Go to just about any event on staff development and it’s pretty much guaranteed that people will be talking about the 70:20:10 model for learning and development. If the buzz has somehow passed you by, here is the basic hypothesis: The model proposes that 70% of our learning is experiential, 20% is social, and just 10% comes from formal courses. If you consider that your typical employee spends much of their working day having experiences, discussing and solving problems with colleagues, and not heading off to attend formal training courses, it all seems, well - perfectly logical.
However, whilst the model may seem perfectly logical it does present a challenge for lots of businesses and especially the L&D and HR professionals within those businesses. Why? Well, if only 10% of learning is happening through formal training (which is relatively easy to track) how does an organisation monitor whether the other 90% of effort is working and helping the business move forwards? The question of how technology can play a meaningful role in the 70-20-10 model is big headache for many businesses. With the traditional LMS being geared up to support course delivery, dealing with experiential learning is a ball game that your LMS might not want to play.
It’s a common misconception that experiential and social learning lacks structure and direction. Indeed, tasks are often allocated to individuals to support personal development, but what is often missed is recording what was learned and ensuring that the right people have access. Clear visibility on what has been learned through "doing the day job" is vital, not least so managers have confidence in allocating similar, or more challenging tasks, in the future. Recording and sharing is also important as knowledge or enhanced working practices may well have applicability elsewhere within the organisation and can therefore be disseminated to support wide scale improvement.
Coaching techniques such as asking questions based on Kolb's experiential learning theory is a straightforward way to identify what people have learnt from their experiences. Questions that prompt reflection are often the most beneficial, such as: What did you do? What was the impact? What helped or hindered you? What would you do differently next time?
These common coaching techniques are useful ways to gauge what learning has taken place, how the individual is developing, and what future activities might be appropriate. However, reflection on an activity needs to occur soon after the activity has taken place. It is simply too challenging to remember important detail after even a moderate amount of time has passed. This presents a rather obvious business challenge as it's nigh on impossible for a coach or mentor to be available each time a task is completed or whenever learning has occurred. However, the role of a coach starts by questioning and this is where the right technology can lend a helping hand.
Using online tools to record and question the activities an individual has been engaging in is an effective way to capture the activity close to the point of action. Templates designed to ask the questions a coach would, will prompt the recording of activity with the template acting as a "proxy coach". In this model, keeping everything convenient, focused and simple is key to success. A simple template with access from both a computer and mobile device is the starting point. Focused questions: What did you do? What did you learn? What would you do differently next time? These questions will highlight learning and act as the starting point for further discussion.
As the individual progresses, additional questions can be included in the templates – What resources did they use to solve problems? How are they sharing their knowledge with others? What is the wider benefit of this learning to the business?
It is important that the recording and reflecting of activities do not just fall into a black hole. The individual needs to be able to share the output securely with appropriate others and invite comment from those involved in their ongoing development. This may include their line manager, mentor, or peers.
In addition to recording the reflections, short regular discussions with managers allow for more interactive coaching to build on the learning, ensure development is on track, and set goals for the future. These meeting also act as a focus for motivating individuals to engage in the whole process. The records an individual creates don’t just act as a temporal record of what they did, but can have multiple purposes including being part of performance review, helping with talent management and identifying skills across the organisation; skills that may have otherwise gone unnoticed.