In a couple of posts I have described how the lack of skills is the biggest problem for many leaders, that we as employees have changed learning in recent years and that these together have created great innovation and a boom for different technologies that will streamline learning.

In this post, I thought I’d put the new technology in perspective and describe the overall learning within the organization, not just through courses, and how it affects the educational function and its role. The starting point is that learning is becoming more and more critical… but the question is whether today’s educational function is equally critical?

To answer the question, we need to ask ourselves the question: Which learning is critical? Formal learning in the shape of courses or all learning in the organization? The answer is perhaps obvious, we need to reflect on all the learning in the organization. A common model for describing the learning as a whole is 70:20:10 which reports that 70% of our learning takes place in work based on the experiences we have, 20% we learn through interaction with others and 10% via formal methods, such as courses. Those of you who attended promise day could hear Charles Jennings talking about 70:20:10(here in a 4 minute video).

More about 70:20:10

70:20:10 is not a new model, it has been around for more than 20 years. Nor is it an exact model in terms of percentages. Aberdeen, for example, published a report last month “The New 70:20:20” which, among other things, points to the increasing proportion of social (35%) learning. The technology, including the use of social platforms are behind the increasing share of social learning.

Regardless of the distribution between learning at work and social learning, the formal part is small. At the same time, the training function is usually linked to the formal part. If I were to make an assessment of staffing in training functions I know of, 70-80% of the staff are focused on delivering courses. It is teachers, course developers, administrators and technology managers for LMS. In few cases, there are other roles.

Questionnaire answer to the question: “How do you get the skills you need at work?”

Utbildningsfunktionen fokuserar på fel saker

The graph above is from a company I’ve worked with. It basically looks the same in most organizations. Formal methods are the ones our employees use the least but the methods that we who work in education invest in and are organized in delivering.

Distrust of the training function?

Maybe it’s only natural that it’s like this. Informal learning takes place on its own and the responsibility of the training function are courses. The problem is that the outside world is changing at an increasing rate and we are finding it increasingly difficult to build skill in the organization. Traditional courses no longer meet the needs of the organization and employees.

A couple of reports from Bersin Deloitte (“The Real Challenge with Learner Engagement” and ” Meet the ModernLearner“) highlight the problem:

  • Only 24% of leaders see the training function as a critical partner.
  • 66% of the training staff say they are having trouble getting employees to attend the courses offered in the course catalogs.
  • Only 37% of the employees believe that the function can meet their needs.

To this I can add my own studies that show that a minority (15-20%) of employees think that the courses on offer are relevant to their needs. The gap between what we deliver and the needs of our employees leads us employees to invest more and more in learning outside the company. 62% of IT-employees have invested their own money in attending courses and gaining certificates. 70% of the participants at MOOCs are employees. Education initiatives are also growing around the business.

Is there a risk that the learning function will be marginalized? Yes, unless we get faster at meeting the organization’s entire learning needs. We must also take responsibility for 70 and 20. We need to move from discreet interventions in the form of courses to encourage continuous learning.

Constant learning

We need to look at the employee’s full development in ability at work. One model I usually use is the below image that shows a more constant learning.

kontinuerligt lärande

The Y-axis represents the employee’s ability, from coping with work with support, to doing so in increasingly complex situations and finally being the one who develops new methods and new knowledge. The X-axis is time, here in connection with attending a course and then apply this at work. The red curve symbolizes the curve of oblivion, the fact is that we forget 70% of the contents from a 2-day course. When we then apply what we have learned, there is a great risk that most of what we have learned in the course will be forgotten. The green curve shows how we need to spread learning in time, learn at work and get the support of others to develop and maintain our ability until we accomplish the task. As we then carry out the new task, we also make new experiences and knowledge that we share.

The picture shows examples of methods that can be used. Some are formal, others are social or learning at work. I usually divide the methods into four groups: Education, Social Learning, Experiences and Information/Surroundings. They follow 70:20:10 but I divide 70, i.e. learning that takes place in the work through learning and through our experiences, eg. through job rotation or new projects and learning through information/surroundings, to which I count tools, built-in support, instructions, help systems, search systems, performance support, etc. The reason for the division is to clarify who is responsible and can encourage learning.

