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How the 70/20/10 Principle Can Drive Team Performance

Do You Need a Project Management Office (PMO)?

A well-trained staff is the engine that drives your business. When your workers learn and adapt quickly, your organisation can benefit from increased efficiency, greater employee satisfaction and better staff retention.

That’s why learning and development are so critical. But not all staff training is made equal. In this article, we outline why successful managers use the ‘70/20/10 Principle’ to optimise learning and make the most of employee education.

What is the 70/20/10 Principle?

Back in the 1980s, three researchers and authors from the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) worked to discover the essential developmental experiences of outstanding business managers.

Their findings led them to the 70/20/10 Principle, a model for maximising the effectiveness of learning and development programs. Forty years later, business leaders around the world employ the model at top organisations.

The researchers (Morgan McCall, Michael Lombardo and Robert Eichinger) identified the optimal ratio of different types of learning:

  • 70 per cent from job-related experiences
  • 20 per cent from developmental relationships
  • 10 per cent from formal coursework and training.

Let’s break down these categories in more detail.

70% – Job-Related Experiences

The Center for Creative Leadership research found that hands-on experiences are most beneficial for employees. While working, employees can refine their job-related skills and tackle challenges with experienced people like managers and mentors within work environments. Additionally, employees learn from their mistakes and receive immediate feedback.

20% – Developmental Relationships

Through a variety of activities, employees learn through interaction with peers and colleagues. These activities include social learning, mentoring, collaborative learning and coaching. Feedback is a primary benefit of this type of education, but don’t underestimate the power of encouragement from colleagues.

10% – Formal Coursework and Training

The 70/20/10 formula holds that just 10 per cent of professional development should derive from traditional formal instruction and other educational events. This surprises many people, especially those who come from academic backgrounds.

Using the 70/20/10 Principle to Enhance Productivity and Employee Satisfaction

When your employees learn effectively, they use their time more productively and have the tools to do their jobs well. Instead of feeling confused or overwhelmed, they develop a sense of satisfaction in their work.

Learning begets learning, and you may find that your employees develop a healthy curiosity about all aspects of your business. Interest tends to lead to innovation, both in your products and your processes.

Your organisation’s culture will change, as well. With so much focus on hands-on learning and relationships, teamwork improves. As employees master their areas of expertise, they grow into valuable mentors for other staff members.

Greater communication leads to increased transparency. All of these benefits accrue from a healthy learning environment backed by research.

Implementing the 70/20/10 Principle

It sounds terrific, but how can a business start to implement the 70/20/10 Principle?

One reason many businesses have embraced formal training (the 10 per cent) is that it’s easier than making sure informal training takes place. When you gather everyone in the conference room and present information, you can take attendance and check the task off your list.

The 70/20/10 Principle requires more effort on the part of leadership. Instead of seeing learning as a commodity, you must create an actionable development plan and then follow through. The following steps can help.

1. Align your training with your business goals.

View your training as the first step toward your eventual goals. If you take that first step in an off-path direction, how will you get where you want to go?

2. Consider the stakeholders.

Who will you need to get on-board with your new training system? Who will erect barriers?

3. Review your budget and ROI.

What resources and timescales will the new training require? How will specific departments benefit from the program once it’s piloted?

4. Plan how you’ll measure success.

How will you know if the 70/20/10 Principle works for your organisation? Surveys can help, and quantitative metrics like decreased errors and increased sales are critical.

Empower the 70 per cent

To empower workers to learn more on the job, provide them with tools and resources. Many companies have used mobile tools to encourage experiential learning and experimentation.

Enable the 20 per cent

Connect your employees by pairing less experienced workers with experts. You might also facilitate times when employees can discuss challenges and work together to create solutions.

Engage during the 10 per cent

Most companies find that they significantly reduce formal training when they adopt the 70/20/10 Principle, but that doesn’t mean it should be neglected. Make your training engaging and meaningful, even if it’s more concise.

Ultimately, the 70/20/10 Principle works best when it’s explicitly applied to the needs of your organisation. We can help you develop a plan that aligns with your goals and allows you to build your industry’s most competent workforce.

Get in touch with us at MetaPM and discover how we can help you get the most from your team.
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