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The Benefits of 70:20:10

  • Use this article as a resource to create a customised list of benefits for your organisation that can be achieved by the implementation of the 70:20:10 Framework.
  • Discuss each of the high-level benefits below with your teams and create a list of specific benefits in each that would add value to your organisation. You can then use the list of specific benefits whwn you are building your business case.

A high performance culture

Most organisations aspire to create a culture of high performance culture their workforce. Many spend considerable time and effort (and not a little budget) attempting to achieve ‘high performance’ status.

Equally, there are many consulting groups and experts that have their own approaches with which they help clients move towards their aspirations. These approaches usually include a mix of advice and techniques involving making values explicit, building trust, setting stretch targets, managing performance and so on.

The 70:20:10 approach to enabling high performing cultures focuses on areas that have been shown to significantly improve individual and team performance, employee engagement and build a culture of continuous learning.

Leader-led workplace development is one critical aspect. Research by the Corporate Leadership Council (CLC) has shown that managers who are both focused and effective at developing their teams have people who out-perform those without such managers by around 25%[1].

This study also showed development activities that are integrated into workflow have the largest impact on improving performance. At the same time, those development activities that are distinct events separate from the day-to-day job have less impact.

Extending beyond the ‘10’ and focusing on workplace and social learning inevitably increase the integration of learning and work and, as a result, are more likely to deliver high performance.

Equally, research into the use of social learning is consistently showing improved performance results.

The implication from this research is that managers who are effective at developing their teams realise an extra day’s work or more from everyone who reports to them without any additional cost to workers, the manager or the organisation.

Data from the same CLC research indicated that people reporting to these managers were 40% more likely to be satisfied and engaged with their work and the organisation and therefore likely to stay. These employees were also better equipped to respond to change than people whose manager was ineffective at developing their team.

Two of the most significant outcomes resulting from implementing the 70:20:10 thinking and practices are:

  1. The development of a culture of continuous learning, and;
  2. The acceptance that for many jobs and roles, work and learning need to be tightly coupled.

Improved speed to productivity

The inherent inertia of structured learning is sometimes a price worth paying in order to provide some learning experiences. Time spent designing, developing and running induction or on-boarding programs for new employees, for instance, is usually repaid through the development of common values and behaviours that align with organisational aspirations.

However, in many cases cost of the wait far outweighs the benefits. Speed to performance and productivity is increasingly critical. If a product release or a system update needs to wait for everyone to attend formal training or for the development and release of an eLearning module, then the approach needs reviewing.

A 70:20:10 strategy overcomes this inertia and improves speed to performance and productivity. By incorporating multiple approaches including workplace performance support, exploiting social networks, informal mentoring and coaching, and other just-in-time development, 70:20:10 opens up new alternatives and opportunities for greater responsiveness.

Organisational agility and resilience

In the same way that 70:20:10 helps increase the speed to performance, by adopting a 70:20:10 strategy that is focused on integrating learning and work to build capability in almost real-time, the approach also supports and enables greater organisational agility.

A key aspect of the 70:20:10 mindset is the development of autonomous ‘pull’ learners – workers who are pro-active in exploiting learning opportunities to help them address challenges they encounter in their daily tasks. This mindset results in the workforce, and therefore the organisation as a whole, being better able to respond to change faster and in a more resilient way. The CLC research on the impact of managers who proved themselves as effective people developers reported that their teams were better able to adapt and continue to be productive during times of change.

Increased employee engagement

Employees who are encouraged to learn and develop continuously as part of their work by managers who are focused and effective at developing their teams are almost 40% more likely to stay with the organisation than those who are not. Equally, they are more satisfied with their jobs.

70:20:10 provides a framework for a wider range of development opportunities. Extending focus on development beyond classroom walls leads to an increase in acuity for managers and individuals alike, on opportunities to exploit workplace learning experiences.

When bound into HR operating rhythms, especially by exploiting work objectives and development objectives in the annual review process a wider range of development experiences are also exposed.

