Watching 70-20-10 Come Alive in an Unlikely Place

watching 70-20-10 come alive in an unlikely place

Unless you are in the L&D/Training/Talent Development world, the title of this post will probably leave you scratching your head. Who am I kidding – it’s probably leaving many L&D people confused…

If you’re not familiar with the 70-20-10 concept, let’s break it down:

Simply put, 70-20-10 is a methodology implying that the most effective learning takes place through practical means.

Approximately 70% of what we learn occurs through practical application – on the job training, applying what you learned in a training setting, or as Nike would say, “Just Do It.”

Approximately 20% of what we learn comes through building relationships, such as coaching or mentoring.

That leaves 10% – yes, only 10% – of what we learn happens through formal training.

(What the what??)

I know those of us who lead formal training sessions on the regular might be inclined to squirm a bit when 70-20-10 is brought up. After all, for many L&D practitioners, facilitating training is what. we. do. So, someone is now telling us that only 10% of what people learn occurs this way?

Well, good news: the 10% isn’t going anywhere, kids. #jobsecurity



The key is to leverage the 10% to make the 90% even more effective. What are you doing in a formal setting to set your participants up for success, whether building relationships with peers or a manager, or making things happen on the job?

As the title of this post indicates, I recently witnessed this approach in action in an unlikely place. At my friendly, neighborhood nail salon. Yeah, not exactly a place you would immediately think about 70-20-10, but bear with me.

When I was waiting for my appointment, I couldn’t help but notice the salon owner’s daughter was sitting next to one of the manicurists, whose “customer” was actually another salon employee. The daughter was observing and asking questions. I have been going to this salon for several years and am used to seeing this young lady around the salon. I thought for a moment that she is probably a little older than my own daughter, and then noticed that she and the manicurist traded places – SHE picked up where the manicurist left off, being watched closely by her more experienced peer.

Ahh – she is “in training” – so naturally, my curiosity was piqued.

She finished what she was doing, and they carried on a conversation throughout. Unfortunately, I couldn’t understand them; they are a Vietnamese family and don’t speak much English. But here’s what I did know:

The 70% was represented – she was learning on the job.

The 20% was represented – the experienced manicurist was coaching her, guiding her and answering her questions along the way.

When I sat down in my chair for my appointment, I asked about it. I learned that she is 19 years old and wants to join the family business, so she is an apprentice. She is doing the necessary training so she can get her state license (hello, 10%!). I was impressed.

Bottom line: They don’t need a big training program, or a dedicated L&D team, or a Chief Learning Officer, to know that learning is most effective when it’s relevant and practical. They know what she needs to learn to be successful in her role and to add value to their family business. Sometimes, we (organizations) make things incredibly complex – but maybe if we go back to basics and consider learners’ needs, we’ll find that we can make 70-20-10 come alive in our own organizations.

Your turn: Is your team modeling the 70-20-10 approach (or a variation of it) in your learning programs? If so, how do you help your stakeholders, employees and company leaders understand the concept? Share your successful practices and tips in the comments!

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3 Learning Lessons from Sesame Street


Like many kids who grew up in the 70s and 80s, I learned on the Street. Sesame Street, that is. Watching this show was a daily occurrence when I was a tot.

Sesame Street is celebrating its 45th birthday this week! To think of how many millions of children have been introduced to learning through this show is simply incredible. Today, as a tribute to the institution that is Sesame Street, here are 3 lessons that adult learning professionals can take away:

1. The show is real and relevant.

Throughout the run of the show, Sesame Street hasn’t steered away from introducing kids to tough topics. One that stands out to me is when the actor who played Mr. Hooper passed away in real life. Instead of replacing the actor and moving on with the show, they tackled the sad truth head-on.

The lesson: In our organizations, keep it relevant through times of incessant change (or even turmoil). Align your programs and messaging to your business objectives. There should never be a question of how your program connects to your organizational strategy.


2. Children interact with trusted adults. And celebrities. And puppets!

One of the most entertaining parts of the show is when children are involved – whether they are dancing and giggling with Elmo or singing a song with a movie star. The show (and learning) is at its best when everyone is engaged.

The lesson: Get people and teams out of their silos. Connect employees with leaders. Get new associates paired up with a buddy or mentor. What is your team doing to establish and maintain a collaborative environment?


3. Learning is fun, gosh darnit.

I highly doubt that I would have learned how to read, count, be a good friend, have empathy or accept people who are different than I am had the show not have been FUN to watch.

The lesson: Are your learning programs (whether through face-to-face, online or other methods) engaging? Are they – dare I say – enjoyable? If not, maybe 2015 is the year your team takes an honest look at your offerings!


