Published on 2016/10/14

Four Key Trends Driving the Corporate Learning and Development Market

The EvoLLLution | Four Key Trends Driving the Corporate Learning and Development Market
Investing in corporate learning reaps significant benefits for employers, but it’s critical for higher education institutions to stay abreast of how the space is changing and evolving.

The Learning and Development function is just like any other business process; it must evolve as employees and organizations mature, change and grow.

To stay current in today’s constantly shifting and uncompromising environment, learning is a key driver for many organizations to maintain their competitive edge. There are several trends that are impacting learning for the remainder of 2016 and into 2017.

1. Corporate spending on learning is still on the rise

The growth in corporate spend for training services grew in 2015 at approximately 6.25 percent, as compared to the estimated growth in GDP. This means companies are more willing to spend for training as a percentage of revenue. This trend has been escalating over the last five years.

Forbes reported that spending on corporate training has grown to over $70 billion in the U.S. and $130 billion in the world. ATD’s State of the Industry Report identified that the average direct expenditure per employee is $1,299 and notes that businesses are providing employees with an average of 32.4 learning hours per year.

In terms of where dollars are being spent, management and leadership development lead the way. In fact, year-to-year leadership development spending grew by 14 percent in 2014, which is the highest growth in a decade. Money is also being spent on learning technology. Learning Management System (LMS) spending grew by 21 percent in 2014, indicating that there is a major “technology replacement” cycle beginning for employers. (Bersin by Deloitte, 2015)

 2. Shift in Content Delivery

Today only 16 percent of learning and development spending is allocated to instructor delivery versus 21 percent in 2011 and 33 percent in 2006. (Bersin Corporate Learning Factbook, 2015)

Although more than half of all training and learning hours continue to be instructor-led classroom training, which has a long track-record of being effective, organizations are beginning to shift their focus to other ways of learning, including virtual instructor-led, online self-study, on-the-job, apprenticeships and collaboration.

ATD’s State of the Industry Report indicates the breakdown on how corporate learning is delivered:

50% instructor-led classroom

9% instructor-led online

5% instructor-led remote

19% self-paced online

2% self-paced non-networked computer

4% self-paced print

2% mobile technology

1% non-computer technology

There are two primary reasons for this shift.

First, informal learning is now taking a lead in how employees want to learn. Flexibility in where and how they learn is increasingly important. Mobile learning is not a means of sharing learning, but video has emerged as the dominant approach to delivering content over a mobile device. How many times have you gone out to YouTube to learn how to do something? According to, video-based training is becoming so popular that about 98 percent of all organizations will include video in their digital learning strategies in 2016.

What’s interesting is that studies show that individuals are not willing to watch videos that are longer than four minutes. Bite-sizing or “chunking” content is key when delivering this learning.

Second, 30 percent of full-time employees do most of their work somewhere other than the employer’s location. Why not provide them with learning that they can consume anywhere, anytime?

It’s all about engaging the learner. Content and delivery need to cater to the distinctive learning styles, pace and interests of individuals. Understanding the psychology of learning helps as one size doesn’t fit all; people learn at different rates and in different ways.

 3. Mentoring and coaching taking a role in learning

Mentoring programs are quickly becoming one of the most effective ways to build new leadership. When asked, “how would you like to learn to lead,” more than 60 percent of millennials surveyed said, “I’d like a mentor.” (Bersin by Deloitte, 2015)

Salesforce found that 95 percent of leaders who have mentors were promoted within 18 months. Employees are interested in learning from their peers and managers as much as from experts.

In addition, executive coaching is a $2 billion-a-year industry that shows no signs of slowing down, with 77 percent of organizations planning to increase their use of executive coaching, according to Jeff Nally, who cited statistics from Executive Coaching for Results (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2007).

Formal mentoring and coaching programs are an excellent way to augment and build upon the formal learning provided by organizations.

4. Workplaces are better aligning learning with organizational goals

Corporate executives began looking for ways to transform their organizations into entities that create value and have a meaningful impact on the performance of their businesses. It’s the focus on how learning leaders can better engage the adult learner to ensure we move from knowledge to skill to application.

It’s not enough to teach knowledge, skills or behaviors just for the sake of it. Training must connect to big-picture, corporate-wide strategies and objectives. There has to be a direct correlation between the learning that you’re providing and how it will allow employees to achieve their business goals.

Any program or technology investment should involve input from business leaders to ensure that learning is driving retention, engagement, and performance. By starting with the end in mind, this helps ensure the best possible solution implemented.

According to a study published in the International Journal of Academic Research in Business and Social Sciences, organizations that train and develop their employees see improved profitability “while cultivating more positive attitudes toward profit orientation.” For the employees on an individual level, learning and development improves expertise of their position, the company’s goals and the relationship between the two.

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