The Ideal Learning and Development Strategy for You and Your Firm

The Ideal Learning and Development Strategy for You and Your Firm

Most leaders agree that employee recruitment and retention is the #1 issue facing us today.  At the same time, employee growth and development is our talents’ top priority – especially in professional services.  

Why is it then that most firms don’t have a formal or strategic employee learning and development program?

Connecting these dots is a direct path to greater organizational growth, attractiveness, and profits.  

To get to where we want to be, we can leverage both proven models and innovative practices.  


The 70/20/10 Model

The 70/20/10 learning and development model works, especially in professional services.

The idea is for 70 percent of our time to be “on-the-job” training with challenging stretch assignments focused on future needs and growth goals, 20 percent with 1-on-1 supervisor coaching and mentoring, and 10 percent with relevant outside training, coursework or reading.  

To put this in context, let’s assume we want to formally teach and develop our talent only 25 percent of the time.  This would be 40-hours of a typical 160-hour work month. In this scenario, the remaining time would consist of work on routine assignments with previously mastered skills.

If we apply the 70/20/10 rule, 10-hours per week would be focused on learning and development and would generally breakdown into 7-hours of a stretch assignments, 2-hours of supervisor coaching, and 1-hour of outside training.

Does this look like a typical week for your employees?  

Even if we wanted to reduce the formal learning and development by-half, would our employees routinely have 3 to 4-hours per week of planned stretch assignments, 1-hour of coaching with supervisors, and 30 minutes of relevant outside training?  

For many organizations, this may still not be the case.  


“As leaders, if we aren’t instilling a culture of learning and development, creating capacity for supervisors, and incentivizing the behaviors we seek, how can we really expect to have fully engaged, growing, and loyal talent?”

–Peter C. Atherton  


You Are Not Alone

The war for talent is real and pace of change is accelerating.

Leading today can be both busy and consuming – but our efforts need to take us, our teams, and our organization to a better place.  To compete and win, we all need to adapt. Larger firms need to be more agile. Smaller firms need to systemize. Firms who grow through mergers and acquisitions need more cohesion, while those favoring organic methods need to be more entrepreneurial.


“It’s better to tap into larger resources – some located much closer than we think.”

–Peter C. Atherton

Leaders cannot (and should not) take this all on alone.  It’s better to tap into larger resources – some located much closer than we think.


Peer-to-Peer Learning for Employees

Peer-to-Peer learning is a method where engaged peers learn from and with each other.   

Internally, Peer-to-Peer learning can take place in a variety of employee resource groups (ERG).  These can be technical or functional in basis (i.e., process engineers, quality control advocates, project managers, principals, etc.) or have a personal interest basis (i.e., young professionals, working parents, veterans, empty-nesters, etc.).

The idea is to bring together peers and their ideas to build community, comradery, connections, collaboration, and solutions across offices, regions, and divisions to improve both performance and culture.

The design of a group’s charter is essential, as is the need for safety, trust, and effective facilitation.  ERGs can also begin with outside facilitation and then be transitioned after a 6, 9, or 12-month period.


Peer-to-Peer Learning for Leaders

As much as ERGs can bring out the best in our organizations and provide critical insight, it is not enough for leaders who are tasked with continuously positioning their teams and organizations for success.  

For most leaders, external peer-to-peer learning is the key to greater growth and development.

Such opportunities can take the form of:

  • Executive coaching
  • Formal or informal outside board of directors
  • Attendance at roundtable events
  • Participation in mastermind groups

There are advantages and benefits to each – and all can apply.  


“The idea is for leaders to consistently surround themselves with others who share common goals, but have a diversity of experiences, circumstances, ideas, and perspectives.”

–Peter C. Atherton


The idea is for leaders to consistently surround themselves with others who share common goals, but have a diversity of experiences, circumstances, ideas, and perspectives.

Goals and strategies are important.  The 70/20/10 model helps guide supervisor engagement and employee growth and development.  Peer-to-Peer learning helps us connect and unleash the power of many. Successfully combining these, however, is ideal for building vertically and horizontally strong organizations positioned to thrive.

Leaders: Leave the status quo, continuous overload, and the threat of disruption and displacement to others by prioritizing more effective learning and development for you and your firm.


To your winning,

PS – Are you a leader who wants to take your engineering, architecture, or construction-related firm to the next level?  Learn more and apply to become part of The AEC Leadership Mastermind.

PSS – Do you want to learn how to excel and prevent burnout in you and your organization?  Check out one of the most important chapters in “Reversing Burnout” for FREE by clicking HERE.

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Pete Atherton

About the Author

Pete is the President and Founder of ActionsProve, LLC, author of Reversing Burnout. How to Immediately Engage Top Talent and Grow! A Blueprint for Professionals and Business Owners, and creator of the I.M.P.A.C.T. process.  ActionsProve works with professionals and business owners to create greater growth and profits through more effective employee attraction and retention, impact, and branding.  Prior to founding ActionsProve, and for more than 20 years, Pete was a very successful and accomplished professional engineer.  Pete sold his engineering firm ownership to focus on designing systems for you and your organization to grow and succeed in more relevant and effective ways.  For over a dozen years, Pete has also been serving in multiple capacities in the non-profit sector to achieve both local and global impact, and is a co-founder of the 100 Men Who Care chapter for Knoxville and the 100 Men Who Care chapter for Southern Maine.

For a more expansive biography and experience summary.

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The Ideal Learning and Development Strategy for You and Your Firm