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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Phase(Two)Learning Encore: Assume Nothing

phase(two)learning is taking a week off…so for today’s post, please enjoy this encore of a favorite phase(two)learning post from 2012. See you next week!


This afternoon, I went to my friendly neighborhood convenience store for some caffeinated refreshment (if you’ve checked out my About tab, you’ll remember that I have a “wicked caffeine addiction”).  While I was in the store, I overheard one of the two cashiers (loudly) remarking that she “didn’t trust the guy at Pump 4.”  She was making a rather large spectacle about how people who drive that kind of vehicle (a white Jeep Cherokee) and wear camouflage are just the type that might drive off without paying for their gas.  Not exactly sure about her logic, and I was insulted FOR this guy, but intrigued nonetheless.  I couldn’t help but wonder if she knew the guy, or if he was a repeat offender.  I slowly milled around the store, getting my drink, and meandered to the cashier so I could see if this guy would come in to pay for his gas.  Of course, I really had no doubt, but I was even more curious to see how the cashier would treat the guy when he came in.

Fast-forward about 2 minutes:  The guy DID come in, of course.  And he promptly greeted the cashier with a friendly voice, paid for his gas, bought a lottery ticket, wished her a good afternoon, and left.  Hmmm.  I wanted to express my disappointment in her behavior – from both a customer service perspective and a DECENT HUMAN BEING perspective.  But I didn’t…I just paid for my drink and left.  It did get me thinking about how similar attitudes can plague a veteran trainer:

Check out the rest of the post


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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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Meet my new friends –!


Have you heard of This is an exciting tech startup, based in Indianapolis (where I happen to live). The good folks at are doing some pretty exciting things in the learning and onboarding industry. If you have worked in the corporate Learning & Development space, chances are you’ve dealt with sophisticated systems, cumbersome processes and other barriers to create, publish and track employee training or onboarding plans. is shaking things up – they are simplifying the cumbersome and making the once-inaccessible, accessible. In this article, they are described as “The MailChimp of teaching and learning software.” Okay, that’s an interesting descriptor!

Well, has recently acquired some funding and is seeing impressive growth. And they are some super-nice guys. I had the pleasure of meeting the founder, Max, at a conference last year, and have recently had some communication with Mitch, the Director of Marketing. They also have a super blog, which I learned when they approached me to write this guest post.

Check it out: 5 New Employee Orientation Tips


So, phase(two)nation, let’s give the good people at some love. Here is your to-do list:

1) Check out their website, meet the team and learn about the cool things they’re doing in the Learning industry.

2) Dig into the great resources on their blog and share your favorites with your network!

3) Give them a call if you’re looking for a solid platform to create, assign and track employee training or onboarding.


Hope you had a wonderful Labor Day weekend!


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Learning Professional = Change Agent


Did you happen to catch the big announcement from ASTD yesterday?

ASTD, the American Society for Training & Development, is getting a new name and logo! The organization will now be known as Association for Talent Development (ATD). You can learn all about the change here.

One of the hats I wear is sitting on my local ASTD (umm, ATD…that’s going to take some getting used to!) board as Director of Social Media, so I was tuned into the live stream of the announcement so I could share the big news on our chapter’s social channels. As I soaked in the news and followed the stream of reactions through the #ASTD2014 and #ASTDnews, it made me think about change.

This new name, the new logo and branding, it really confirms something we already knew: It’s not just about the training. The organization is remaining true to its roots, recognizing that training is still an important part of developing people…but there’s so much more to it than that. We are in the business of developing people. Of communicating. Of collaborating. Of learning.

(By the way…what a privilege, amiright?)

ASTD – the American Society of Training & Development – was founded over 70 years ago. Think of how many changes our industry has seen in that time, how businesses have changed, how communication has changed – heck, how the WORLD has changed. Naturally, our largest association (and each of us) must embrace those changes and evolve as well.

This timely change is a great opportunity for each of us to pause and reflect upon our roles with the organizations we support. How are we acting as change agents for the businesses we support? How can we immerse ourselves to truly understand organizational change and use our platform to influence others?

Take a moment and think about how you can embrace change and support progress within your organization – whether progress at the organizational level, with your team or even personally. Be the change, friends!

Your turn: I’m curious about your thoughts about ASTD/ATD’s name change…please take a moment and answer the poll below, and then share your thoughts about this change and the evolution of workplace learning in the comments below!


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Making an Emotional Connection to Your Learners


Last week, I was on a flight from Phoenix to Indianapolis. Seated directly behind me was a woman holding an adorable 6-month old baby boy. Seated directly across from me was a gentleman holding an adorable 6-month old baby girl. Twins.

Many people would cringe at the thought of being seated by not one, but two teething babies on a particularly long flight; but in this case, it didn’t bother me at all.

