Sara Yamagata
70-20 Conversation with Sarah Yamagata, Head of Learning & Development
RGF Group
Tokyo, Japan

Question 1: Describe an innovation you or your team have recently implemented involving experiential and/or social learning. What was the organizational challenge you were addressing?

RGF Group (short for Recruit Global Family) is Asia’s leading recruitment services provider, with more than 1,300 employees in 46 offices across Asia. In line with the group’s ambitious expansion plans of becoming the #1 Recruitment Firm in the World by 2020, L&D has been identified as an increasingly important priority. Areas of focus include developing market mastery and specialization across the board, as well as building a strong leadership and management pipeline to support rapid growth.

One of RGF’s Managing Directors took the lead role in sponsoring strategic L&D Initiatives, the centerpiece of which is hosting a series of high-level Academies focused on advanced sales management and leadership/management master classes for the Executive Search, Management Search and Selection businesses. Working with external training partners, we held 6 Academies between 2014 and 2015.

When I joined RGF as Head of L&D in early 2016, the Academies had been garnering very positive feedback from participants and Business Unit (BU) Heads alike. However, the general consensus was that in their current format, the Academies needed to be reviewed to align with changing business priorities. Our Business Unit Heads also wanted to see more concrete and measurable ROI from the regional Academies.

We did not have an effective way to measure ROI and support the learning application phase once participants returned to their offices in different countries. Historically, we sent surveys to gather some indication of how new skills were applied, but there was no way to keep the group connected virtually to continue their shared learning, or to hold people accountable for effective practice and performance improvement on the job.

Realizing we needed to do a better job supporting social and experiential learning, and measuring impact, I decided to implement the 70-20® learning activation platform with cohorts going through the two Academies in Greater China, Japan, Singapore and other countries in the region this year.

Question 2: What was new and unique about this intervention? Describe the results.

My objectives for integrating 70-20 into the programs addressed the formal, social and informal learning aspects (10-20-70 learning model) of the program. We needed to:

  •  Increase participant accountability for applying formal learning (the 10%) from the Academy on the job (the 70%) and document their progress and results;
  •  Support continued social learning (the 20%) among participants as they practice new skills on the job and share their experiential learning (the 70%) through the 70-20 challenge feed;
  • Facilitate virtual feedback and coaching for participants provided by their managers, mentors, and peers in the business (the 20%);
  •  Accelerate performance improvement and sharing of results with BU Heads across the group.

Academy participants worked on four sequential challenges in the four months following the instructor-led residential program. The first two challenges focused on Client Mastery/Business Development and the final two challenges related to Leadership, Coaching and Time Management.

For the RGF Selection Leadership Academy, the participant engagement and validated results were outstanding:

  •  90% of participants were engaged in working on and posting progress made on one or more of the four program challenges.
  •  The average Learning Outcomes Index® (LOI) on the four challenges was 80%, 91%, 90% and 62% (participants scored each of their progress posts on a 0 to 100-point scale).
  •  Completed challenges were validated by the participants’ managers as showing improved job performance on 42 out of 43 challenges that reached 100 points on the LOI.
  •  Positive impact from participants’ achievements were reported in: Customer Satisfaction, My Own Performance, Improved Efficiency, Service Quality, Team Effectiveness, and Colleague Performance.

After each challenge, highlights from our Sponsor View of 70-20 Challenge Analytics were shared with the business leaders in each office which had direct reports involved in the learning experience. With the individual data available on the 70-20 Dashboard, I was able to spotlight the participants who demonstrated high levels of engagement, progress and results. These people are the Learning Agile Emerging Managers who are taking responsibility for their performance and career development at RGF.

Question 3: What was your team’s greatest insight or learning from the experience?

While I was hoping that participants would take the 70-20 Learning Transfer System and post Academy program seriously, admittedly, I was completely taken by surprise with the level of engagement from both groups. Having come from a sales background, I understand and appreciate just how difficult it can be for these consultants to implement learning back in the work environment, given that reaching sales targets always tends to be first priority.

My colleague Ryan Maniago, the Asia-Pacific L&D Manager, had this insight: “If there’s one thing that the Academies have shown us – it’s that the Group is capable of organizing and delivering world-class programs at the highest levels. But, as part of “formal training”, delivering such programs only contributes 10% to all learning that happens within the Group. That’s just not enough. We had to assume a more active role in supporting learners on the more critical aspects of the learning process, i.e. on-the-job learning (70%) and social learning (20%), and the 70-20® platform is a great enabler in helping us fulfill that role.

Question 4: What advice would you offer others making the shift toward the 70-20 mindset and changing the workplace learning culture in their organizations?

It was encouraging to see participants take their own development seriously and participate in the sequence of challenges. We also learned that setting clear expectations for application of learning is an important step for participants and their managers.

For example, the first three challenges were presented as mandatory and completion had to be validated by the participants’ managers. When I made the last challenge “Optional”, the engagement rate dropped significantly. What this taught me was that as a learning professional, I need to communicate the need for accountability to practice and apply learning on every challenge.

We also need to continue to support and encourage participants every step of the way and not take our foot off the pedal. Accountability is always a two-way street and leaders need to be actively involved in the learning process along with the participants to ensure that there is a significant ROI for all parties involved.