Author Profile Picture

Paul Matthews

People Alchemy Ltd


Read more from Paul Matthews

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

Putting informal learning and 70:20:10 to work to boost capability


Imagine for a moment that you're the Chief Executive of a new business, and you're offered a choice of two teams to work in your business.
Team One consists of people who are well-educated, have been on many training courses, and have lots of qualifications. The people in Team Two have done this sort of work before and have proven themselves capable of doing the work that needs to be done in your new business.

Which team would you choose?

It's a question that we have asked CEOs, company directors, and managers, as well as people in L&D and HR in both the public and private sectors.

How did they answer?

99% of the people I've asked that question have picked Team Two.


They all knew that in the moment when a job needs to be done, capability to do the task counts far more than the amount of training someone has done or even the amount of knowledge they possess.

The importance of capability to organisational performance is not just a nice to have, it is business critical. And L&D and HR, and in fact every department must make the capability of people and the organisation a priority if they want their company (and their jobs) to survive in the current and future economy.

One of the things you must do however, is to disentangle the common confusion around the terms capability and competence, and how both contribute in their own way to performance.

I am a firm believer that focusing on performance and results rather than learning or training (controversial for these pages perhaps!) is key to business survival. I am definitely not anti-training; it is an extremely powerful tool when used well for the right reasons. I also believe it is a mistake for L&D, HR and Training to continue to focus on mostly creating content, and then delivering it, either in the training room or online. They have the potential to make a far greater impact than that by focusing on performance as an outcome rather than learning as an outcome.

L&D and HR have key roles in developing capability, both individual and organisational, to improve individual and thus organisational performance. Success in the future for L&D will be about moving away from the passive (and quite often ineffective) role of training order-taker to become a performance consultant, and a major player in improving organisational performance.

But capability can be a slippery concept. That's because it is actually very complex. And a good way of tackling complex concepts is to break them down into their component parts and create a model we can use to explain them. The simple definition of capability that I use is 'Can the worker do the task at the point of work…yes or no?' If not, then why not? As we explore the barriers that stop people being able to perform a task, some common themes emerge and it is these that form the components of understanding capability. These components are:

 •    Knowledge
 •    Skills
 •    Mindset
 •    Physiology
 •    Environment

It may well be that there is more than one component affecting a person's performance. But when you start to understand what the barriers are, you can begin to consider how to remove them and what the costs are – so you can determine if the productivity and performance increases are worth the effort. Will there be an acceptable ROI?

There is too much to cover in just a short blog post, so I'm delighted to be able to offer you free Kindle copies of my latest book 'Capability at Work: How To Solve The Performance Puzzle' which will explain fully how to tackle this challenge for those of us in workplace L&D. I'm also giving away free Kindle versions of my first book, 'Informal Learning at Work: How To Boost Performance In Tough Times'. You don't even need a Kindle to read them – just download the Kindle app and you're good to go! ( valid to 4th April, 2015. If you are too late for the Kindle offer, there is other great free stuff on the website :-)

Paul Matthews is the founder and managing director of People Alchemy. To discuss capability, learning or anything training related contact him via [email protected] or @peoplealchemy.

Author Profile Picture

Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.

Thank you!