Spending on training, learning, and development (TLD) continues to decline slowly in Canadian organizations, according to the results of the Conference Board’s 10th Learning and Development Outlook survey.
Canadian organizations in 2008 spent an average of $787 per employee (or 1.5 per cent as a proportion of their payroll) on training, learning, and development. In real dollar terms, this level of expenditure represents a 40 per cent decline over the past decade and a half. Furthermore, employees in 2008 received an average of 20 hours training, down from 26 hours just four years ago – a 30 per cent decline.
“Compared to our leading competitor nations, our investment is modest. Furthermore, training, learning, and development spending may not be immune to the pressure of the global recession,” says Alison Campbell, senior research associate. “For the first time since the Conference Board began collecting this data, more organizations are expecting a decrease in their TLD budgets than an increase in the coming year.”
The report, Learning and Development Outlook 2009: Learning in Tough Times, also provides insights about how organizations use informal learning to augment employee skills. A majority of the 218 respondents believed that more informal learning was occurring in their workplaces than in the past. Respondents estimated that on average 56 per cent of all learning in their organizations occurred informally, a significant increase from previous survey findings. Respondents to the Learning and Development Outlook survey in 2004 said 33 per cent of all learning occurred informally; this number rose to 42 per cent among respondents to the 2006 survey.
More than half of responding organizations indicated that they have altered their TLD strategies in response to growing skills shortages. However, two major groups in the labour force-mature workers and new Canadians- are not being widely-targeted by employers for training. More programs for these groups could help address skills shortages in the labour force.
Learning and Development Outlook 2009: Learning in Tough Times summarizes the results from 218 responding organizations. The survey was done in partnership with The Canadian Society for Training and Development. To read the full report, visit
Roughly one in four (23 per cent) senior executives interviewed in a recent Accountemps survey said their companies' professional development programs have been reduced from a year ago. But while some companies are making cuts, others are making enhancements: 31 per cent of respondents indicated that their firms have actually bolstered their training initiatives during this time.
Executives were asked, "Compared to 12 months ago, how, if at all, have your company's professional development programs changed?" Their responses:
- Expanded significantly ................... 10%
- Expanded somewhat ...................... 21%
- No change ..................................... 45%
- Been reduced somewhat ................. 17%
- Been reduced significantly ............... 6%
- Don't know ..................................... 1%
"While companies are looking for ways to manage expenses, they should carefully consider all their options before eliminating or scaling back training," says Dianne Hunnam-Jones, president for Accountemps' Greater Toronto operations. "Keeping employees educated can help your firm maintain a competitive advantage and also bolster recruitment and retention efforts."
Hunnam-Jones adds, "Providing employees relevant training will help them enhance their skill sets and subsequent contributions to the firm. Additionally, employees who feel supported professionally are more likely to remain loyal to their firms when an improved economy stimulates new job opportunities."