The ASTD State of the Industry report is an annual review of workplace learning and development trends. It reviews how the profession performed as a whole, how companies are investing in T&D resources, as well as content and delivery trends. This article will share some of the major highlights, numbers, and trends from the current state of the industry.

  • The report presents data in three groupings: consolidated (all organizations participating in the survey), ASTD BEST Award winners, and newly-added Global Fortune 500 companies. This article focuses on the consolidated figures.
  • The data points used in this report are from 2010; they’re analyzed and reported by ASTD as the 2011 report.

Overall Investment in Learning

Overall, organizations saw investment growth in employee learning and development. ASTD estimates that $171 billion was invested in 2010, an increase from 2009’s figure of $125 billion.

  • Of that figure, about $103 billion was spent on the internal learning function, or 60%.
  • About $68 billion was allocated to external vendors and tuition reimbursement, or about 40%.

At Impact Instruction Group we’re seeing this investment trend as well. Companies are being very selective in which projects to pursue, and we’re seeing greater attention to tying a project’s learning outcomes to business outcomes. Learn more about 5 critical questions to ask when making the business case for a project.

Learning and the Bottom Line

As training professionals we are constantly looking for that return on investment and contribution to the bottom line. ASTD surveyed all organizations on how their learning expenditures compared to revenue and profit results.

  • Learning Expenditures as a % of Revenue: 1.1%
  • Learning Expenditures as a % of Profit: 5.3%

The report doesn’t specifically prescribe what organizations should be spending on learning compared to revenue or profit percentages. We recommend organizations measure where they stand in relation to the survey data and trend expenditures over a 3-5 year timeline.


T&D Staff Reach

The report reviews the reach of training and development staff across the enterprise, such as ratios of staff to employees, content production, and direct expenditure per employee.

  • The average ratio of learning staff to employees was 1:227, taking into consideration the effect of outsourcing on staff resources and availability. This is a drop from 2009 (1:240).
  • The production of learning content decreased slightly in 2010. The consolidated survey shows that the average learning hours made available decreased to 244 hours per staff member, down from 264 hours in 2009.

According to ASTD, “hours of learning content available represents the total number of hours of formal learning content available. This includes live classes, workshops, seminars, online course catalog content, video, and print materials. If the formal training available per learning staff member is within the normal range, it suggests that the learning organization is managing the production and storage of learning content adequately. Too large a figure, however, could indicate inadequate management of the inventory within the learning portfolio . . . or that an LMS platform fails to match the needs of the organization.”

Content Areas

ASTD measures the distribution of content provided by employers, organized into 12 primary topics. Surveyed organizations then report the content amount available by percentage for each topic. The top investment areas tend to reach larger proportions of the employee population, while the lowest investments percentage-wise tend to be for smaller, more specialized audiences.

The top investment areas:

  • Managerial and supervisory content (13%)
  • Profession or industry specific content (11%)
  • Processes, Procedures, Business Practices, Compliance (10%)

The lowest investment areas:

  • Sales (6%)
  • Executive Development (6%)
  • Basic skills (4%)


Live instructor-led classroom delivery still makes up the bulk of formal learning, at almost 60% of formal learning hours. This is almost identical to figures reported in 2009.

Technology-based delivery of learning decreased, accounting for 33% of formal learning hours. ASTD classifies e-learning methods as online and remote instructor-led, self-paced via network, self-paced non-networked, and non-computer technology (such as mobile devices). Mobile device delivery is on the rise and was independently measured for the first time in this report.

At Impact Instruction, we’re receiving more requests for video-based design and delivery. Video is quickly becoming a go-to method, whether as stand-alone pieces, or as part of a larger, blended delivery. The types of design include interview style as well as scripted pieces. Tablet design and delivery is a hot topic in terms of interest, and with the larger organizations we work with, it’s being adopted in targeted groups, or it’s still in the research phases.


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