Cost-Effective Transformation Strategies with Graduate Talent

12 mins

Discover cost-effective strategies for attracting and retaining talent. Explore 70:20:10 and cognitive athleticism models for optimal workforce development.

Companies must come up with new and creative ways to attract and retain talented employees in a constantly changing business environment. This environment is characterised by evolving skills, technology, competition, and career aspirations.

One avenue many businesses have gone down is to look at graduate talent as a way of building an alternative talent pipeline to traditional recruitment methods. Graduates want companies with strong training programs to help them start their careers successfully.

Our guide assists businesses in attracting and training top talent from higher education. They use two effective learning models: 70:20:10 and cognitive athleticism. These models offer valuable frameworks for nurturing talent and ensuring their retention and continued performance. Let's begin by looking at the 70:20:10 learning model. It's a way to protect your investment in new talent.

What is the 70:20:10 Learning Model?

The 70:20:10 learning model drives the idea that new knowledge is best acquired through a combination of experiential learning (70%), social learning (20%), and formal training (10%). This approach challenges the traditional notion that learning only occurs in classrooms or through yearly training sessions. Instead, it recognises that learning happens continuously, all around us. By embracing this model, organisations can tap into various learning opportunities that naturally occur in employees’ everyday experiences. 

This method promotes employees and new talent actively seeking knowledge that is relevant to their roles. It encourages learning to be part of everyday tasks and duties, rather than something separate from them. The interconnectedness of the 70:20:10 model allows different learning experiences to complement each other.

Ultimately, when businesses adopt the 70:20:10 approach, it supports continuous learning within the flow of work, leading to enhanced employee development and performance.

What are the Benefits of 70:20:10 to Attracting Graduates?

Next, we'll examine how this approach can benefit graduates and enhance businesses' attractiveness in the graduate market. 

Respond Quickly to Change 

Businesses integrating learning into their workflow are four times more likely to report agility in responding to business changes. When graduates understand how their learning relates directly to their future job roles, they become more adaptable and innovative. As a result, a culture of change and growth becomes ingrained in the company, making a swift response to business changes the natural course of action.

Attract Outstanding Talent 

To become an employer of choice; organisations must ensure that their learning and development initiatives offer tangible benefits to employees and are not merely a box-ticking exercise. Companies that adopt a 70:20:10 approach are five times more likely to attract top graduate talent. The chance to undergo training and then apply that knowledge in practical situations is crucial in attracting and retaining skilled professionals.

Increased Engagement 

According to a study, 76% of workers are motivated to improve their job performance, and 75% engage in learning for personal development. The 'pull' approach of 70:20:10 empowers learners to control their development. 

Organisations that adopt the 70:20:10 model are three times more likely to observe an enhancement in talent motivation. Instead of waiting for formal training sessions, graduates actively seek knowledge from peers, mentors, and online resources. This self-directed learning approach improves job performance and personal growth, developing a culture of ongoing learning and advancement within the organisation.

Impacts of Remote Working 

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses have embraced a hybrid working model. Organisations employing the 70:20:10 approach have continued to enjoy the advantages outlined here, as professional development is not limited to office settings. In fact, remote graduate learners often utilise the extra time saved from commuting for e-learning. With the transition from in-person meetings to video calls, peer learning, mentoring, and knowledge sharing can easily occur in virtual settings.

What are the Potential Challenges of the 70:20:10 Learning Model?

While the 70:20:10 model brings many benefits for businesses and graduates alike, it is important to understand the potential challenges that can arise that impact its success. 

  • Lack of a Learning Culture - Before implementing the 70:20:10 model, ensuring your company cultivates a strong learning culture is vital. Ideally, this culture should be adaptable to change, particularly when it enhances support for employee learning. Building a robust learning culture requires time and effort, with involvement needed from all levels of the organisation.

  • Lack of Access to Training Tools -  Individuals may find acquiring new knowledge and skills challenging, limiting their ability to adapt and progress without formal learning resources. This lack of access can also hinder opportunities for upskilling and reskilling, which are essential for staying relevant in evolving industries. Additionally, the effectiveness of on-the-job and social learning, key components of the model, depends on having a foundation provided by formal training.

  • Leadership is not Involved - Graduates may struggle to fully embrace experiential learning without their leadership and engagement. Managers' participation is vital in a collaborative environment where knowledge sharing is key. Their active involvement sets a positive example and emphasises the importance of continuous learning to the entire organisation. Additionally, senior management's input in shaping formal training programmes and providing feedback is invaluable for improving the learning experience.

What is Cognitive Athleticism? 

Cognitive athleticism refers to the concept of individuals possessing a high level of cognitive agility and adaptability, enabling them to thrive in rapidly changing environments. In the context of workforce development, it involves prioritising competencies and attributes that drive innovation, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills over traditional hard skills. 

This approach recognises that navigating complex situations and applying knowledge in real-world scenarios is essential for success in today’s fast-evolving workplaces. In the context of Pareto's Project Solutions, this concept of cognitive athleticism holds particular relevance, especially for individuals in roles such as business analysts or change and transformation specialists.

Cognitive athletes are individuals who continually seek to improve themselves, embrace lifelong learning, and collaborate effectively with others to achieve peak performance. They view work not just as a means to an end but as a journey of personal growth and ongoing improvement. 

What Competencies and Attributes Can Activate Cognitive Ability in Graduates?

Next, we'll explore the characteristics and skills that stimulate cognitive ability, examining how this approach can be advantageous for graduates and enhance businesses' attractiveness to such talent. As part of Pareto’s experienced assessment day, we will assess these skills and competencies to ensure a candidate is qualified for a role.


86% of business leaders have reported that many workplace failures stem from a lack of collaboration. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated remote work, and it has reshaped how we collaborate, emphasising the importance of genuine connection based on mutual respect and understanding among diverse team members. 

Effective collaboration is vital for graduate talent to drive innovation and problem-solving. By embracing diverse perspectives and fostering genuine connections, graduates can enhance their collaborative skills and contribute to team success.


The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted people to reassess their career choices, leading to increased introspection and a focus on purpose-driven decisions. This period, often dubbed the ‘Great Resignation’, has witnessed individuals leaving their jobs and industries to seek work aligned with their personal values and aspirations.

Despite initial disruptions, this shift towards meaningful work carries positive long-term implications, with employers and employees prioritising alignment between personal values, career objectives, and organisational missions. Building a team of individuals driven by purpose promises beneficial outcomes for organisations, positioning work as a pathway to self-discovery and growth.

The shift towards purpose-driven work resonates with graduate talent seeking meaningful career opportunities aligned with their values. Organisations prioritising purpose-driven initiatives attract and retain motivated graduates committed to making a positive impact.


In the modern workplace, disruption comes in various forms and is often unpredictable. Individuals need to sharpen their cognitive abilities to adapt effectively. Adaptability means being flexible in managing change, adjusting to different working styles and environments, and letting go of outdated practices. It's essential as employees transition between roles and industries and as organisations respond to shifting markets and technologies. 

Graduates entering the workforce during the pandemic have shown adaptability by starting their careers remotely and gradually refining their skills. They take a proactive approach to learning, drawing on a wide range of resources. By adopting a growth mindset and viewing challenges as opportunities for innovation, individuals can embrace change positively and continuously improve.


Resilience has emerged as a crucial skill amidst the uncertainties of the COVID-19 era, with employees worldwide needing to cultivate it to navigate challenges effectively. Defined as psychological robustness in the face of adversity, resilience overlaps with adaptability and is essential in today's dynamic work environments. Developing resilience enables individuals to confront difficulties positively, develop high-stress tolerance, and maintain motivation. 

Resilience is crucial for graduate talent to overcome challenges and maintain motivation in the face of adversity. Graduates can develop resilience and thrive in challenging situations by cultivating psychological robustness and seeking support from organisations.

Intellectually Curious 

Identifying curiosity is crucial as it signals potential and fosters agile learning and innovation. Intellectual curiosity reflects a deep hunger for cognitive exploration, encouraging questions and exploration beyond job requirements. Research indicates its significant impact on academic performance, especially when combined with conscientiousness. The benefits of curiosity in the workplace include seeking new experiences, fostering creativity, and achieving career advancement. 

Intellectual curiosity drives innovation and lifelong learning among graduate talent. Organisations can empower graduates to seek new knowledge and drive continuous improvement by building a culture of inquiry and exploration.

Emotional Intelligence

In our fast-paced world, emotional intelligence holds significant importance, surpassing even advanced technological capabilities. Over 80% of top performers credit their success to emotional intelligence, highlighting its crucial role, especially during the pandemic. 

Emotional intelligence enhances graduate talent's ability to understand and manage emotions effectively. By developing self-awareness and empathy, graduates can build positive relationships and navigate complex social dynamics in the workplace. 

This people-centric approach, prioritising trust and understanding, boosts engagement and drives business success, evidenced by higher retention rates and improved performance metrics. 

Creative Innovative 

Creativity and innovation are vital components in tackling contemporary business challenges. Creativity involves imaginative thinking, while innovation translates these ideas into practical solutions. Contrary to popular belief, creativity isn't limited to specific roles; it's invaluable for all employees navigating complex business scenarios. 

