$824 to train isn’t enough, Conference Board says

Study looks at learning investment

With investment in employee training staying flat over the last few years, Canada is at risk of falling behind many other countries when it comes to innovation, according to a report on learning and development released last month by the Conference Board of Canada.

The report, Learning and Development Outlook: Moving Beyond the Plateau — Time to Leverage Learning Investment, notes that average training investment has increased from $798 per employee in 2001 to $824 per employee in 2003.

As a percentage of payroll, training investment has stayed relatively constant, from 1.57 per cent in 2001 to 1.55 per cent in 2003.

In comparison, per-employee training investment in the United States averaged $1,135 in 2003. As a percentage of the payroll, training spending by U.S. employers represented 2.34 per cent in 2003, up from 1.9 per cent in 2001.

Of the 206 Canadian organizations that responded to the Conference Board survey, two-thirds said their training budgets are adequate to meet learning needs, compared to eight per cent that said more than adequate, and 22 per cent that said the budget is not enough.

Half of the training investment goes into the same four categories of training content identified in past years. These are: professional skills training (14.7 per cent of all training spending), management or supervisory skills training (12.7 per cent), information technology skills training (9.8 per cent) and technical processes and procedures training (nine per cent). Others on the list are:

•occupational health and safety or government-mandated training (7.5 per cent);

•interpersonal communication training (7.1 per cent);

•new employee orientation training (6.9 per cent);

•customer relations training (6.8 per cent);

•executive development (6.7 per cent);

•product knowledge training (6.3 per cent);

•quality, competition and business practices training (4.7 per cent);

•sales and dealer training (4.6 per cent); and

•basic skills training (2.2 per cent).

Most organizations make training available to full-time staff (92 per cent) and part-time staff (88 per cent). Only in half of the responding organizations is training given to contract staff as well.

The most common learning practices include on-the-job training, tuition replacement, conference attendance and lunch and learns — practices seen at more than three in four of responding organizations. Formal training accounts for 67 per cent of the training that takes place and 80 per cent of available training dollars on average. Informal accounts for one-third of overall training and 20 per cent of the training budget.

When it comes to leadership development, two-thirds of responding organizations said they identify people with high potential and inform them of it. Seventy-seven per cent of organizations provide these individuals with better learning opportunities.

External off-the-shelf training, in-house leadership programs and one-on-one coaching are the most oft-used learning practices in leadership development. However, most respondents are ambivalent about the effectiveness of the leadership development programs they use: 58 per cent said they were somewhat effective, and an equal share (19 per cent) either found them very effective or didn’t know.

One in three surveyed organizations said they have a mentoring program (half do not, with the remainder intending to introduce such programs). Of these, 28 per cent make them available to everybody, 26 per cent reserve them for high-potential employees, and 55 per cent make them available to special subsets of employees such as managers, executives, new hires or employees in specific divisions.

Latest stories