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The 70:20:10 model and learning transfer

Learning transfer professional Emma Weber is our guest on this episode of the Learning While Working podcast. Emma talks about the need to focus on the whole of the 70:20:10 model, and why the '10' is too often overlooked.

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Transcript

Robin:
Hi, it's Robin here - the host of the Learning While Working podcast and founder of Sprout Labs. In this podcast I'm talking with Emma Weber from Lever Learning. We explore the 70:20:10 learning model and learning transfer, and the importance of taking holisitic integrated approaches. So it's not just about focusing on the 70 and the 20 - it's about thinking about how the 10, 20 and 70 all work together to have a fantastic outcome.

Emma has a great approach to learning transfer. In this particular podcast she talks quickly about accountability and coaching and the role of learning transfer. I feel like Emma could probably talk for hours on each one of these topics in depth.

With coaching, she had a really lovely example of when not to use coaching and not to ask questions as well, which made me laugh. I really enjoyed this conversation exploring the 70:20:10 learning model through a different lens. I really hope you enjoy the conversation, and there are lots of takeaways from this session as well.

Robin:
Welcome to the Learning While Working Podcast, Emma.

Emma:
Thank you!

Robin:
Emma, you're an expert on learning transfer. How does a learning transfer model and the way you work with learning transfer related to the 70:20:10 Model?

Emma:
I think the 70:20:10 Model is interesting, Robin. That certainly a lot of people are - and have been for a while - talking about it and I think that a lot of organisations are saying that they actively use that model within their learning and their learning principles and processes.

What I have observed though, is that people know though that maybe possibly 70:20 is where they've been weaker in the past. Therefore their learning and development resources are going into the 70 and 20. And the 10 percent, they're kind of saying, “You know what, we’ve been doing the 10 percent for a while. We know what we're doing in the 10 percent,” and therefore very little changes in the 10 percent.

One of my experiences and one of the things I believe is that really the 10 percent needs to be supported with transfer to make it relevant to the business. And the 70 is what happens on a day-to-day basis, when we're either sat at our desks or out there doing our role. And so, I really feel that we need to stretch and integrate the 10 of the formal learning into more and more of our day-to-day. And actually learning transfer is one of the ways to do that. So I think people need to not get so distracted by the 70:20, think about their 10 percent. Think about how can I make this happen on day-to-day basis through transfer, in terms of behavioural change, and you're really then sort of starting to challenge your thinking around that model. So it's not through going, “You know what, we're doing the 10 percent. We've done that well for a while. Nothing needs to change there. Let's change the 70:20.” Let's actually take the holistic view and build on our 10 through the 20 and 70 to get the end result.

Robin:
This is what I really love about the model. There so many different ways of looking at it. The way I look at it is, it's actually sitting there saying you need lots of different components, maybe not even just three components, to make learning really work and for learning to be really successful. The actual 10:20:70 is just sort of irrelevant, it's more that it's actually a mix of things, which I think is a part of what you're getting at as well.

The other thing is, as I'm hearing you talking, I'm just thinking about the fact that in some ways some of the 70:20:10 - and the idea of flipped classrooms - is sometimes an excuse to sit there and say, "The 10 can be terrible. It can be just a knowledge dump. There are other things that are more important,” but in actual fact especially when it comes to behavioural change, you actually do need that sort of formal learning to start to shift people.

Emma:
You do, you do. And you need the 10. When people walk away from that 10 they need to be crystal clear as to what are they are going to implement, what are they going to be doing differently, either when they go back to their desk or when they stop looking at the module. Even if it's just a very short experience, you want to be crystal clear: “What do I want people to do differently as a result of this learning?' And if that's not clear, your learning transfer is going to be really difficult. If it's not clear for you as a creator or even the participants attending.

The knowledge dump is where you become dangerous in that because the information is information, becomes useful when it's used.

Robin:
Yes. So that crystal clear clarity, how do you think some of the ways of really getting that happening can be done?

