WHILE JUST 16 PERCENT of the 270 organizations participating in the Benchmarking Service for the American Society for Training and Development's most recent state-of-the-industry report fell into the finance/insurance/real estate (FIRE) category, 26 percent of them were recognized as “Training Investment Leaders” in 2001. This means they were identified as being in the top 10 percent of the group in terms of their training investments, time, reach, and sophistication. In fact, they spent almost double per eligible employee and provided twice as many training hours as the Benchmarking Service average. This is a big jump for the industry; only 10.3 percent of FIRE participants qualified as Training Investment Leaders in 2000.

ASTD President and CEO Tina Sung says that while it's good to see companies continuing to invest in training, “What is even more encouraging is the projection by Benchmarking Service organizations that their training expenditures will continue to increase in the near future.” The FIRE segment was at the lead of this trend, with average training expenditures of 2.7 percent of payroll in 2001.

Companies also are noticeably increasing their investment in e-training, from 8.8 percent of total training hours in 2000 to 10.5 percent in 2001 on average — the FIRE segment on average came in at 10.4 percent in 2001; those who were identified as training investment leaders reported 2001 figures of 27.4, up from 18.7 percent in 2000. ASTD's director of research credits the increase to “the dual shocks” of the recession and the September 11 attacks.

FIRE companies also reported an eligible employee-to-trainer ratio of 213:1, the lowest average of any group in the survey. While a follow-up survey in the fourth quarter of 2001 found that participants had on average lowered their ratios another 5 to 10 percent, the decrease was due more to employee layoffs than the addition of training staff. While smaller and medium-sized companies reduced their employee-to-trainer ratio between 2000 and 2001, larger companies increased it.

Other key findings for the finance/insurance/real estate segment:

  • Employer-supported conference attendance and tuition reimbursement were practiced by 100 percent of participating FIRE companies; 88.6 percent provided a training resource center.

  • 82.3 percent of training time at FIRE companies was spent in the classroom; and 10.4 percent via learning technologies. Only healthcare joined FIRE in increasing its outsourcing expenditures in 2001.

  • While 73.3 percent of FIRE organizations were using multimedia for training in 2001, that number is projected to jump 20 percentage points by 2004. Teleconferencing also is projected to bump up from 53.3 percent in 2001 to 66.7 per-cent in 2004; and CD-ROM use is projected to grow from 42.9 percent in 2001 to 64.3 percent in 2004. Interestingly, while e-mail, intranet, and LAN use for training are all projected to grow during the three-year period for FIRE firms, the percentage of these companies using the Internet for training stays a flat 78.6 percent.

  • From 1998 to 2001, the FIRE segment spent the most money on courses on technical products and procedures (19 percent), followed by product knowledge (12.7 percent), informational technology skills (11.1 percent), customer relations (9.7 percent), and interpersonal communication (8.2 percent).



ASTD's Benchmarking Service also has been looking into companies' return on investment from their educational and training investments. Its 2002 Learning Outcomes Report, which evaluated a total of 19,938 courses and 456,000 individual assessments of learning outcomes from 1998 to 2001, found that learners' self-assessment of how much they learned is predicated largely on how useful they believe that learning will be to them.

For example, learners gave the highest ratings to sales and dealer training, new employee orientation, product knowledge training, and courses on information technology skills. Training on things like quality, competition, and business practices got the lowest initial evaluations.