ATD Blog

ATD’s New State of the Industry Shows Trends in Learning Spending, Hours

Friday, December 4, 2020

The average organization had a direct learning expenditure of $1,308 per employee in 2019, according to ATD’s 2020 State of the Industry. To reach those conclusions, ATD’s researchers analyzed self-reported data from 283 organizations representing a wide range of industries, company sizes, and locations. AllenComm and Allego sponsored the 2020 State of the Industry.

The $1,308 per employee is a small (less than 1 percent) increase from the $1,299 spending seen in 2018, so learning spending has held steady. The ATD research team looked closely at where the direct learning expenditure went and concluded that it fell into three categories: internal services, learning suppliers, and tuition reimbursement. Internal services included in-house development, delivery and administration expenses, and talent development staff salaries. Learning suppliers provide consulting services; external content development and licenses; and outside, nonstaff trainers. Tuition reimbursement expenses included programs and courses at colleges and universities as well as continuing professional education and certification. In 2019, organizations directed 66 percent of direct learning expenditure toward internal services. Twenty-four percent went to learning suppliers, and the remaining 10 percent went to tuition reimbursement.

ATD noted that the data in the 2020 State of the Industry is from 2019. Therefore, next year’s report will provide greater insight into the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on learning. ATD will collect 2020 learning data in summer 2021. The International Monetary Fund has referred to the virus’ economic impact as “unlike anything experienced in our lifetimes” and “the worst recession since the Great Depression, and far worse than the global economic crisis.”


On a positive note, learning hours in 2019 averaged out to 34.7 hours per employee. That is the equivalent of slightly more than four eight-hour workdays. Formal learning hours only capture time spent on standalone learning activities, which are not embedded in on-the-job work activities. The figure was 34.0 hours in 2018, so 2019 saw a small increase in the amount of learning being consumed by each employee. Compared to previous years, more hours are being delivered by technology, especially e-learning and virtual live classrooms. These technologies now offer increasing opportunities to engage learners (for example, streaming video, adaptive technologies, and forums interaction with fellow learners). They can also reach geographically dispersed learners while saving travel costs. According to the ATD’s E-learning: The Evolving Landscape report, all organizations today use e-learning.

The full report is available at A free webcast will be held on December 10, 2020, at 2 p.m.

About the Author

Maria Ho is the manager of ATD research services. She serves as ATD's senior research program strategist and designer and provides oversight and direction for all of ATD's internal and external, industry specific, and market research services. Prior to joining ATD, Maria was a public policy researcher, data analyst, and writer at the Pew Charitable Trusts in Washington, D.C.

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Hi Maria - Any chance you have stats broken out for the public sector?
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