All of these factors support increased employee engagement.

A strategic and responsive learning function

As learning professionals need to work more closely with their business stakeholders, development initiatives are more likely to become better aligned to organisational strategy and to specific business needs.

Where large-scale development programs and courses are required, they are woven into work activities more tightly, enabling less time away from work for employees and less time needed by learning professionals for facilitating away-from-work activities and classes.

By focusing on a wider range of learning solutions, learning professionals are better able to tailor their responses where learning interventions are deemed necessary. Sometimes solutions may involve structured learning. At other times solutions will be woven into the workflow or supported through social or learning technologies.

Increased impact and efficiency of learning

At its simplest, the impact and value of learning to an organisation is best measured by the tangible and intangible outputs against the resource costs. Simple ROI calculations may shed some light, but ROE (return on expectation) and higher-level assessments take more factors into account and are more useful.

There is no doubt that a 70:20:10 strategic approach, offering a wide range of options across the ‘70’, the ‘20’ and the ‘10’ segments, is far more likely to offer appropriate solutions than a strategy focused principally on the ‘10’.

At the same time, costs and efficiencies associated with learning and development are extremely important to most organisations.

With 70:20:10 the cost of workplace development exists in different forms than with a strategy primarily focused on formal learning. It will increase the time leaders need to spend on developing their teams. It will require HR and learning professionals to spend more time supporting leaders and helping build people-development capability, and will make other demands on time and resource as well. However, in the longer term these will inevitably prove to be less costly in time and financial resources than a ‘pure 10’ focus on workforce development.

Although cost reduction is not the prime driver for many of the organisations that have implemented the 70:20:10 framework, it is likely that this will occur in the longer term. Organisations adopting the 70:20:10 framework should expect to see spend on both formal training and overall learning and development budgets reduce as a reliance on away-from-work development decreases.

Evidence of this lies in the fact that organisations have reported up to 75% reduction in training spend through introduction of the 70:20:10 framework.

How long will it take to get benefits?

There is no simple answer here. This will differ for every organisation. You may find implementing some leader-led development initiatives quite quick and straightforward. Often simple changes in HR operating processes such as focusing development discussions around work activities rather than training courses can have an almost instantaneous effect. Others may take some time. Similarly, relatively small adjustments to working practices will realise quick results. Simple changes such as ensuring HR professionals treat requests from managers and leaders as teaching opportunities and use them as opportunities to build leader-led development bench strength will produce quite speedy results.

There is no doubt that formal learning activities in most organisations contain a considerable amount of content that can be better provided online or in more efficient ways. Classes are good for building rapport and addressing change requirements (the ‘why?’ and ‘how?’ parts of learning), but they are very inefficient for communicating information and building knowledge (the ‘what?’ part of learning). By simply moving some of the ‘what?’ learning from formal to self-directed modes, you will immediately achieve benefits of speed to capability and scale.

However, other benefits may take longer to manifest. The process of creating a culture of continuous learning is an on-going one and involves many moving parts.


1 Learning & Development Roundtable. Corporate Executive Board (2003). ‘Engaging Managers as Agents of Employee Development’: Maximizing the Impact of Manager-Led Development’.

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1 comment

I read with interest that one of the benefits that can be realised by implementation of 70:20:10 is increased organisational agility and resilience.  With the rate and dimension of change that organisations are undergoing it’s important that effective mechanisms are in place to help staff adapt to and implement new information and processes.  But more, I like the concept that staff develop metalearning skills such as self-directed learning and learning from others, which can be utilised to negotiate the ongoing waves of change more confidently.   For Line Managers,  it seems the rate of change demands more than ever before that  they have strong people-development capability.  As we embark on the 70:20:10 Certification Pathway we are mindful of the need to increase staff and hence organisational agility and resilience, for improved speed to productivity.   

The above cited elements of a high performance culture don't stand alone, but are highly interdependent. Diagram anyone?