Emma:
One of the things that I love - I was chatting with Julie Dirksen who was based in the US. She was actually speaking at a UK conference when we were having the conversation. She talks about, when you're looking at behavioural change, can you actually take a photograph of it or record it on an audio, memo, or capture on video? And so, to get really clear on those behaviours through that lens of, “Can I take a photograph of it or some other media?” can help us clarify at thinking, to what's the behaviour that we want to see differently?

A lot of the time, when people talk about it, behaviour, what they're actually meaning is an attitude or a mindset. So it's either, what would people then do with that mindset? What would they say with that mindset?

Robin:
Yes, so it's that classic instructional design thing that's almost easier said than done, is what does someone need to do? What does that look like? How does that feel? And then everything else hangs from that. I'm saying classic because all sorts of people talk about it because it's actually easier said than done.

Emma:
You know, it can be really difficult. It can be difficult, but I think that's where - as a first point of call we need to invest that time and get to that clarity and then build the design around it when you're really clear as to what the outcome is.

Robin:
Yes. How about that sort of sense of, and other people have talked about it on the Learning While Working podcast, that learning transfer is really around accountability? What are your thoughts on that sense that it's an outcome and someone had to own that outcome?

Emma:
I'm absolutely in the park of: learning transfer is about the accountability. But it's really interesting in terms of when people are talking about accountability, often within organisations it's very much kind of bit of a dirty word. I almost picture a wagging finger, “You will be held accountable.” And that type of accountability is never going to create long-term, sustained behaviour change. You really need to create the ownership for the accountability with the person who is implementing the behavioural change. And yes, they can be supported by others, in others helping them hold them accountable to themselves. But I really think we're shifting towards, you know, not people being held accountable to their manager, or accountable to the organisation, but it's being held accountable to the standards that they're setting for themselves. And that may well be within an organisational framework. But it's not an old style accountability, because I just think it doesn't wash with the way that people are wanting to work nowadays.

Robin:
Yes, it doesn't wash with that sense of people being whole at work and bringing themselves. It's having that sense of every time that someone's told you, "You need to be accountable for that," it destroys some of their empowerment.

Emma:
Yes, which is actually a shame, because I think it's I think it's sad that accountability has sort of that connotation of, that it's a bad thing. Because I don't think it inherently it is, but you know, I do agree. We’ve kind of got to that common connotation.

Robin:
Yes, I think it’s interesting that, having said that, I don't know if I 100 percent agree with it either. I just think of it - it's possibly a way that sometimes people perceive it.

Emma:
Yes.

Robin:
And it is a difficult thing because of that, but it actually is a core thing around change and moving forward and just day-to-day activity in the 70, to be accountable for your own performance, your own learning, your own behavioural change, and moving forward.

Emma:
I'm not sure I hear it so much now, but I used to hear learning professionals say to me, "Well, the managers are accountable for making sure people implement the learning." So the managers are in charge of them learning transfer.

Robin:
Yes, and there's lots of research that says that managers are the key, but being a line manager is not an easy thing. It's multiple challenges on a day-to-day basis. In most organisations, you don't have people who are just people managers as well. They’re also technical experts and - I think it's a wicked job in our modern workplaces.

Emma:
It is a very, very hard task and I think it really depends on where your organisation is as to whether the manager is that best person to support the individual with the learning transfer. It may be that for some initiatives they are. It may be for more strategic initiatives, you need to tackle it in a different way. So, I always look at the strategic imperative of the learning that's trying create a behavioural change and the maturity of the leadership of the managers. When I say maturity, I’m not talking literal maturity in age. I'm talking of sort of skill level around things like coaching and leadership style as to whether they are the right people and in fact whether they are given the time within the organisation to invest in that. We need to be really practical in terms of the amount of time it takes to create behavioural change and to deliver learning transfer for initiatives.

Robin:
Yes, I’ve seen some models where essentially a manager will take on a role of operational manager and then, other people will - and I think multiple other people will come in to try to help around the people side of the team. Is this the sort of thing you're thinking of?

Emma:
Yes. So, have you seen organisations Robin, where that's working successfully? Or have you seen the concepts?

Robin:
I've seen it as a concept. It's interesting, I've seen that the operational manager always is the person that has accountability for financial outcomes. So everyone will always look to that person for leadership no matter what.

