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Explaining The 70:20:10 Numbers

The beauty of 70:20:10 is that most people recognise it as a pretty good fit for how they have developed in the workplace. The simplicity of the 70:20:10 numbers helps stakeholders and workers to quickly grasp the approach and potential benefits and to buy in to a more targeted workplace learning approach using 70:20:10.

The numbers are also useful for helping HR and learning professionals to refocus their strategy, planning and resourcing efforts onto workplace learning. As such, many organisations have found the 70:20:10 numbers helpful in driving organisational change and impact.

The 70:20:10 numbers however, can sometimes be a cause for debate, confusion or distraction.

It is important to remember that 70:20:10 is a reference guide not a recipe. The numbers and ratios are simply indicative that formal training is only a minor part of the overall ecology of organisational learning and performance improvement and that experiential and social learning in the workplace provide the majority of learning experiences.

However all parts are required to make up the whole. As such 70:20:10 should be viewed as a holistic framework for extending learning to improve performance in response to today’s challenges.

Some practitioners argue that other percentages apply; 60:30:10 for example, or to rename the framework. This argument misses the point. 70:20:10 like any development activity is about context.

The right balance of experiential, social and structured learning will be different for each situation.

So in any specific situation the ratios are almost guaranteed to vary from 70:20:10.  However, the 70, 20 and 10 numbers are a useful reminder that the best solutions will inevitably include elements drawn from each of the three categories. The numbers also remind us that to improve performance, solutions will need to recognise the ongoing role of experiential and social learning in the workplace.

To remove confusion and to assist workers in making sense of the framework, some organisations choose not to refer to the numbers or, if they do, they link the numbers to further information.

Alternatives to the use of the numbers used by a number of organisations include the 3E and 3P below:

Some organisations link the numbers to an analogy. For example a global bank uses the analogy of driving a motor car:

  • The 10 is represented by studying for and passing the initial driver’s theory test
  • The 20 is represented by the Learner’s Permit, where a trainee driver builds their skills through direct supervision and support from an experienced driver
  • The 70 is represented by the Probationary licence, the ability to drive and to continue to develop their skills through experience.

The Apprenticeship model is often used as an analogy for 70:20:10

Apprentice development is focused on the workplace, with a strong emphasis on developing skills under the supervision of second and third year apprentices as well as master tradespeople – the 70 and 20. Structured learning is undertaken at vocational colleges at various stages of the apprenticeship – the 10.

The objective of implementing 70:20:10 is to improve performance. A simple way to think about and communicate 70:20:10 is to focus on how the framework helps people improve performance, by providing:

70:20:10 is very much about change. Take some time to think about how you can best communicate the framework to your workforce. What will be the simplest and easiest way for workers to:

  • Understand the intent of the framework
  • Connect the framework with their own experiences
  • Buy in to the organisation’s strategy
  • Adopt 70:20:10 to help themselves and their teams improve performance
  • Integrate the approach as part of how they work?

Start a conversation

Talk to your team about your organisation’s current learning culture and to explore worker perceptions around training, development, performance improvement and performance support.

What are the benefits of a transition to a culture of workplace and continuous learning? How can workplace learning through a 70:20:10 approach respond to organisational challenges and priorities? How might 70:20:10 be pitched as an approach and what terminology would best resonate with the workforce?

Explore Further

A number of free and licenced access only resources can be accessed via the Forum’s Toolkit to explore performance consulting skills further. Consider the below as a starting point:


Licenced Users come back and share :

How are you socialising the framework across your organisation? Are you using the 70:20:10 numbers or adapting your message to assist workers in understanding and applying the framework to improve performance? What questions have you been asked and what concerns have been raised about the framework? How have you responded and what advice would you give others wanting to introduce the framework?

Why not share your reflections, questions and experiences with our community. 


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This is an excellent article that all new to 70:20:10 (especially Learning Professionals) should read.  What I am seeing more and more as the problem is not people getting caught up in the numbers but using the numbers as either an assessment of current practices and/or as a prescription for how to design programs. This unfortunately has been the learning professional mindset - to create, to own, to control, to deliver. The reality is 70:20:10 IS the reality for learning in organizations and Learning Professionals need to begin looking at how to enhance, support, encourage, and promote as their key responsibility.

I really liked the concept of Education, Exposure and Experience in defining the 702010 Principle.

Additionally we need to use words like "much" (for 70), "some" (for 20) and "little" (for 10)