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Breakthrough Performance and The Case for 70:20:10

Formal learning activities and programs play an important part in any learning strategy.  However, there is a need to look beyond structured learning if we are to address the increasing demand for breakthrough performance. Put simply, what we've done in the past won't get us where we need to be in the future.

The Corporate Leadership Council’s Learning and Development High Performance Survey (2012) reported that, although traditional classroom training effectiveness has increased in recent years, increases are diminishing and possible improvements are limited.

This research argues that new approaches are needed to support the required performance improvements to ensure success.

The Research

Executives, managers, and HR leaders report that they need breakthrough performance from employees to meet their business goals in the next 12 months.

The performance uplift required is truly challenging.

Table 1

The mean employee performance increase needed by region and industry is remarkably consistent. There is some variation with higher levels in Asia (29%) and lower levels in Europe (18%) and North America (19%).

Equally, some industries – such as Healthcare (25%) and Finance (24%) are facing greater demands than others – such as Government and Non-Profits (18%).

However, overall, the demands are both consistent and challenging.

Future Course and Speed Won’t Get Us There

Although more than three quarters of employees reported that classroom training was felt to be effective in 2012 (compared to 64% in 2009), the overall improvements have yielded only 8% improvement in performance.  Further improvements to structured training effectiveness are limited in impact to a maximum performance improvement of just 4% over the next 3 years.

​We need to look for different ways and approaches if the performance improvement gap is to be closed.

Survey Data

The data was gathered in surveys of more than 23,000 people who reported on the effectiveness of traditional classroom training. ‘Effectiveness’ was measured by the extent to which employees apply their training back on the job.

Relevance to 70:20:10

We need to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the ‘10’.  However this will not deliver the breakthrough employee performance improvements required.  We need to extend beyond the ‘10’ and exploit the ‘20’ and ‘70’ if we are to meet the requirements of our senior executives, our managers and our HR leaders.

Key Take-Aways

  • Increasing levels of work for both managers and employees has created greater pressures for performance improvement.
  • Drivers include increased workload, increased time spent in multitasking or ‘fast switching’, and increasing numbers of direct and indirect reports for managers.
  • Improving formal training is important, but the performance uplift delivered will not be enough to address performance gaps.


Corporate Executive Board. 2012. ‘Building High Performance Capability for the New Work Environment’. CLC Learning and Development High Performance Survey: CLC Training Effectiveness Dashboard.

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