Good News for L&D: Learning Spending and Hours Are Growing

Friday, December 15, 2017

Some positive information for the L&D community: ATD’s 2017 State of the Industry report (sponsored by LinkedIn Learning and finds that organizations had, on average, a direct learning expenditure of $1,273 per employee in 2016. This represents a $21 increase from 2015, when the spending per employee was $1,252.

The direct learning expenditure figure includes L&D staff salaries (including taxes and benefits), travel costs for L&D staff, administrative costs, nonsalary development costs, delivery costs (such as classroom facilities and online technology learning infrastructure), outsourced activities (including consultants and their services), and tuition reimbursement. It is important to note that direct learning expenditure doesn’t include the learner’s lost time or travel while engaging in learning activities.

More bright news emerges in the report. It isn’t just that spending is increasing—the amount of time that employees spend on learning activities is growing, too. The average number of formal learning hours used per employee reached 34.1 hours per employee in 2016. In 2015, employees used 33.5 learning hours, on average. Formal learning hours are defined as those that are standalone hours (not embedded in work activities).


How is learning being delivered? ATD found that 45 percent of these learning hours used in 2016 were technology based. Not surprising, the most popular type of technology-based learning is self-paced e-learning. A recent research report from ATD and the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp), Next Generation E-Learning: Skills and Strategies, found that 88 percent of organizations use self-paced e-learning. Most non-technology-based hours were delivered in the live, traditional, face-to-face classroom.

But what about valuable on-the-job learning experiences that are a part of daily work? ATD also asked State of the Industry participants about the extent to which their organizations relied on on-the-job learning. Almost two-thirds (65 percent) reported using it to a high or very high extent. Only three percent of organizations reported no on-the-job learning. On-the-job learning includes coaching by managers and peers, knowledge sharing (either in person or using technology such as social media and collaboration software), rotational training (when employees rotate through different parts of a company or different job roles), job shadowing (which gives employees the opportunity to shadow or observe another person’s work), and stretch assignments (job assignments beyond the employee’s current skill level that are meant as development tools).

The full 2017 State of the Industry report is available free to ATD members (nonmembers may purchase the report) at

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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Among the many take-aways from this 2017 edition of the State of Industry Report: +66% companies are now putting very high or high emphasize on On-the-job learning
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