In my last post I explored the subject of how the traditional business approach to employee learning and development is to isolate a particular area for development and then build a training event around this; most likely away from the workplace. My motivation for writing this was from an episode of this year’s The Apprentice in which the contestants gave an extreme example of how this traditional approach to employee training can go horribly wrong, albeit with actions that were recognisable.

My view on how we can counter the problems highlighted from this traditional approach to employee learning and development helped spark some good debate amongst L&D professionals, who were keen to understand what the future of workplace training may hold. I first of all want to make clear that the traditional approach to learning and development, (e.g. specific training days away from the workplace), are still relevant, but as part of a wider performance management intervention.

The 70:20:10 Framework

The 70:20:10 framework helps to give an alternative as to how training and development can be managed more efficiently by businesses. Simply put, the framework sees individual learning and development within the workplace occurring as follows:

  • 70% is through on-the-job experience
  • 20% is through working with others
  • 10% is through structured courses and programmes

The 70:20:10 framework is rooted in research carried out through the 1980s at the Centre for Creative Leadership (CCL). It is based upon professor Allen Tough’s work on adult learning, in which he identified that ‘about 70% of all learning projects are planned by the learner himself’.

It is worth noting though, that the 70:20:10 framework is not an absolute ratio, but it is a helpful framework for businesses to consider in designing training and development interventions in the workplace.


The “70” is on-the-job learning – everything that employees can learn from the activities they undertake as part of their role. Examples of this include:

  • Work shadowing a colleague
  • Reflecting on a work experience or project
  • Using manuals / guides to complete a task
  • Practising a coaching technique on a team member
  • Problem solving


The “20” refers to the learning  you can gain from working with others in the workplace. Examples of this includes:

  • Mentoring
  • Coaching
  • Working with colleagues from other departments / areas
  • Utilising internal and external networks
  • Collaborative learning through social technologies

Change Agent

What the 70:20:10 framework can do is provide a structure into which performance management strategies can be extended, to cover more than just attendance on courses or corporate away days. The key to making it work though, is ensuring that managers are effective in managing day-to-day performance and actively supporting employees in reflecting on their workplace experiences . As Charles Jennings points out here:

research carried out by the CEB showed that Managers who set clear objectives, explain their expectations, and clearly set out how they plan to measure performance have teams that outperform others by almost 20%.

What this points to is the importance that businesses must give in ensuring that training and development is anchored to the normal daily workflow, instead of separate from it in isolated learning interventions. But even if businesses want to pay more attention to the 70:20:10 framework, they also need to ensure that line managers are equipped in supporting this, but as can be seen from this article, this is an area of real concern.