Low talent Investment

70:20:10 Rationalises Low Talent Investment

The recent 2015 Global Human Capital Survey (Bersin) highlights culture, engagement, leadership and learning and development as the major priorities for HR over the next year. The same survey comments that organisations are currently least prepared in these areas for the challenges ahead. All these areas relate directly to the development and deployment of talent.

I quite like an unattributed quote I saw recently “without people an organisation is just a depreciating asset.”

I think right now such is the level of anxiety in the C Suite where future value will come from you that could successfully argue the following points with your Executive team

• Talent is the engine behind the creation of all value
• Talent will the resource of scarcity in the future

If you accept these assertions then of course Talent is a strategic people issue. Talent Management (A McKinsey’s coined term) is an attempt of a strategic and tactical response to those 2 points.

Talent management should also include some joined up thinking and integrated people processes designed to attract, develop, motivate, and retain productive, engaged employees. But we shouldn’t forget that the goal of talent management is to create a high-performance, sustainable organisation that meets its strategic and operational goals and objectives.

So perhaps the strategic nature of having the right talented people at the right time might be understood but what is the quality of the organisational strategic response?

If you strip it back to the basics the Talent Management needs the following 3 things.

1. A clear strategic alignment: Talent has to be linked closely to value creation and competitive advantage, and so do the people processes that support Talent deployment.

2. Some decent metrics: Understanding your performance and potential bench strength number and trends.

3. Targeted training and development: Specific interventions and programmes that are well crafted to add value in themselves by supporting value creation and strategy implementation.

And point 3 this brings me to 70/20/10.

Does it not strike you as odd that so many organisations and people professionals have embraced the idea of 70/20/10 even though the science is thin and there is no empirical evidence that it is true?

If you are not familiar with 70/20/10 Morgan McCall and his colleagues working at the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) are usually credited with originating the 70:20:10 ratio. McCall, Lombardo and Eichinger’s survey of high-performing managers revealed that:

“Lessons learned by successful and effective managers are roughly:

• 70% from tough jobs and experience
• 20% from people (mostly the boss)
• 10% from courses and reading”

If you accept the critical importance of talented people to the success of an organisation then the learning process that nurture, develop and deploy talent are also important.

To be fair it does seem plausible that more learning potentially happens on the job than off it but surely it must depend on context?

For example not all the things that people learn on the job are useful or necessarily constructive. And once people have learned the basics of the role and are quite experienced neuroscience suggests people will tend to rely more on their habits and hard wiring compared to their new learning.

Even if for the sake of argument we accept that it is potentially true then surely the tacit assumption implied is that all people are effective learners.

Well given that we seldom take the time to give people the knowledge and tools to manage their own learning and assume they will pick things up “by osmosis” It is it overly optimistic to assume all are agile learners.

And I suggest your experience of the “real world” also confirms that this is definitely not the case. We may all have the potential to learn but not everyone is interested in doing so. Learning is partly innate but is heavily influenced by our sense of self- direction and motivation.

As a practitioner rather than an academic I can accept there is no empirical evidence for 70/20/10 but to weigh up learning by doing versus learning from others or attending a course seems a false choice.

All good learning programmes should provide opportunity for all 3 modes of learning, and in my experience from designing and running our leadership programmes it is impossible to predict where most of the learning value will be for each trainee.

Some it is from discussing ideas with others, some it is being immersed in an experience and for some it is reflecting on their learning later with their boss.

Unfortunately I have a feeling that this model has become popular among management everywhere, because not always seeing a tangible return on investment senior managers are often reluctant to spend much money on general training and development for their employees. So this 70-20-10 model gives Senior Managers the ‘intellectual excuse’ they need to keep under-investing in their employees’ education.

Yes people do spend most of their time on the job so anything that improves their ability to usefully learn from that experience and apply it gets my vote. We still have a large “knowing versus doing gap” in our managers and leaders and nurturing and developing Talent is in my view is far too important to leave to chance. Talented people need access to new experiences and diverse viewpoints to develop their mind-set, knowledge and skills. They also need supporting systems, processes and tools to enhance their learning and be given the space and opportunity to apply it in the world.

If we are serious about nurturing talent then we have to recognise that in today’s frantically paced work environments the 70% component won’t always happen automatically and needs attention and support from people leaders to generate the most value.