What Learners Really Want (Todd Tauber) The Forum applies the 70:20:10 Lens


There are many articles today expounding on research to support their claims. Some are scientifically reliable, some not so much.  It is up to us, the consumer of this content, to be discriminating of course and not take the display of this information at face value.

Even the idea that 70% of learning is informal, 20% social and 10% formal is mostly conjecture. The research behind it is not hard and fast science but those touting it have never claimed it to be definitive or to be exact. 70:20:10 is based on people's behaviors and people's behaviors are inconsistent from situation to situation, organisation to organiation and experience to experience.

The numbers are not exact but each small study, of which there have been numerous, indicate a similar pattern and the ratios are pretty close with the difference being that the need for informal and formal fluctuating, based mostly on level of expertise in a specific area and social and formal driven by opportunity.

Recently a CLO Magazine article authored by Degreed spoke of a survey that they conducted revealing results that align to the supposition of 70:20:10. The following are some of the findings they revealed in their article, by Todd Tauber, What Learners Really Want:

"About 42 percent look for a live or online course, but they do it on their own. Fewer than 12 percent turn to their learning organisation first."

"[Employees] invest more than 14 hours a month, on average, learning on their own but just two to three hours on employer-provided learning."

"...almost 70 percent of workers say the first thing they do when they need to learn something for their jobs is Google it, then read or watch what they find."

"By a 3.5 to 1 margin, people believe self-directed learning is more effective in helping them succeed at work than taking part in company sponsored learning."

"...only 23 percent of the people Degreed has surveyed say they’ve completed a course of any kind — at college, online or professionally — in the last two years." 

"More than 70 percent of the people surveyed say they’ve learned something for their job from an article, a video or a book in the last 24 hours."

 "...workers believe as much as 60 percent of the knowledge and skills they use on the job comes from informal learning."

The theme beyond affirming a 70:20:10 learning ratio is that people (workers) have awakened to other opportunities to learn or have at least been able to articulate what they couldn't before about learning beyond formal means. Much of the reason for this is due to two factors; the availability of information, and the ease of accessing this information. Today many, if not most, people are connected 24/7 and they either have a desktop computer or a mobile device, if not both.

These tools are means to connect to the internet, which we know contains an ever increasing amount of information. We also know that the internet and computers have changed work. The speed of change has never been faster in human history, and is transforming business and models at an ever increasing pace. Workers today have a need, not a want, to keep up.  

'What Workers Really Need' would have been a more appropriate title for this CLO piece. The article and its survey results were ultimately about workplace learning activities. We are not talking of learners then, but problem solvers, solutionists, and producers. 'Learner' is a passive label, conjuring an image of classrooms and single focused attention.

These are workers, active individuals in the flow of getting things done.  Workers don't want their learning to be less formal but they do need to get their work done as quickly, efficiently and accurately as possible. They seek information, resources and inspiration now, conveniently, and in the flow of their work. They aren't learners wanting, they are workers needing. 

People are the energy source of organisations today and, like lightning that naturally seeks the highest point to strike, workers unconsciously seek the easiest means to get what they need. The real message of this article is that organisational learning cannot be about a department focused solely on producing content in unique, digestible forms. This effort can in many instances slow the pace of workflow learning needed today.

Learning professionals are better served in a capacity to reduce barriers to the natural pathways of information and, ultimately, knowledge. 70:20:10 then is less about science than it is about nature and as this article and its survey results would indicate, technology (science) has re-enlightened individuals to the natural ways we learn; informally, autonomously, and in and through our experiences.

Organisational learning's charge today then, if it remains a department or moves into the workflow, is to help workers tap these information sources through better tools, and strategies that make their efforts frictionless. It is also to increase connections between people by creating space, be it physical or virtual, for diversity and expertise to gather for conversations that surface new forms of knowledge.

READ: What Learners Really Want: