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Key Benchmarks From ATD’s 2019 State of the Industry

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

According to ATD’s 2019 State of the Industry, the average organization spent $1,299 per employee on direct learning expenditure in 2018. The State of the Industry is released every year by ATD Research and provides benchmarks for the talent development industry. This year’s report is sponsored by American Management Association International.

Efficiencies and Expenditures

The statistics in the report are based on self-reported data from a diverse group of 318 organizations, which provided data from fiscal or calendar year 2018. The $1,299 per person is close to the 2017 spending of $1,296 per employee. Direct learning expenditure can be divided into three categories: internal services, learning supplier expenses, and tuition reimbursement. Internal services include in-house development, delivery and administration expenses, and staff salaries. Learning supplier expenses include consultants, external content development and licenses, and workshops and training programs provided by non-staff. Tuition reimbursement expenses include programs and courses at colleges and universities as well as continuing professional education and certification. In 2018, 62 percent of direct learning expenditure was directed toward internal services; just over a quarter (27 percent) went to external services. The remaining 11 percent went to tuition reimbursement.

Top Content Area

So, what were organizations focusing on? Managerial and supervisory content has held the top spot for the last several years in terms of the percentage of the learning portfolio dedicated to it. It’s unsurprising that organizations are concerned about managerial skills. The ATD report Bridging the Skills Gap: Workforce Development and the Future of Work finds that nearly two-thirds of talent development professionals, thought their organizations, were experiencing a “gap” in managerial and supervisory skills.


Learning Hours

In 2018, each employee used 34 hours (slightly more than four eight-hour workdays) of formal learning. Formal learning refers to learning that stands alone and is not embedded in work activities. Learning hours have also held quite stable—the 2018 figure is almost identical to the 2017 one. ATD found that slightly more than half of learning hours were delivered in the traditional, live, face-to-face classroom.

A Word About Benchmarking

The data presented in this report will aid readers with benchmarking their organizations’ learning expenditures and activities against those of other organizations. To make benchmarking comparisons more meaningful, readers should review the data by industry and workforce size groupings when possible.


However, readers should be aware that all figures reported here are averages across groups, and the circumstances faced by their own organizations may be different from those facing the average participating organization or even the average organization in their industry.

Get the Report and Learn More

The full report is available at ATD is also hosting a free webcast on January 29, 2020. Register here.

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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