70-20-10 and the Dominance of Informal Learning

[We’re pleased to welcome author Dr. Alan Clardy of Towson University. Dr. Clardy recently published an article in the Human Resource and Development Review entitled “70-20-10 and the Dominance of Informal Learning: A Fact in Search of Evidence,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Clardy reflects on the inspiration for conducting this research:]

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What motivated you to pursue this research?

I reviewed the recent book “Using Experience to Develop Leadership Talent” for Personnel Psychology a few years ago. In that book, mention was made in an off-handed factual way at several points to a 70-20-10 rule. I had two reactions: I wasn’t that familiar with that rule, and I started to wonder where the original data could be found. I found myself wanting to see the original studies but the more I looked, the more disappointed I became. Then I wanted to discover where this 70-20-10 “fact” really came from.

What has been the most challenging aspect of conducting your research? Were there any surprising findings?

As I note my article, the literature on this matter is scattered and not particularly integrated. So back-tracking through citations, then finding the original sources became a chore at times. Perhaps the biggest challenge was looking through these original studies to see if they mentioned at 70% rule and/or presented any data for a 70% rule.

In what ways is your research innovative, and how do you think it will impact the field?

It was not uniquely innovative but doing a search for root data in a dispersed literature is somewhat distinctive. Even though I’m sure I did not identify every instance in which a 70-20-10 rule has been noted, I am pleased that I was able to identify as much as I did and then to organize and report it in a more coherent and connected manner.

My academic grounding in HRD has a strong foundation in Industrial and Organizational Psychology. Interestingly, the chapters on employee training and development in all standard I/O textbooks and, as I’m recalling, texts on Organization Behavior do not cover, much less mention informal learning experiences. I/O texts, for example, focus almost exclusively on formal training. It would be a mistake to conclude from my paper that I disagree with the notion that much learning about job and work occurs “informally”. Rather, there is a great deal of evidence that much learning does occur “informally”. What I was objecting to was the dogmatic and unqualified assertion that 70% of job/work of all learning happens informally. So, if my article could help generate coverage of “informal” learning in I/O and OB texts, I think that would be a beneficial impact on all of these fields. I do call for more research on how to structure various kinds of “informal” learning venues to improve their effectiveness; seeing more of that would also be a positive impact.

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