4e -400

Maybe you recognize most of these and maybe you can add some methods. The question is to what extent the training function sees it as its task to enable and encourage all methods. Remember the graph above that showed how employees wanted to learn in contrast to the methods offered.

My point is that there needs to be a change in approach among those of us who are involved in learning, from “we are responsible for courses” to “we are responsible for the learning of the organisation”. What does that mean in concrete terms? How can we take greater responsibility for learning at work and for social learning?


It starts already when we develop our courses. Knowing the forgetfulness curve and how little effect education gives in the work should cause us to create other training solutions instead of individual courses. The problem is not a subject to be taught, but an ability to develop. We need to complement traditional training with training at work, for example, in tasks, simulations, action-based learning, and with support when the task is performed, e.g. Short video instructions, cheat sheets, etc. Halve time in classrooms and develop support for the work itself instead.

When we know that our employees prefer to learn just-in-time and preferably search for knowledge, we should allocate more resources to encourage this. Instead of developing all the material ourselves, we can create support that provides faster access to good knowledge that already exists. For the employee, it is a big problem to find knowledge that solves their problems. In a study I conducted a few years ago, sellers added 7 hours a week to find the necessary knowledge. There is a name for that role, “Curator”. It is a person who knows the target group, its challenges and skill needs and who finds information/media that is relevant and effective. It can be videos, recorded webinars, articles, guides, websites, short eLessons, etc. The learning portal is a way to organize and make the information available so that it is easy to find.

There is today a large amount of technology that enables the encouragment of employees in the work, where they are, instead of removing them from work and train them. Examples are screen instructions that can now be built into systems. QR codes and mobile learning enable learning in working environments that are not screen-based. For example, a QR code can be used to change the name of the code. start a machine and start a short lesson on how to use the machine. In the pipeline there is also Augmented Reality where we with products such as Google Glasses which may have instructions superimposed when we look at an item. Read more…


Social learning

According to studies from Aberdeen and from Bersin, social learning is now the largest. 70:20:10 was established before the time of the internet and before all social media. It was perhaps more obvious to learn at work, by doing things, one’s own experience was the most important thing. Today it is more obvious that we first consult our social network, searching for the best tips before we embark on tasks. The changes abroad are simply too fast for it to be competitive enough to rely on only one’s own experiences.

We’ve become used to searching for a tip on any forum or trough instructive videos on YouTube. At companies that have internal Youtube channels, user-controlled learning quickly takes over. At Google, 55% of all learning materials are produced by employees themselves. At Ericsson, employees have in a short time shared 1500 videos on the internal “EricssonPlay”.

cloud channel

It is a major shift from the view that the educational function should develop all learning materials. However, it takes a lot of time to establish the social platforms, create a structure and moderate the content so that it is easy to find. Employees need the knowledge of how to use the platforms and how to visualize their message effectively. Finally, we need to work a lot with culture to allow employees to spend time sharing knowledge and getting employees to see meaning in sharing knowledge.


I have seen many organizations that are good at helping employees develop through experience. Often it is run by HR and by creating a coaching and developing leadership in the organization. I have also seen many organizations that equate development with course. Here there is a role for the training function to clarify the importance of methods such as job rotation, coaching and developing assignments for the development of employees. Training and support is needed for managers to apply the methods and themselves as a coach in the employee’s development.

We can also drastically increase the proportion of “experience” in our courses, by reducing the time spent in the classroom, communicate learning and weaving experiences and the creation of experiences into learning through e.g. . simulations, work tasks or action-based learning.

My next post – what does it take to make it happen?

It may be easier said than done. We are probably busy developing and delivering courses today. We don’t have time for anything else. In the next post I will describe how we in the educational function, can gain more resources to work with social learning and learning at work. I will describe new roles in training that are required and also how we need to review the distribution of responsibility for learning. How the business takes greater responsibility and we in training focus on enabling through culture,support, technology and education.

Posted by Johan Skoglöf

Johan är visionär och senior konsult med missionen att hjälpa företag att skapa framtidens lärande organisation. Med över 25 år i branschen och kunder som Ericsson, Volvo, Scania, SEB, Handelsbanken, HM och ICA har Johan en bred erfarenhet i hur lärande organisationer skapas.

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