How to really use the 70:20:10

Has the 70:20:10 model been completely misunderstood?

Do you know the real secret to how you can use it effectively?

These questions were posed to attendees at the APPNZ HR strategy workshop run in March. Shaun Sheldrake, Director of Growability has a strong background in learning and development. He thinks that the 70:20:10 model is the most misunderstood and misquoted piece of learning research around.

It was actually the cumulative amount of experience of how leaders got to where they were. The 70% was the stretch stuff that happened on the job. It was the heat moments that really taught leadership skills. It wasn’t business as usual/on the job learning.

There has been a mis-adoption and watering down of what it means. It was never a learning design tool but an evaluation tool.

It also doesn’t take into account the role that you have and the stage that you’re at. If you’re a surgeon then you would like somebody to have 70% formal qualifications and have been fully trained in how to remove your bodily parts rather than experimenting and trying 70% on the job.

Shaun discussed that during the GFC there was a real focus on doing more with less. So training and learning departments jumped on board the 70:20:10 research and said we have no budget for any training, however this new piece of research shows 70% should be on the job. So they could achieve training budget cuts by focusing on only 10% of training needing to be formal.

So what do we do about this?

If you are going to use the 70:20:10 model, Shaun talked about the secret of how we could actually use it. This revelation came to him when his son said to him one day after school “Dad, did you know zero times anything is zero??” He was amazed. Shaun replied “well yes I did know that”. But this conversation sparked a realisation to Shaun that you need the 10% upfront to set the new skill in place. You need the catalyst first, then the coaching then the on the job.

So if your company does use the 70:20:10 model, and Shaun said many of the companies that he works with through Growability do use the model, it’s the wrong way round.

We need to flip it and start with the 10% first. Once the 10% catalyst/new skill has been trained then the 20% follows with coaching and discussions and support. And the 70% will then be the on the job as you use that new skill.


This is a thought provoker article written by APPNZ following on from each of our professional development workshops. Thank you to Shaun for a great presentation. For more about the HR workshops APPNZ run click here. For more about our Payroll workshops click here and our Learning workshops click here.


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