How do you train your managers? Do you send them on expensive courses? Do you provide them with mentoring from within your pool of experienced managers? Or do they learn on the job in a structured manner?

Current L&D thinking states that the correct answer is a mix of all three based on the oft-quoted 70:20:10 principle. Based on research into how people learn best, the model suggests that formal learning (such as courses) should form only 10% of the learning mix with other informal methods helping to cement the new skills and behaviours in the workplace. The model breaks down as follows:



The vast majority of learning is done via assignments, secondments, placements, problem solving etc. But this form of “On-the-job” learning needs to be structured. That means providing the learner with opportunities to try out new things and then giving feedback to help them improve.

The tasks should be drawn from the learner’s job description (i.e. set assessment criteria for all members of your team) or should linked to the business priorities. It should be about giving the employee the experiences to develop their own skills to support their work within the organisation’s framework.


To support the “on-the-job” learning, learners benefit greatly from other forms of support such as mentoring, informal peer support and collaboration. These allow the learner to ask for advice, bounce ideas off other people and share learning.

A learning organisation provides mechanisms to enable this. For instance, they will set up a formal peer support scheme with experienced managers giving up time to help new managers and they will set up chatrooms for peers to share ideas.


Formal training is often seen as the most expensive option especially if the training is “bought in”. There are many ways of delivering this training to match their wok and the subject but the key to formal training is to link it to your objectives. A lot of the hidden cost of training is in accurately establishing the areas to improve and ensuring that learning objectives are linked to the business priorities.

A survey of UK learning trends in 2015 found that 44% of organisations who responded had already implemented a 70:20:10 model with another 30% planning to introduce it in the near future. So this is clearly a model that people have bought into.

Obviously, this model places a much higher emphasis on informal learning and some organisations may feel that is a good thing as it reduces the amount that needs to be spent on training. However, what this means is that more time and effort needs to be invested in the other 90%.

The survey also showed that a significant number of organisations did not have structures in place to support the other 90% of learning. The 70-20-10 model is not about saving money, it is about demonstrating that learning has to be at the heart of everything that an organisation does if they are to get best value from their employees and best value from any expensive formal training they may buy in.

Yes, it is an investment of time and money, but the outcomes are you have an engaged, supported, effective team with the skills to be brilliant. That sounds like a good investment in my book.