Blog Post

Reverse the 70/20/10 Learning Model for More Effective Implementation

Published: Wednesday, November 13, 2019

At a recent training session I attended, the instructor explained the 70/20/10 learning model, emphasizing that since 70% of learning comes from experiences employees have at work, the other 30% is basically not essential. I silently cringed in my seat. All too often, instructors misstate or misinterpret the 70/20/10 learning model, causing their audiences to either love or hate it. In my experience, reversing this model (10/20/70) is an effective tool to help users see its benefits more clearly, in turn, apply the model more effectively.

The 70/20/10 learning model was developed by Morgan McCall, Robert Eichinger, and Michael Lombardo in the mid-1990s. They surveyed almost 200 executives and the results revealed that effective professional development comes from 3 types of experiences:

  • 70% from experiential learning, like on-the job experiences and challenging assignments;
  • 20% from other people like coaches, mentors, etc.;
  • 10% from formal learning like classroom courses and training programs.

The model continues to be widely employed by organizations throughout the world; however, research is still showing that many companies only focus on the 10% that comes from formal learning, which doesn't drive real behavior change.
In contrast, my proposed "10/20/70" would emphasize all the components of this learning model. The first 10%, formal learning, should be a foundation, rather than the "be all, end all,"for an employee's development. Instructors would start there and work their way through the model, reinforcing the lesson through discussion and coaching, and finally, helping employees practice and develop the skill through experiential learning to ensure effective and long lasting results.

Let's take a deeper look at that how this would be implemented. After the employee attends a training class, instructors would ensure the next 20%, follow-up support, is available. Instructors can be creative with this to complement their classroom training, from coaching sessions to a "buddy" system, where the employee shares their lessons with a co-worker. This 20% equips employees with tools and ideas on how to implement the knowledge they've gained.

One successful way I've implemented this 20% is through an employee's direct manager. After a learning session, my team sends an email to the attendees' direct managers, encouraging them to meet over tea/coffee to discuss what their direct report learned and how they can apply their new-found knowledge. We even supply the direct managers with suggested questions to ask to ensure that the conversation is framed as a development conversation rather than an interrogation.


The final step of this reverse model, the 70%, is following up with experiential learning. Enabling employees to apply their new skills soon after a training increases the chances of making a lasting behavioral change. In my prior experience training call center reps, my team followed this reverse 10/20/70 rule. The reps received classroom training, then coaching from either a subject matter expert or an experienced peer. Soon after, they received live calls (on the job experience) under the careful watch of their assigned mentor, ultimately transitioning to performing these calls independently. The more we refined the curriculum to follow this process, the more skilled our call center reps became.

When applying 70/20/10, considering the reverse model can help educators understand the value in each of these percentages: formal learning as a foundation, coaching and follow up to reinforce new skills, and experiential learning to making lasting changes in behavior.  Each of these steps is a building block to ensuring the success of your employees' development.


Autumn Carter is a Learning and Development strategist based in Philadelphia, PA. For over 12 years, Autumn has helped businesses achieve corporate goals by maximizing team productivity and operating efficiency through continuous learning and development. Follow her on LinkedIn. 

About the Author

Autumn Carter is a Learning and Development strategist in Philadelphia, PA with over 13 years of expereience in the Learning and Development field. Throughout her career, Autumn's passion for helping others has always set her apart.  Her volunteer efforts includes, a leadership position on the African Heritage employee resource groups, a member of her company's Toastmaster group, and an active participant in various community efforts from mentoring teens to clothing and food drives. 

Sign In to Post a Comment
This gives a very good perspective on how to utilize the 70-20-10 concept with what most companies are doing; using an LMS/formalized learning.
Start with the 10% and create a path and opportunity for the support and practical. Nicely put.
Thank you PJ.
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.
Great article Autumn! We have historically used the 70/20/10, but as we look to reimagine career growth and instilling learning, we are talking about reversing the model for all of the reasons you've mentioned above!
Thank you Angie for the feedback! Great minds think alike!
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.
Kudos to you, Autumn, for sharing this! I couldn't agree more and stress with my clients the importance of really solid foundational training, with a mentor/supervisor/colleague to help reinforce it at work... where it eventually takes flight and becomes part of the day-to-day norm. I love your idea of equipping direct supervisors with discussion questions.
Thank you, Nancy! Quite a few managers/supervisors love the idea of the questions as well. It takes the pressure off of them on what to say or how to start the conversation.
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.