Study Shows Spending Holds Stable for Talent Development

By Bill Leonard Dec 23, 2014
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The latest statistics compiled and released by the Association for Talent Development (ATD) revealed that corporate spending for employee training and development programs has held steady for the past two to three years. The ATD 2014 State of the Industry report found that businesses spent an average of $1,208 per employee on training during 2013, which is an increase of $13, or 1 percent, from 2012.

“Our research shows that training and development remains a very stable field as organizations continue to invest in developing the job skills of their workers,” said Laurie Miller, director of research services at ATD. “It’s clear from the report results that employers understand the value of investing in the development of their staffs.”

Respondents to the ATD survey reported that, on average, almost two-thirds (63 percent) of their organization’s training and development (T&D) budgets were spent on internal costs, such as T&D staff salaries, travel and other delivery expenses (e.g., classroom facilities and online infrastructure). The report also revealed that slightly more than a quarter (27 percent) of T&D budgets were spent on outsourced activities, including consultants and services, content development, and programming from outside providers. Tuition reimbursements accounted for the remaining 10 percent of T&D budgets.

In addition to examining employers’ expenditures on training, ATD researchers gathered data on program content and how businesses deliver T&D programming to employees. The survey respondents ranked the top three content topics as mandatory and compliance, managerial and supervisory, and professional or industry-specific training. These three topics accounted for more than one-third of employer-provided T&D content, according to the survey results.

Surprisingly, the report found that approximately 55 percent of worker training is still instructor-led and classroom-based, and that number jumps to nearly 69 percent if technology-based options are included in that calculation, such as online courses and remote-based training (i.e., videoconferencing).

The survey respondents reported that, during 2013, 38.5 percent of training programs were delivered using technology such as the Internet, satellite and mobile communications. Compared to the two previous years, this was a decrease from 39.2 percent in 2012 and only up slightly from 37.3 percent in 2011. According to Miller, the demographics of the survey respondents may have had some effect on the technology usage numbers.

“Only 24 percent of the survey respondents were from large employers [10,000 or more employees], with the remaining 76 percent split fairly evenly between small [fewer than 500 employees] and medium-sized companies [500-9,999 employees],” she said. “Research has shown in the past that large employers are more likely to use technology-based delivery options, because they tend to have the infrastructure and employee populations that are much more widely dispersed.”

Even though mobile technology has received a lot of attention from media outlets as a developing business trend, the ATD report revealed that employers delivered only 1.5 percent of their T&D programming through mobile platforms in 2013.

“Our research only tracked formal training programs, and right now, many employers just aren’t reporting training that is delivered through mobile platforms. A lot of companies just aren’t formally tracking the hours employees spend using mobile-based training,” Miller said. “I think this will change and is sure to increase as mobile platforms become more available, and employers begin collecting more data on how their employees access and use mobile-based training programs.”

The results of the ATD report are based on a survey of 340 organizations of various sizes, industries and locations. Skillsoft and the Ken Blanchard Companies sponsored the research and publication of the report.

Bill Leonard is a senior writer for SHRM.

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