• Onboarding

Does Informal Learning Mean the End of Employee Training?

Researchers have always been fascinated with reverse engineering the habits of successful individuals. Whether it’s their sleep patterns, diets or religious beliefs, someone will try to figure out the magic recipe for maximizing individual success.

The same can be said of the process of learning. Through studies of business leaders beginning in the 1960s, researchers began trying to understand how successful people learn by looking at the types of learning that occur.

The 70:20:10 model is often cited as a proportion for comparing the relative use of three different modalities of learning:

  • Formal Learning: This is what is traditionally thought of as learning, an experience that mimics the predominant classroom condition of the western world, including lecture, reading, coursework and examination. The 70:20:10 model suggests 10% of learning comes in this form.
  • Social Learning: This all of the forms of informal learning that that are facilitated by peers and other individuals in the workplace through observation and feedback. 20% of learning takes this form, per the model.
  • Experiential Learning: This is the type of informal learning achieved by completing work, and in the model, comprises 70% of how people learn. In general, this type of learning is most effective when the work is challenging.

While the research of social scientists like Morgan McCall and Allen Tough set the basis for our general understanding of 70:20:10 as a reference model, a number of prominent corporations have implemented strategy based on it, starting with Charles Jennings, a chief learning officer at Reuters.

For learning and development professionals, the 70:20:10 model presents a contradiction: if formal employee training represents the least accessed mode of learning, what should the job of a corporate trainer be?

While the development and management of a knowledge base has been the core purview of the corporate L&D department, video offers a new way forward. Leveraging the power and ubiquity of video, corporate training departments can unlock the expertise of the professional trainer and their workforce. By integrating learning inside an employee’s daily workflow, your learning and development department create the most frictionless learning environment possible.

The 10%: Formal Learning

Video is already near ubiquitous in the formal learning setting and it’s easy to see why. From lecture capture at the world’s leading universities to DIY home repair tutorials on YouTube, video offers an unparalleled way to deliver information in a way that is more information-rich, memorable, and engaging than text alone.

With video learning in the corporate environment, learning departments at top companies have been able to slash costs related to the inefficiencies of traditional training, from trainer time to travel expenses. When Microsoft traded classroom trainings for video, they cut their cost per student from $320 to $17 and IBM found that 40% of their training budget was flowing to hospitality and travel companies rather than to the meat and potatoes of learning.

With travel and classroom costs cut with video, learning and training departments can free up resources to devote to social and experiential learning, enabling L&D teams to centrally facilitate and support this extended learning when and where employees need it the most.

The 20%: Collaboration and Feedback

The twenty percent in the 70:20:10 model refers to social learning or lessons that can be learned through observation and interaction with peers and role models. These experiences are often structured but frequently casual and can range from mentorship and coaching to likes and comments in an enterprise social network like Jive or Yammer.

Human resources and learning professionals have a hand in some forms of social learning and can help to facilitate performance evaluations, group discussions and even the interactions that can occur within workshop-type classes. More casual types of interactions might take place within or without the walls of the company office and typically have not been under the purview of the L&D department.

Despite social learning’s many-to-many graph of interactions, trainers have a lot to offer in this realm as well in facilitating, capturing, and curating great social learning moments.

Capturing Your Workforce’s Knowledge and Onboarding New Employees
Social learning becomes especially important in a changing workforce where turnover is the norm. Recorded video offers an easy and powerful way to capture the knowledge of your outgoing employees and transfer it to the team, no matter how complex the subject matter.

For new employees, video can make the onboarding process go much more smoothly. While formal learning materials play a huge part in the onboarding of new employees, so too can a simple introduction to the team. Employee introduction videos are a great way for new employees to introduce themselves to their colleagues and vice versa, in a format that just wouldn’t work in an email.



Mentorship is also an important part of social learning, but what happens when the best mentor is far away? Real-time video conferencing has already proven its ability to keep people connected and recorded video offers the ability for high-touch, asynchronous communication. Both mentors and mentees can have conversations and trade feedback, even when their schedules don’t line up.

Asynchronous social teaching is especially valuable for your top performers who have started functioning as de facto trainers. As “go-to” people, they are constantly asked to balance their desire to help their team function at peak levels with the demands of their individual contributions. Video helps them do just that — enabling them to record their knowledge just once, then focus on their work while their colleagues tap their video as needed for quick answers to their questions.

The 70%: Learning by Doing

There’s little doubt that learning by doing represents the largest and most important component of learning in the workplace. But does that informal structure mean that learning and development professionals have no ability to make it better? Perhaps not, if more formal forms of training are intertwined within the daily workflow.

While on-demand, one-on-one training might seem like the best way to facilitate learning when and where employees need it, few training organizations have the human resources or budget to have on-call trainers available at all times. Without an army of trainers available at all times, the other option is group training.

By its very nature, formal learning is an interruption to work, requiring trainers to “push” learning to employees. Putting aside tasks and correspondence can be a major impediment to the learning process, often making it difficult for employees to carve out dedicated mindshare for learning.

However, by producing formal training materials through on-demand accessible video and empowering employees to record video for asynchronous collaboration and social learning, learning and development professionals can become a unifying force in the informal learning process.



With video content accessible to an employee at all times, an individual can reference both formal and social training just when they need it, allowing them to move through pain points as quickly as possible to return to the task at-hand. Similarly, employees can solicit feedback from mentors and peers, collecting ideas from the best thinkers and not only from those employees who have the extra time to get together in a brainstorming meeting.

Every employee has something your organization needs to know.
Informal and social learning relies on the individual to drive their own learning — to pull down information when and where they need it. By that same token, it also puts the employee in a position of power to contribute to the work around them. Informal learning is a journey that each person experiences for themselves and that experience itself is valuable.

Empowering your employees to journal their experiences on video creates a wealth of knowledge for your organization to be preserved for years to come. While knowledge-capture sessions at the end of employment are great ways to get started with social learning, video blogging offers a strong incentive for both the individual and the organization, for self-reflection and for the preservation of institutional knowledge, respectively.



The production of video in and of itself is an empowering experience and it’s great for your organization.

Embrace Informal Learning and Make it Better

Informal learning at scaleThe 70:20:10 model for learning represents less a prescriptive course of action for your learning and development organization, and more a challenge: how can you supercharge informal learning?

Video training and social exchange offer a great way to make information available on-demand, to manage your organization’s collective knowledge, and to empower employees to share what they have learned with others.

Panopto offers easy-to-use desktop recording and enterprise ready video content management for these organizations and yours. Want to know more about how to scale informal learning with video? Download your free copy of our white paper today.