Bersin & Associates Study Shows Significant Drop in Employee Learning and Development Spending for Second Consecutive Year

Companies reallocate resources to leadership development; reduce in-person training in favor of virtual classrooms and new technologies for knowledge sharing and collaboration

Jan 13, 2010, 09:00 ET from Bersin & Associates

OAKLAND, Calif., Jan. 13 /PRNewswire/ -- Corporate learning and development (L&D) spending dropped sharply in 2009, leading to much leaner budgets and staffs.  This is according to a just-published Bersin & Associates study, The Corporate Learning Factbook 2010: Benchmarks, Trends and Analysis of the U.S. Training Market, which found that L&D spending dropped by 11% in 2009, for a total of a 22% drop over the last two years.  The 2009 drop is the largest ever in spending on U.S. corporate training since Bersin & Associates began analyzing the market in 2001.  In addition, the reduction in spending significantly impacted staffing.  The median L&D staff size fell from 7.0 per 1,000 learners in 2008 to 6.2 in 2009.  

According to Josh Bersin, president, the belt-tightening has forced L&D organizations to streamline and consolidate training functions.  "The past two years have been a wake-up call for L&D.  In order to survive, they've had to improve alignment with the business, centralize learning functions and focus on those training initiatives with the highest impact.  As a result, they're in a stronger position today – as the economy stabilizes and improves – to help their organizations gear up for new programs to support growth."  

Now in its fifth year, the Corporate Learning Factbook is the U.S. training industry's most comprehensive study of corporate training budgets, spending, delivery volumes, staffing, and trends.  In addition to facts and statistics, the study contains extensive market analysis as well as guidelines for learning and development executives to benchmark their organizations and establish key efficiency metrics.  Conducted in partnership with Workforce Management magazine, the study is based on a survey conducted in August 2009.  The survey resulted in data from more than 1,400 organizations of all sizes and across a wide variety of industries.  

Other key findings of the study include:

  • After a decline in 2008, the percentage of training funds directed toward leadership development rebounded to 24% – an indication that companies are moving beyond a short-term, crisis management mode and are looking to strengthen their leadership teams for future success.
  • Although instructor-led training (ILT) remains the dominant delivery method, its use declined from 67% of training hours in 2008 to 60% in 2009.  Some ILT hours were replaced with virtual classroom training (vILT), which uses a live, remote instructor broadcast online or over video.  Use of vILT increased from 8% of training hours in 2008 to 13% in 2009.  It allows organizations to maintain the benefits of live instruction, while avoiding the costs associated with travel and facilities.
  • More companies adopted newer technologies to facilitate learning through knowledge sharing and collaboration.  Blogs and wikis both posted significant gains in 2009, with 14% of organizations using these tools in a learning context.  Communities of practice also remained popular, used by 24% of companies for learning.  These tools are not only cost-efficient but appeal to the collaborative and self-directed learning styles of today's workforce.

The 127-page Corporate Learning Factbook 2010 analyzes a wide range of metrics, including: expenditures per learner, cost per student hour, budget allocations, staff to learner ratios, payroll costs to total spending, technology costs to total spending, and outsourcing practices.  Data is provided by company size and industry segments including, for the first time, a large sample of agencies in federal, state, and local governments.  

"The level of detail and analysis clearly sets this report apart from other studies," said Karen O'Leonard, principal analyst and author of the study. "Other studies available today examine only a small slice of the market such as large enterprises or those deemed 'best' in their categories.  Not only do we use a broad sample of respondents, we explain the reasons a particular trend is occurring and intersperse examples of best practices at named organizations throughout the report."  O'Leonard also emphasized that the Corporate Learning Factbook 2010 is the most current study of the state of learning, based on data collected in August 2009.  

The Corporate Learning Factbook 2010: Benchmarks, Trends and Analysis of the U.S. Training Market is available at no cost to all Bersin & Associates research members. Non-members can purchase the study for $595. For more details, including an executive summary and a table of contents click here.  

Karen O'Leonard will present the study findings at Bersin & Associates annual research conference, IMPACT 2010: The Business of Talent®, April 6-8, 2010 in St. Petersburg, Florida.  The presentation will include detailed metrics and best practices from the study against which organizations can compare their learning and talent management efficiency and effectiveness.

Bersin & Associates also offers customized benchmarking for learning organizations that leverages The Corporate Learning Factbook and the firm's other research.  This includes defining metrics, developing and executing a benchmarking plan, and providing data analysis and reporting to key stakeholders.  For more details, contact Donna Tomlinson at 561 455 0622, x223 or

About Bersin & Associates

Bersin & Associates is the only research and advisory firm focused solely on research in enterprise learning, talent management, and talent acquisition.  The company's WhatWorks® membership program offers actionable guidance, improves operational effectiveness, and delivers business impact to companies in all industry segments.  

Bersin & Associates research members gain access to a comprehensive library of best practices, case studies, benchmarks, and in-depth market analyses designed to assist professionals in making fast and confident decisions.  Members also have direct access to analysts and a wide range of tested tools and models to address both strategic and day-to-day challenges.

More than 5,000 organizations worldwide have used Bersin & Associates' research and advisory services to guide talent and corporate learning strategies.  Research areas include planning and strategy, learning programs and delivery, talent management, leadership development and succession planning, talent acquisition, technology and infrastructure, informal learning, social networking, measurement and analytics.

For more information, go to or call 561 455 0622, extension 223.

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