I've seen it work better when in actual fact the people are around the edges are given sort of different types of titles. They're not actually called leaders. They're called coaches, or buddies -

Emma:
Yes.

Robin:
- and they're told that they’re there to help these people, and: "Part of your role is to help these people along," that it doesn't have any sort of hierarchical nature to it. And the other thing, that particularly with that, that seems to be working in one organisation we're working with at the moment is the moving around. Who people are buddied with, so they don't sit there and go, “Oh, this is my long-term manager.” “This is my buddy for this quarter, I'll move to work to someone else in next quarter to learn from them."

Emma:
Which is interesting, because that's kind of very much 'future of work', how people will work in teams. I've heard it likened to the way that movies are made. You'll be there, you'll do your movie and then you move on to work on another team on another movie.

There's an interesting conversation I was having within an organisation that had tried to split that manager role into a coaching manager and an ops manager. What had happened is it hadn't been successful for them. The key learning was the role of the coaching manager was actually a lot harder than the organisation had anticipated.

Robin:
Yes.

Emma:
And they had felt that anyone could be upskilled to do that role, and they had upskilled people to do that role, but it was just a lot harder than people had anticipated to really succeed with that skill set.

Robin:
Yes.

Emma:
So it hadn't worked for that particular organisation across in the UK. But I certainly think if we're looking at learning transfer and in our learning transfer survey that we completed - I think the data came out around May time - organisations that had a strong coaching culture, it was much more likely that their learning teams would be seen it strategically important. They were getting much better outcomes from their learning initiatives. Every indicator that we looked at in transfer for organisations that had a coaching culture had a much better outcome.

Robin:
So that's also, I think what you're talking about is actually coaching as a mindset in people. That whole "everyone's here to help each other" - or is it a more of shifting people, managers' roles around?

Emma:
I think it's interesting. I think it's much more than the mindset of 'everyone's here to help', because some people's idea of help is telling people the answers and telling them what to do and sharing from their experience. And if you're trying - and absolutely there’s a place for that within organisations - but if you're trying to shift someone's behaviour and help someone create long-term, sustained behavioural change, it's much more about helping them to work out what's happening for them.

And I talk about this concept of helping people have a conversation with themselves because it's your internal thoughts, feelings, values, beliefs, fears, and needs that drive your behaviours. To help someone shift their behaviours you've got to help them connect with that. It's either an internal dialogue for some people, or it's a feeling for others. You got to help them get inside that to shift the behaviours. The deeper you can go, the easier it is then to shift a behaviour.

Robin:
Yes.

Emma:
That was probably a bit of a mouthful, Robin. I can rant about this for ages.

Robin:
It's actually, it's a conversation I had with some L&D people in a very technical organisation earlier in the week. What was just a really lovely sentiment was that they sat there and said, "Our people have lost the ability to ask the new people really good questions." And then they sat there and said, "I mean, there's times where we can't do that. Where we just have to sit there, and someone comes to us, we have to sit there and say, 'It's A', because it's critical -"

Emma:
Yes.

Robin:
"- and it's time critical, and something's going to go wrong," but people don't know when is the time to tell someone and then when is the possible time to be a learning experience for someone. And it was just a really nice sentiment to hear this really strong -

Emma:
Yes.

Robin:
- technical environment, that was mostly males as well, which was the other interesting thing around this particular cultural sentiment.

Emma:
I always say: you never want to ask anyone what fire exit they want to use.

Robin:
Yes. (laughs)

Emma:
You know, seriously? Is it that important? You just share it.

Robin:
Yes, exactly.

Emma:
It’s like: this way!

Robin:
That's really lovely. That's part of what this group of people we're talking about as well, because essentially, they have 'fire exit' times.

Emma:
Yes, yes. And you’ve got to, as a leader, as a manager, you've got to know. It's the same within learning transfer. It's that flexibility of knowing the difference between the two. But I think traditionally within organisations, and as you said, this whole thing of forgetting how to ask good questions - the culture we're creating around the quick fix, and no module I think needs to be longer three or four minutes: instant gratification. We're losing the ability to slow down and reflect. It's the slowing down and reflection which is the questioning, and leads to questioning. We just want to be told: we want it now, we want it at a short clip. So it's a societal thing that I see, but you know, that's the lens of the world that I look at.

