When employees seem to have a deficit in an area that affects business, the first response is to offer training on related skills.

Not enough sales? Train employees on the ins and outs of the product to better communicate the benefits to potential buyers. Inconsistencies in-house? Time to run through processes and procedures again. While these may be the solutions to these problems, you can’t train your way out of everything.

So how do you figure out when training will solve your business problem and when it won’t?

Meet the 70/20/10 Principle

You may have heard of the 80/20 rule — that 80% of results come from 20% of the potential inputs. The key is to figure out the most effective inputs to ensure that your organization allocates its resources to the right outputs.

The 70/20/10 principle is similar in that it looks at the role training plays in the employee learning process.

In this model, 70 refers to two things. First, it says that 70% of business problems are related to your employees and their ability to execute their roles within your organization. And second, it says that 70% of learning is by doing, so employees learn best by performing their work tasks.

The 20 refers to how much employees learn from one another — 20% of skills development and mindset changes come from employee’s relationships with their peers, co-workers, and leadership.

Finally, the 10 refers to the amount of employee learning that comes from structured training. You read that right. It turns out only 10% of employee learning is affected by the training they take.

So how can you harness that 90%?

The first step is to look at the issue and identify the real cause. For example, looking at the sales example mentioned earlier, suppose employees aren’t hitting sales goals because they don’t have good demonstration models, there aren’t enough salespeople on staff, or it’s unclear who is responsible for closing the sale. By identifying the real cause you will be able to equip employees with the most effective training materials.

As a training professional, you’ll best serve your organization by being clear about when employee development is a valid solution and when investments should be made in other areas. When training doesn’t work, explain why and give the options to make a difference in meeting organizational objectives. Make sure these options are reasonable based on your organization’s needs and finances. When training is the answer: you can knock it out of the park and make a real difference.