide when they are creating learning solutions.  By the time you’ve finished reading this post, you’ll have a basic working knowledge of the model and how you can use it in your work.


In general, it’s a fairly new one on the L&D scene (when you compare it to the other models that we’ve looked at like Bloom’s Taxonomy, Maslow’s Hierarchy, the Learning Cycle etc) being based on research undertaken during the 80’s and was first published as a model in the 90’s.

The credit for the model is being given to the Centre of Creative Leadership in North Carolina (a group of researchers developed it together, but most commonly you’ll hear Lombardo and Eichinger being referenced for the work because they published data from one study in a book).  However, it is generally accepted that the model has been made popular by Charles Jennings.

Model Overview

70:20:10 Learning Model  The basic premise of the model is this:

70% of someone’s development comes from experience on the job.  Being faced with problems, difficulties, things they don’t know how to do and tackling them there and then.

20% comes from informal learning – learning from colleagues, shadowing, coaching etc.

The final 10% comes from formal training and development.

Whilst no-one disagrees with the accuracy of the research, the Learning & Development industry has been (and largely still is) struggling to apply this model.  It is still the case that most practitioners will initially address an identified development need with a formal, structure training course of some type.

Part of the reason for this is that to apply the model you have to let go of the ability to “manage” someone’s development (whether or not you ever could manage another persons development is a discussion for another day!) and rely on facilitating and guiding someone, providing access to the right information at the right time, which is a much more challenging prospect.

How We Can Apply The Model

Essentially, its about thinking carefully about the composition of the training solutions that you offer and resisting the temptation to fall into the traditional model of meeting development needs.

If you feel you need to have a formal learning element (i.e. something classroom based), try and keep it to a minimum and consider how the content will be structured and delivered.  There are lots of ways to build social learning into more formalised learning processes too.


If you want to include some informal or social learning options, some of the things you might consider doing could be:

  •  Working with managers to help them understand their role in their teams development.
  • Minimise the amount of classroom or formal training content
  • Develop mentoring policies/processes/programmes as part of a development programme.
  • Encourage manager’s to think about alternative methods of developing their teams, which could include:
    • Taking on new tasks
    • Being involved in special projects
    • Increase area of control or responsibility
    • Covering the role of others during leave
    • On-job coaching
  • Create and facilitate action learning sets
  • Encouraging attendance at external professional events

These are just some of the things you can consider to develop the experiential and social elements of learning. I’m sure you can think of lots more!  I’d love to hear how you’ve applied this model in your workplace.  :)





Founder of Zostera Ltd and The Trainers CPD Club. I've worked in L&D for over 16 years across both the public and private sectors.

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