You see, shortly before takeoff, Daddy handed me (and everyone else sitting close by) a little Ziploc bag, filled with Hershey kisses:


How precious is that? Immediately, everyone seated nearby (including the curmudgeonly old man in 13F) was disarmed, sympathetic and completely enamored by these adorable tots. In fact, people were offering to assist and hold the babies to free the weary parents’ arms for a few minutes throughout the flight.

And yes, they were cranky and did cry on the flight. Quite a bit, actually. But they were forgiven.

Whether the parents knew exactly what they were doing, or Mommy just found something cool on Pinterest, this was a brilliant move. Not only did it put a smile on fellow passengers’ faces, but it set the expectation for the inevitable – crying babies – and reminded us that they were babies and really couldn’t help it. They found a way to emotionally connect with the other passengers.

It made me think – are we doing this with our learners in a training environment?

You might be a presenter who has mastered the mechanics of public speaking, but if you are failing to truly connect with your audience, there will always be something missing from the sessions you lead. As I manage learning programs, I am a proponent of balancing the quantitative with the qualitative…whether it’s with content to deliver or metrics to measure. It’s important to balance the “head” and the “heart”.

Here are 3 quick tips for connecting to your learners on an emotional level:

1. Meet their needs.

Think back to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and be deliberate in making sure that your learners’ essential human needs are met. Have you included necessary breaks in your agenda? Ample time to stretch and move around? Is there an opportunity to ask questions? Do your learners know where to find the restroom? Can they get a drink or a snack? If their basic, physiological needs are met, they will be in a more prepared place to absorb the material you are presenting.

Let’s be honest: How engaged are you when your mind is consumed by when the next restroom break is?

2. Get to know them as human beings.

Incorporate icebreakers or energizers to engage participants and help them feel more comfortable and get to know one another. Show up early to greet people as they arrive and informally chat with them. Seek out opportunities to connect with your participants and find common ground. The more connected they feel with you, the more likely they will be to connect with your content.

Most importantly? Be genuine. Don’t let “professionalism” mask your authenticity.

3. Be respectful.

There are situations where a facilitator is met with a challenging participant. A disengaged participant. An argumentative participant. A downright rude participant. You know what I mean…we’ve all been there, right? Regardless of the “true colors” a participant might be showing, it is critical to demonstrate respect toward all participants (even while managing the challenging behavior). When you are respectful, your character will be apparent, which will not go unnoticed by your participants.

Adult learners bring a wealth of experiences, expectations, questions and a need to be respected. Honor that as you facilitate.


Just like the parents of those sweet little twins found a way to connect with their fellow flight passengers, we should be finding a way to connect with our learners. Take your sessions a little deeper. Build richer relationships. Leverage those relationships to create engaging, relevant, meaningful learning experiences.

Your turn: How do you connect with your learners? Share your stories in the comments below!


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Trainers, remember: Context Before Content


Recently, a friend and fellow blogger asked the question, “Is nothing sacred?”

I’ll give you a moment to check out the link…

(insert hold music)

According to this post, the answer was an emphatic no. I would have to agree.

Coincidentally, I was at church this past weekend, when I had my own “Is nothing sacred?” moment. I was sitting in my seat, when I noticed our pastor rolled out a flip chart. Given my fondness for flip charts, I was intrigued. He proceeded to talk – as he started to set up the lesson, he said these three words:

“Context before content.”

Rather than jumping right into the Scripture passage he was referencing, he took a moment to give the congregation the backstory. It set up his sermon in a way that prepared the congregation to absorb and understand the passage and his points.

As an attendee, I appreciated the color. As a facilitator, I was drawn into the setup, his unorthodox use of a flip chart and the subsequent lesson. It was a valuable reminder:

Trainers, we need to set our learners up to be successful. To understand the content, whether it’s in an instructor-led session or through technology. To gain the skills and knowledge they need to be proficient. To improve performance to impact the organization.

We do this by providing context. Before content.

So often, we (including myself) are guilty of providing nothing more than an information dump.

A “text-and-next” eLearning module.

Wordy slides. Death by PowerPoint. Lecture.

Butts in seats. Smile sheets.

You get the idea. The content is the easy part. Context is more challenging. How do we overcome these default training behaviors to get to the sweet spot – the context?

Start by establishing clear learning objectives. A clear learning objective answers 3 questions:

1) What is the action the learner will need to perform?

2) Are there any specific conditions under which the learner will perform the action?

3) How will learning/performance be measured?

We need to meet our learners where they are, then create an environment that is conducive for learning. Keep these 3 simple questions in mind when you’re developing content…and you’ll find that context is easier to communicate.

Your turn: How do you avoid a “content dump” and provide context to your learners? Share your tips in the comments below!

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