Robin:
I have this thing, that people who listen to the podcast probably get sick of me saying, essentially what you're talking about, where that three minute grab is actually just content, it's just knowledge, it's not that behavioural change. I sort of think about the fact that actual learning happens not just when you do something. It's actually when you reflect on it, and then articulate what you have learned. There's a moment where that all of a sudden becomes a real solidification in your brain. And while technology can help you do that, to be honest, the easiest way of doing it is a quick good conversation.

Emma:
But Robin, it's interesting because, absolutely, it's the reflection that's the powerful piece. It's when you articulate it and own it. But, then it's about what you do next, because it's all very easy to - whether you have a learning through a mistake that you've made, or through a win, or through a module - and you can articulate that and you can sound pretty clever. It's when you use that articulation to conscientiously do something different next time. That's when it will really bring you the benefit. And so I think sometimes we get used to knowing that we've learnt it when we can relay it, and say it, and we can say it with passion and with meaning. But if we haven't got it to the point where we're then prepared to go out of our comfort zone and do something differently next time because of that, I'm still not happy with the articulation.

Robin:
That's actually interesting, because it's probably in my own - I'm reflecting a learning pattern that's my own, rather than what I think everyone does. It's a matter of doing something, and reflecting, and then articulating. But it's interesting as well, that sense of what you're talking about: if it has that sort of evidence of being photographed, that's the end point, rather than the reflection moment.

Emma:
Yes. It's almost the beginning of an end point - not that we want to get too complicated here! It's like, you've done it once, and now do it again. And then do it again. And then refine it further, and then take it to the next level. And that's learning, isn't it?

Robin:
Yes. So bring us back to the 70:20:10 model. Because I think what we're actually talking about is ways of being able to influence the 70, the behavioural change. Is that sort of what you're thinking, as we’re thinking this through? And the 20 being a very different thing from just people sharing. It's actually a designed experience.

Emma:
Yes, and I think it can be organic, but I think if you have it as a designed experience, you're going to get a much higher correlation of a result. Again, this comes down to the strategic importance of the learning outcome that you're trying create. But I think it's about influencing that 70, knowing that the 70 happens on a day-to-day basis. I think one of the - I don't know if you've seen this very much Robin or if you get involved in it, where people have a project that's connected with learning initiatives that they're doing. Then they have the project as way of transferring the learning.

Again, it's a strategy, it can be useful. But I really love it when the learning is useful to someone's day-to-day role. The danger for me, is if the learning becomes associated with a project, the behaviours stay with the project but in their day-to-day role, they just stay as they were.

Robin:
Yes, and it's especially at scale, a project based learning has a whole lot of issues. I think it's really powerful if it's integrated into what people need to do. A project to make a change in their basic day-to-day activity, that all of a sudden if you're rolling thousands of people through a program and they all have to do projects, the organisation’s quite often not up to that.

Then it just sort of dissipates the whole nature of it, and then as you say, they become extra things at the edge rather than the core activity  of what people are doing.

Emma:
Yes.

Robin:
Cool. Emma, if people want to engage with more of your content and the work that you do, what are some good places to look and how can people access the survey results you talked about?

Emma:
Sure. Our web address is transferoflearning.com and we have resources on there. We've got blogs, we've got recordings, and webinars, all sorts. You can access the server results from the website as well. Hope on to transferoflearning.com. Robin, we also do a regular newsletter, which is only monthly. We blog every week, but the newsletter is monthly. So that can be another good way for people just to stay in touch with what we're talking about and what we're thinking about, and often sharing learnings from conferences and where we've been out and about. So, very happy to be able to engage with people. Most people that know me will know that I'm always up for a good learning transfer conversation, so I'm happy to chat with people!

Robin:
Cool. That's great. Thank you. I'll include those links in the blog post that goes with the podcast as well. Thank you very much, it was a great conversation.

Emma:
Good stuff. Thank you for inviting me along Robin.