Wednesday, 27 July 2011

The changing face of learning & development (70:20:10)

Learning and Development is changing. As an organisational function, it is having to become far closer to Operational delivery and to Internal Communications than to Human Resources.

As a concept, organisations are beginning to realise that Learning & Development is far wider than the formal training which has, up to now been the primary focus of investment.

Over the past 40 years, research has consistently indicated that:

  • 70% of learning & development activity takes place from real-life and on-the-job experiences, tasks and problem-solving.
  • 20% comes from feedback and from observing and working with role models.
  • 10% comes from formal training.

(See: Princeton University's Learning Philosophy)

As an example see the recent report from Best Practice on how managers learn (pdf).

The Learning & Development function within an organisation has a role to play in supporting each of these aspects, whilst, at the same time, understanding that control over the learning experience becomes devolved to the end-user for much of the time.


In a rapidly changing work environment, employees need a range of tactics to help them adapt to different situations.

These will often include:
  • Asking someone who might know “the answer”
  • Searching for (and finding!) information that will help them work out “the answer” – both from internal and external resources. (There is a strong relationship here with a knowledge management function)
  • Trial-and-error
  • Using a job-aid that has been prepared for this situation

Learning from other people

Employees will maintain a network of peers, who can provide answers to questions, feedback and modelling of best behaviours.

These may include their managers in a coaching relationship, but, more likely will be their direct peers, and, more often these days, will be people both inside and outside the organisation, with whom they have a virtual relationship.

Formal training

The goal of all formal training is to change behaviours to match the organisation’s stated values. Here there is a strong relationship with internal communication and external marketing – to ensure that the messages going out to clients and shareholders match the reality of how the organisation works.

Formal training may include:
  • Classroom workshops
  • Lectures
  • Online webinars
  • Direct communications from “the centre”
  • Designed learning experiences, such as simulations and tutorials
  • Assessed activities
L&D departments need to recognise these different ways of learning, develop ways to support them, and learn where to focus their investment to give the most return.

That's probably the subject of another post, but, if you can't wait, read Clive Shepherd's book: The New Learning Architect

This article was first published on my personal Learning Conversations Blog. 

Mark Berthelemy is a Solutions Architect at Capita Learning & Development, he also runs the popular learning blog - Learning Conversations.