However, developing a culture conducive to creative innovation is equally crucial. Encouraging experimentation and embracing failure create a safe environment where employees feel empowered to take risks and explore new ideas. Research indicates that workplace innovation enhances organisational performance and boosts employee engagement and well-being.


In the workplace, courage involves facing difficult situations, such as proposing new ideas or implementing changes. It's akin to taking a calculated risk where employees suggest innovative solutions despite potential setbacks. The decision-making process of weighing risks and benefits helps employees refine their skills. 

Embracing vulnerability and discomfort is crucial for growth, as it builds a continuous learning and improvement culture. Authentic leadership encourages openness and empowers employees to take bold actions, driving progress and success for the business.

Courage plays a crucial role in graduate development, growth and professional advancement. Graduates often find themselves needing to propose new ideas, challenge existing norms, or implement changes to improve processes. By demonstrating courage, they can step out of their comfort zones and take calculated risks to suggest innovative solutions, even in the face of potential setbacks.

Critical Thinking 

A key element of critical thinking is reflection. It’s crucial to be open to new ideas and opinions, especially ones which challenge your own. Whilst many people claim to solicit the views of others, they don’t actively seek to ‘stress test’ their opinions. However, understanding opposing views is proven to form richer critical thinking. 

Critical thinking equips graduate talent with the skills to analyse information critically and make informed decisions. By honing their analytical skills and seeking diverse viewpoints, graduates can become effective problem solvers and decision-makers.


Remote working has ushered in a new era of flexibility, extending beyond physical workspaces. Employees now seek autonomy in choosing where, when, and how they work, aligned with the theory of self-determination, which underscores internal motivation for growth. 

Autonomy emerges as a crucial factor in driving performance and well-being, particularly in the context of remote work. Those who embrace autonomy demonstrate self-discipline and accountability, leading to better outcomes and inspiring their peers. 

It empowers graduate talent to take ownership of their work and make meaningful contributions to organisations. By building a culture of trust and autonomy, organisations can inspire graduates to excel and drive success in their roles.

What are the Potential Challenges of the Cognitive Athleticism Model?

Like the 70:20:10 model, implementing it has some potential challenges despite its many advantages to your learning and development strategy. 

Personal Preferences Towards Training 

Individuals have different responses to training programmes. Implementing personalised approaches to accommodate various learning styles and cognitive strengths can pose logistical challenges for large-scale implementation.

Evaluation and Measurement 

Measuring the influence of cognitive training on work performance can be challenging due to multiple factors affecting individual productivity. Developing dependable metrics to showcase effectiveness can pose difficulties.

Time and Resource Constraints 

Introducing this approach demands allocating time for training, a resource often limited in fast-paced work environments. Moreover, obtaining and sustaining essential resources, such as training software or qualified personnel, can incur significant costs.


Sustaining continued engagement with the training programme can pose challenges. Overcoming potential hurdles like waning motivation and integrating these practices into daily workflows necessitates ongoing support and incentives.

Despite these challenges, the potential benefits of cognitive athleticism are significant. By adapting the approach to suit the specific needs and culture of the workplace, organisations can create a supportive environment for employees to enhance their mental fitness and achieve optimal performance.

Final Word on Training Strategies

Organisations need to adapt to evolving skill needs by implementing creative strategies to attract and retain talent. Investing in robust onboarding, learning, and development strategies is essential in today's business environment. 

Our guide highlights two effective learning models, the 70:20:10 framework and cognitive athleticism, offering valuable insights into continuous learning and skill development. While these models present benefits, they also come with challenges that require addressing. However, creating supportive environments that empower talent to thrive and adapt can help overcome these challenges.

Furthermore, incorporating Pareto's assess, place, and train methodology enables businesses to identify competencies that promote cognitive agility for business impact and integrate a robust training strategy, such as the 70:20:10 learning model. 

By leveraging this methodology, organisations ensure they have future leaders capable of transforming projects and optimising resources while safeguarding their investment and maximising its impact. Through this approach, businesses can build a talent pipeline that drives innovation, resilience, and sustainable growth, positioning them for success in an increasingly competitive environment.

Need Further Advice on Training Strategies for Your Talent?

For 25 years, we have been committed to unlocking business potential by attracting, placing, and training talent who will drive their future success. This guide has highlighted the importance of developing effective strategies for helping the next generation of leaders to unleash their promise. At Pareto, we are ready to partner with you to support you in building a strategy tailored to your business and workforce requirements.

To begin developing your strategy or to discuss these learning models further, please don't hesitate to contact our team today.

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