Learning On-the-Job: The 70:20:10 Learning Model

Learning On The Job

The 70:20:10 Learning Model was developed by Morgan McCall, Robert Eichinger and Michael Lombardo while at the Center for Creative Leadership in the 1980s.  The model highlights the dominant role of learning on-the-job relative to other forms of learning.

Fundamentally, the 70:20:10 Model asserts that learning for managers and staff is achieved through three broad forms of learning in the following proportions:

70% — informal, on the job, experience based, stretch projects and practice

20% — feedback, role models, relationships, networks (through others)

10% — formal learning interventions and structured courses.

So effectively, the informal approaches to learning account for 90% of the sources for learning and development for managers and staff.  A key element in this learning in many organisations is coaching and mentoring which are elements of learning through others.

Learning on-the-job

The 70:20:10 Model emphasises the central role (the 70%) that informal learning plays while undertaking everyday activities (such as meetings) and pursuing opportunities that arise through change and necessity (such as projects).  This emphasis reinforces the powerful role of action learning in developing individuals, teams and organisations.

While formal training and education has an important role to play in building knowledge and skills and amplifying learning on-the-job, the opportunities for sustained learning are provided by the workplace itself, which acts as a “learning laboratory”.  The power of learning on-the-job derives from the fact that it is embedded in the organisational context where action and results are required in real time.

The real danger is that organisations will overlook learning and development in times of fiscal constraint because it has become equated with formal learning and education.  Neglect of learning and development can lead to a real loss of staff morale and loss of key staff through voluntary turnover.

However, the opportunities for real learning in the workplace are numerous and can be facilitated by managers and external consultants who focus on issues arising in the workplace (as happens in an unstructured, action learning approach).

Managers have a central role in on-the-job learning both in modelling learning in the workplace and in facilitating and promoting learning on-the-job.  If managers themselves are not learning, they can stifle the development of staff.

The learning and development policy in organisations should value and promote on-the-job learning and create an environment where learning is seen as a legitimate (and supported) pursuit within the workplace.

For further information on how to maximise learning on-the-job and effectively use the 70:20:10 Learning Model, contact me or one of our training and development consultants to discuss your needs and learning opportunities.


About Angela Bryan

Working with Merit Solutions since 1998, Angela has been engaged as a consultant supporting public sector recruitment and selection as well as delivering training for selection panels and job applicants. Other consulting assignments over the past fifteen years have involved the facilitation or documentation of consultation workshops and executive decision making, mediation of organisational conflict and research into HR practices and policies.

Working with Merit Solutions since 1998, Dr Angela Bryan has a PhD focussed on organisational psychology and workplace communication, excellent facilitation skills and a deep understanding of effective people practices. Whether it is research into HR practices, practical assistance with shortlisting and selection processes or senior executive recruitment, Angela brings this depth of experience and insight to each consulting assignment. She has designed and facilitated workshops on effective recruitment and selection, the use of capability frameworks, difficult performance conversations, workplace communication and skills for job applicants.


  1. The reality is that there are so many opportunities in the workplace for learning and development. If you develop a learning mindset, then you will see learning opportunities in everything you do in the workplace – a learning orientation will become part of the team culture. Engaging staff in the process of identifying approaches to learning on-the-job will increase your options and gain their support.

  2. Anne-Marie Carroll says:

    This very much resonates with my personal experience where reflection, projects and mobility programs have been a great source of learning. As a leader, it is a great reminder that creating a learning culture is one of our key challenges which becomes more critical during times of austerity.