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Written by: Alex Andrews, CPHR

Organizations spend an incredible amount of money developing their people. The aim of which is to help them do their jobs better. What we forget, however, is that individuals who join our organizations are full of life experiences learned elsewhere and we do very little to draw out the inner expert and get the information they already know.

But why is that? In a recent study conducted by the Human Resources Institute of Alberta and published in their March 2016 Trend Report, it showed that formal group or classroom style training managed by learning and development departments, whether internal or external, is still the number one method organizations are using to deliver training1. This model, though serves it purpose and can be beneficial, does not always appeal to the wider population.

The typical process goes something like this; someone is hired on, they do a bit of work, take some training, go back to do some more work, and go back to training. They continue to repeat the cycle throughout their careers in the hopes of getting better and better at what they do. However, that doesn’t always work for everyone. In 2015, Millennials will become the majority representation of the workforce2. They enter the workforce with a higher level of comfort with technology and are more prone to using technology to learn and consume new information.

Simply sitting them in a classroom with an instructor may not always render the most beneficial for them. A learning and development model which fosters collaboration and sharing through mentors, focus groups and online social platforms will be more advantageous to the rising generations and yield the greatest return on investment.

A model that supports this well is known as the 70:20:10 model.

Though this model is originally credited to Morgan W. McCall, Michael M. Lombardo and Robert W. Eichinger, while at the Center for Creative Leadership, Lombardo and Eichinger later released a study where they observed high-performing managers learned best with a blended approach3. They later published in their book, The Career Architect Development Planner, that learning and development success comes from about 70% peer based, on-the-job experience, working on tasks and problems with others; about 20% from feedback and coaching others; and 10% from structured, courses and reading. Therefore, formal learning interventions make up a relatively small part of the overall learning experience, whereas social learning or influences are upwards of 90%.

Mobile Learning

This raises the questions as to how should we consume more information and learn.

With the increase in use of smart phones and tablets, how individuals are receiving information and learning, along with their mobility, has increased the necessity to challenge the learning delivery model. Mobile learning, called mLearning, is an approach defined as learning through the use of personal electronic devices using multiple contexts, plus social and content interactions4.

mLearning replaces the use of books and heavy coursework binders with mobile technology and access to content via various internet sites. It features instantaneous sharing, collaboration, and feedback delivery. mLearning is virtually accessible from anywhere.

Social Learning

One powerful mLearning tool, which has increased due to these technologies and the shift in more Millennials entering the workplace is the use of online, social learning platforms over more formal classroom structures. Social Learning, however, is not a new concept. Human beings are animals and as such, have relied on interpersonal relationships for passing on learning for millennia. In the workplace, we can learn best and retain more through conversation and social relationships, sharing ideas, thoughts, skills, and knowledge with those we associate with on a daily basis.

Social learning tools are being used in several different ways, but the essential element is that it becomes more than just a one-way online platform to share ideas – Individuals need the ability to collaborate and discuss opinions.

Implementing and encouraging the use of social learning can be a powerful tool in developing the future leaders and employees of the organization. However, just like any implementation and change initiative, constant feedback from the end user is paramount.

Lastly, please do not misunderstand; formal classroom training is tremendously valuable and has its place, it must, however, be designed and built as part of an overall training and development strategy and, therefore, creating a learning support mechanism in the workplace rather than just learning itself. Social learning can help solve business problems because a lot of the learning can take place within the day-to-day business and we do not have to take people away from their roles in order to learn, which can be expensive and time consuming. Perhaps the problem can be solved by a simple search on the company site, or by some coaching by someone in another geographical location. Though this model is not a one-size-fits-all recipe, it is a guide that focuses on bringing out the inner expert in all of us and supporting learning from those who experience it on a daily basis. 


  1. CPHR Alberta Trend Report – March 2016 – http://www.CPHR
  3. Lombardo, Michael M; Eichinger, Robert W (1996). The Career Architect Development Planner (1st ed.). Minneapolis: Lominger. p. iv.
  4. Definition of mLearning -

Alex Andrews, CHRP is a member of the HR leadership team for one of Canada’s largest agricultural and construction equipment dealership groups where he oversees the organizational development and training programs. He can be reached at