Skillsoft Blog

Create an Environment for Learning to Thrive

By Alicia Little


Are you stifling continuous learning and productivity?

Nearly every day when I sit at my desk, I try to find 15 minutes to catch up on my favorite marketing blogs, industry articles, or maybe even a research study. It could be something I find through my carefully curated Twitter feed or something that catches my eyes in any number of marketing-focused emails I receive from various vendors. Or, better yet, skimming a chapter from a book I have set aside in my personal Skillsoft learning plan!

Now – if you walked by my desk during those 15 minutes, would you assume I was being productive? Or not?

Your answer may very well be shaped by your experience—or lack thereof—with organizations that have a strong learning culture. Organizations with solid learning cultures empower, enable and encourage employees to become efficient and effective problem-solvers who have the agility to address challenges as they arise. Think about it – would you rather have an employee who hits road block after road block? Or one who has the channels, resources and support to solve problems confidently and appropriately?

70:20:10 is tough on scrap!

Too often we think of the learning and development function as a silo of an organization, when conversely, it is most effective when it is ubiquitous in the organization, sort of grout or glue that fills in the gaps and builds and strengthens the organization at all levels.

Born out of the Center for Creative Leadership, the 70:20:10 model is considered a guideline for organizations seeking to maximize the effectiveness of learning and development programs through other activities and inputs. Its central tenets are that 70 percent of knowledge is from job-related experiences, 20 percent from interactions with others, and 10 percent from formal educational events (“formal learning”).

This means that between hands-on experiences and learning from others (social learning, coaching, mentoring, collaboration and interaction), 90 percent of learning occurs in an informal setting!  Employees (and thusly, organizations) benefit most because these experiences enable them to discover and refine their job-related skills, make decisions, address challenges and interact with influential people within work settings. Staff also learn from their mistakes and receive immediate feedback and encouragement on their performance.

Further, when learning occurs where and when it is needed, it is far more ‘sticky’ in the minds of employees. This means you have reduced your scrap learning rate—and furthermore, you’ve not only saved money on any investments you’ve made in learning but you’ve gained a return on the area of your business that learning impacted!  Scrap learning occurs when learning isn’t effective – so it isn’t retained, it’s not applied on the job – essentially, it’s been a waste of time of money, which none of us want.

The other major benefit of fostering that sweet spot of the 90%: in many cases, it costs little to nothing, and complements or amplifies the 10% area where you’re making more significant investments. 

Let learning occur where, when and how it is needed for maximum benefit

Certainly there are some larger cultural factors at play in fostering this type of environment, but in some cases, you can take simple steps boost social and informal learning opportunities in your organization. The first step is to recognize the impact that social and informal learning mechanisms can have on your business. The second is to shift away from the notion of siloed learning functions and embrace the notion that what you might have seen as ‘non-productive’ or ‘seemingly social’ activities in the office might actually be moments of creative problem-solving or valuable mentorship that are driving your business forward.

Looking for more strategies to readily embed learning into your employees’ daily workflow? Join us on November 3 for Ideas for Incorporating Social Learning “by design” for Learning Impact. Register today!



The 70:20:10 Model for Learning and Development, Training Industry 2016
The 70-20-10 Rule, Center for Creative Leadership 2016


Alicia Little is an Associate, Marketing and Sales Support, for Skillsoft Canada.

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