This week, I’m celebrating Sesame Street. I’m thinking back to the lessons I learned as a kid…and the lessons the show continues to teach today. Happy 45th birthday, Sesame Street!

Your turn: Did you watch Sesame Street when you were a kid? What lessons did you learn? Who were your favorite characters (people or puppets)? What else can we take away from the show that can help us develop as learning professionals? Use the comments to share your thoughts and memories!


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A New Year…Revolution?


I love those AT&T commercials where the guy is hosting roundtable discussions with precocious kids. A recent one, pictured above, has a little boy talking about his new year “revolution”.

At the risk of sounding like a Sprint commercial with James Earl Jones and Malcom McDowell, that is “totes adorbs” (yes, I know I’m way too old to say that – this funny article reminded me of that the other day – enjoy!).


(Where’s a catchy T-Mobile or Verizon commercial reference when you need one?)

Anyway, back to the cute kid. Of course, he was referring to his New Year resolution of eating more jellybeans in the new year, not staging some sort of revolt. But that got me thinking of my own resolutions this year.

And, gosh darnit, I’m considering a revolution for 2014.

**shakes fist in the air!!**

Let’s revolt against the status quo. Let’s revolt against lackluster training. Let’s revolt against accepting “but that’s how we’ve always done it!” as an excuse. Let’s revolt against simply getting people to show up. And let’s turn learning upside down in our workplaces this year.

Who’s with me?

2013 was a terrific year for phase(two)learning. This little blog has made me a stronger facilitator and an even more passionate evangelist for workplace learning (who thought that was possible?!). It was a thrill to have the blog reviewed by T+D magazine in December and guest post for a few different organizations throughout the year. I’ve had the honor of gracing your inboxes and your social media feeds through your subscriptions and shares. I appreciate each and every one of you, and look forward to continuing the conversation in 2014.

Happy New Year!

Improving Training Programs with Feedback


As learning professionals (or whatever hat we might be wearing at any given moment), it is our responsibility to assess a learning need and provide a solution. And, tipping my cap to my passionate learning cohorts around the world, I’d say we do a fine job.

But, you know what? We don’t always have the answers. Or the perspective. Or even the right questions to ask. So we need to engage others.

This might be a pow-wow with a SME or project manager, to learn more about a task, process or system. It might be meeting with a supervisor to better understand a team’s skill or knowledge gaps.

But what about the employees themselves? How often are we asking them what they want out of training? What they need? How we can help them become a stronger employee today…and maybe-just-maybe, help prepare them for future opportunities?

The same goes for orientation and onboarding programs…consider doing a brief survey to poll your workforce, and see what you can learn about your new employee experience. A few questions might include:

  • When you started with (company name), what was the most helpful part of your onboarding experience?
  • What was your biggest challenge when you started in your role?
  • What advice would you give a new employee starting with (company name)?
  • What tools and resources are the biggest help to you?
  • Who was your go-to person when you were getting started in your role?
  • How can we improve the new employee experience at (company name)?

These simple questions can give you perspective that can help you strengthen your process and program. You can use these questions as a foundation, and tweak or expand them based on the program – these examples focus on the new employee experience, but just imagine how a few strategic questions can help you evolve your other training initiatives, leadership development programs, employee transitions and more.

The important thing is to stay curious, friends. We should continuously seek out feedback and suggestions from our various stakeholders, from the executives to the end users, and from all cubicles in between.

Your turn: How do you engage your organization beyond the standard needs analysis or evaluation process? What information have you gained from employees that have impacted your learning programs?

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The Art of the Meet & Greet


The Meet & Greet is a beloved component of many onboarding programs.  I’m going out on a limb, however, and guess that many hiring managers love them for the wrong reasons.  Let’s ruffle some feathers:

Reasons I Think (Some) Hiring Managers Love Meet & Greets:

1. They’re pretty easy to coordinate.

2. Most of the “work” falls on someone else.

3. You can easily fill a new employee’s schedule for his first days/weeks, and the hiring manager has to spend very little time with the new employee.

4. The hiring manager can pat himself on the back thinking his new employee has been “productive” and sufficiently “onboarded”.

(Okay, ouch.  Too much?)

Friends, we need to teach hiring managers in our organizations the art of the Meet & Greet.

Meet & Greet sessions can be a value-rich addition to the new employee experience, but they can also prove to be nothing more than a revolving door of random employees babbling about complex initiatives, jargon, irrelevant titles and biased opinions.  During the first days and weeks on the job, even the sharpest new employee has very little context to understand these things.

