PUSH-ANCHOR-PULL: Upskill Your Workforce Effectively with an Evolutionary New Learning Design

Explore how the 70/20/10 design has evolved

If your organization is like most, your workforce landscape has been changing in recent years. There are probably many leaders in your organization who are seeking to upskill your workers’ capabilities to match a rapidly changing workplace environment. The specific capabilities your leaders have identified might be different from other organizations and industries, but they can probably be categorized into:

  • Subject matter expertise (i.e., how to use specific software)
  • Managerial (i.e., how to provide effective feedback)
  • Executive (i.e., how to think strategically)

Yet regardless of the specific capabilities needed, your organization still needs to know how to effectively upskill your workforce. One model that has proven to be useful for decades is the 70/20/10 design.

A Traditional Design- 70/20/10

The basic tenant of this model is that traditional, formal learning (such as eLearning and virtual courses) shouldn’t account for 100% of a worker’s learning. The learning required for upskilling actually is split into three types of experiences in order to attain mastery:

  • 10%: Formal learning
  • 20%: Informal learning
  • 70%: Learning while working

10Formal learning should only account for 10% of the total time required to master a skill. Structured courses (whether in-person, webinar, or eLearning) provide workers with the core knowledge needed to understand a topic. These formal experiences are often assigned, delivered, and reported through a Learning Management System (LMS).

20 Opportunities to apply and practice skills should account for about 20% of learning time. In these experiences, workers use scenarios and case studies to practice and apply what they have learned. This creates a bridge between a concept they’ve learned and how to apply it in the workplace.

70 Learning within the flow of work should account for about 70% of learning. This is when accuracy (how well you do a task) and fluency (how fast you do a task) increase over a longer period of time. Workers leverage their colleagues, job aids, and experience to improve their work performance.

Limitations of the 70/20/10 Design

The 70/20/10 design is a great way to frame the amount of time and effort to spend learning in different ways. However, from a learning design perspective, it doesn’t provide an adequate framework into what those learning experiences should be.

An Evolutionary New Learning Design: Push-Anchor-Pull

The Push-Anchor-Pull (Hamilton & Hamilton, 2020) model takes the 70/20/10 model to its next evolutionary step by focusing on the intent of each phase. This focus guides what learning experiences need to be developed and how they are accessed in each phase.

  • PUSH: Learn and build core knowledge (10%)
  • ANCHOR: Practice the skills learned (20%)
  • PULL: Apply and sharpen skills within the flow of work (70%)

Push

The organization pushes learning by assigning it to workers and then tracks the results and completion rates. Often, eLearning courses are assigned through an LMS (Learning Management System) or assessments are assigned by a third-party vendor. In any case, workers are notified typically via email that they are required to complete the learning that is pushed to them by a target date. Their managers or system program owners often get an automated report or access to a dashboard with current completion rates.

This structured and often mandatory learning is designed to build required worker competencies. In this way, the organization can validate that the workforce has certain core knowledge- which is often required for federal and state regulatory compliance.

Anchor

Once workers understand the content, they need to practice applying those new skills. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways including:

  • Coaching and mentoring
  • Role-playing (in-person or virtual)
  • Software simulations
  • Virtual micro-games/branching scenarios
  • Guided activities with reflections

To be successful, this often takes twice as long as simply learning the content. It is through using the learned skills in safe, no/low-risk settings that workers build mastery and confidence.

Pull

After workers have learned and practiced their new skills, they need to start using them in their workflows. As with any newly learned skill, there will be some areas that some workers struggle with at different times. To support their performance, workers need to be able to pull resources from easily accessible learning pathways that meet multiple intents and modalities within the flow of work. These performance support materials include assets like

  • Interactive templates to use newly learned skills in the flow of work
  • Micro-games, activities, and quizzes to apply new knowledge
  • Infographic job aides to quickly review procedural steps
  • Short videos to rapidly review how to apply a skill
  • Links to resource pages to get granular details
  • Online courses to further build background knowledge
  • Blogs, books, and podcasts to stay current on trends

Workers access these just-in-time resources as needed to maintain and improve their new skills and capabilities. As workers seek and pull the learning resources they need, they become more engaged and empowered in their skills and capabilities.

Reflect on This: What’s Your P-A-P Ratio?

Now that you’re familiar with the Push-Anchor-Pull model, take a moment to reflect on the ratio your organization provides learning experiences for each phase.

According to best practices, your P-A-P Ratio should be close to 10:20:70 (that’s 10% Push, 20% Anchor, and 70% Pull)

What percentage of time do your workers spend doing each of the following?

  • PUSH: Building core knowledge (Target: 10%)
  • ANCHOR: Applying and practicing skills (Target: 20%)
  • PULL: Sharpening skills within the flow of work (Target: 70%)

Example A: 90:10:0 P-A-P Ratio

Organizations with traditional learning may have a P-A-P Ratio of 90.10.0. The focus here is on a knowledge dump with the presumption that if workers have been exposed to what to do, then their performance will improve. In this case, most of the learning time (90%) is focused on eLearning courses and only a brief time (10%) is available to practice skills learned. There are no performance support resources available (0%).

Example B: 40:20:40 P-A-P Ratio

Organizations that better meet their workers’ upskilling needs may have a P-A-P Ratio of 40.20.40. The focus here is more balanced and provides opportunities for workers to learn, practice, and sharpen their skills. However, the amount of time building their core knowledge (40%) is the same as their time for performance support (40%). This may mean that there is initial proficiency followed later by errors or little additional growth because there is not enough ongoing support available.

Example C: 10:20:70 PAP Ratio

Organizations that best meet their workers’ upskilling needs may have a P-A-P Ratio of 10:20:70. The focus here is truly balanced to provide opportunities for workers to initially learn, then practice, and finally spend most of their time sharpening their skills. This P-A-P Ratio is evidence of a learning culture in which workers are encouraged and empowered to grow by continually seeking, applying, and sharpening their skills.

The Push-Anchor-Pull framework was developed by Johnny Hamilton and Theresa Hamilton (2020).

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Learning in the workplace is transforming from many factors: COVID-19, AI, Big Data, Adaptive technologies, and more. We explore how these intersect with business impacts, innovation, design, pedagogy, and marketing from the perspectives of designers, managers, and executives.

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Johnny Hamilton

Johnny Hamilton

As an award-winning learning innovation thought leader, writer, and learning architect/designer, I’m helping design and build the future of workplace learning.

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