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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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1 comment

I found the article to be very enlightening and useful. the increase in classroom training from 64% to 75% is very intriguing however is there any trend analysis to support this. In addition however i was not surpised to gather that the business impact was only 85 which is less than the 10% target for improvement.

the article was very usefull in terms of its balancing of percentages not only between different hirararchy positions but within the different occupations such as healthcare and finance. this data will prove very usefull for me when rolling out the 70-20-10 programme to our site managers and the importance of their role in team develoment by themselves  and not just through abdication of responsibility to a third party training course if they wish to witness growth in line with industry pre-requestites.

The responsibility of the Manager in team results is critical to all business. However if we look at  three areas of time utilsation by the managers (those being Task, Team and Personal), most managers become task orientated neglectinging the development of the individual who is key in delivering the Task outcome, with the manager prefering the personal development of the team to be handled in the classroom. . This approach however can only be instigated where you have a shift in mindset by managers in their role transfering from Manager to a Leadership  focus to inspire and lead rather than point and direct. To do this they must first adapt that change within to lead and be visionaries. Once this is done team performance effectiveness and that of the senior managers directly improves. To move forward personally within any company the development of your team and raising the bar will not only raise the status of the manager but provide a clear succession planning effect within the company. Attitude cannot be taught in the classroom so this is where the adoption and 70% with 20% support delivers performance management