Here are five strategies for effectively using Meet & Greet sessions when onboarding new employees:

1.  Before the new employee starts, identify key individuals that will bring value to his first days on the job.

Key individuals.  Not everyone the incumbent will eventually work with.  Consider the employee’s role, responsibilities and early projects or initiatives.  The hiring manager should look to the immediate team, other close allies and essential vendors.  These people should have an integral role in the employee’s success.

2.  Reach out directly to those individuals and prepare them for the meeting.

Sorry to break the news, but dropping a vague meeting invite on a person’s calendar does not count as “reaching out directly”.  A phone call or even an informative email would be fine.  If you do choose to go straight to a meeting invite, make sure the purpose of the meeting is clearly stated in the body of the invite!  Let’s explore this one…

Sample email/meeting invite body:

Hello Key Individual,

We will be welcoming a new addition to our team next week!  John Smith will be joining us as our new .  His first day will be Monday, January 14.  To help integrate John to our team, we are scheduling a few informal “meet & greet” sessions with key individuals within the organization.  Since you will be working directly with John on the Very Important Project, it would be great if you two could sit down for a few minutes and get acquainted, discuss your role and team, and how you will be working together.

Also, if you have any helpful advice or resources for John as he gets started with the company, I’m sure he would be appreciative!

Please let me know if this time will work for your meeting, or if you need any more information.  Thanks, Key Individual!

Warm regards,

Hiring Manager

This small effort will help the individual prepare for this meeting, and it will help drive a more effective, meaningful dialogue.  Plus, it’s just nice.  And isn’t nice, well, nice?

3.  Make sure the new employee’s schedule is well balanced with other activities.

Avoid the fire hose!  Any Meet & Greet sessions should be a component of the onboarding process, not its entirety.  Furthermore, if your new employee is rushing to and from back-to-back-to-back-to-back meetings for his entire first week, you haven’t found balance.

Remember, a balanced onboarding program should incorporate these three tenets:

  • Welcome to the company
  • Welcome to the team
  • Welcome to the job

Hiring managers, your organization’s Orientation program will probably hopefully do a decent job with introducing your new employee to the company.  Team?  Job?  These should fall a little more heavily on you.  After all, you are the one who has been involved in the selection of this new employee.  You know what his role will entail.  You know who he will be working with.  You know the systems, tools and resources that will be used regularly.

Own it, hiring managers.

Coordinate the Meet & Greet sessions.  Give him time to get settled.  Provide training when necessary. Begin discussing projects or tasks where the employee can be productive and build early credibility.  Think about those quick wins your new employee can strive toward, and involve him.

4.  Provide a detailed agenda for the new employee.

We’ve discussed a balanced agenda, figuratively.  This one is simple – give him an agenda, literally.  Create a document he can carry with him for his first week, even if these meetings are on his calendar.  Don’t underestimate the comfort of something tangible.  On the agenda, include the dates/times (obvs), meeting room locations (Does he know his way around yet?  Does he need a map?), the names of the people he will be meeting with (and their roles), and any other pertinent information.

5.  The hiring manager should make time for the new employee. Daily.

The Meet & Greet is an enhancement to your onboarding program.  It is not a replacement for you, hiring manager.  Every day, in a variety of channels, you should be reaching out to the employee. The morning greeting, a midday check-in, and an end of day debrief are three essentials to incorporate, but don’t stop there!  Here are a few easy ways to let your new employee know you’re involved and available:

  • Take your new employee to lunch at least once during his first week (please make sure someone takes him to lunch on his first day, if you are unable to do this yourself!)
  • Organize a team lunch/dinner during his first week
  • Send an IM to periodically check in (be careful not to nag or micromanage!)
  • Include him in your routine mid-afternoon walk to the vending machine
  • Meet with him for 10-15 minutes at the end of each day of his first week – review his day, answer any questions, follow up as needed
  • Make an effort to get acquainted with your employee as a human being, not just as an employee!
  • Walk the new employee around the building and informally introduce him to department leaders
  • Make sure he has the supplies he needs; arrange for items that must be ordered
  • Discuss his job description – ensure that expectations are clear and everyone is on the same page!

There you have it.  Whether you are an HR professional, a Learning & Development practitioner or a hiring manager, you can play a role in facilitating meaningful dialogue between new employees and their tenured counterparts.  Those who own the onboarding process have the responsibility of enabling hiring managers to effectively embrace and immerse a new employee into the team and job.  Hiring managers should take ownership of knowing what the new employee needs and doing something about it, so your incumbent will find success.  We’re all responsible…and in our ways and roles, we’re all accountable.

Your turn:  Are Meet & Greet sessions a part of your onboarding program?  How do you utilize these meetings?  Has it been successful in your organization?  Please share your thoughts!
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