We've gone from post — Cold War growth and healthy budgets to economic uncertainty and instability and shrinking bottom lines — welcome to what pundits have dubbed “The Next Economy.”

Concerned over the potential impact of the Next Economy on employer-provided training, the American Society for Training and Development focused its most recent state-of-the-industry report, which was released in January, on what's happening to training in this less-than-hospitable environment.

While only 8 percent of the 270 organizations participating in the Benchmarking Service for the ASTD report fell into the healthcare industry — which is defined as including hospitals, clinics, doctors' offices, and home care companies — this segment of the market showed some significant trends.

Hey, Big Spenders!

While healthcare organizations were at the bottom of the heap in terms of total training expenditures as a percentage of payroll (1.4 percent, as compared to a high of 2.7 percent seen in the finance/insurance/real estate segment), they also showed the largest increase in total expenditures as a percentage of payroll from 2000 to 2001. They had the highest percentage of eligible employees trained — 93.7 percent — and they ranked third highest in terms of providing the most hours of training per eligible employee (25.5 hours).

Healthcare and finance/insurance/real estate were the only segments to increase outsourcing in 2001; the other seven sectors actually showed reductions in training dollars going to outside contractors. And e-learning is catching on, albeit slowly: Healthcare organizations used learning technology for 11.4 percent of their training time.

Another encouraging note is that 11.1 percent of healthcare organizations participating in the Benchmarking Service in 2001 were recognized as “Training Investment Leaders,” which 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 was a significant bump up from 2000, when only 2.6 percent of the Training Investment Leaders were healthcare companies.

Other key findings for the healthcare segment:

  • The 77.8 percent of healthcare organizations using multimedia for training in 2001 is projected to jump to 88.9 percent by 2004, while teleconferencing and CD-ROM use is projected to remain at its 2001 levels of 66.7 and 77.8 percent, respectively. Increases also are projected for healthcare organizations' use of e-mail, intranets, LANs (local area networks), and the Web.

  • Healthcare companies spent the largest percentage of training dollars on professional skills courses (23.7 percent); this was the only sector to rank this type of course highest. The other top four types of courses for healthcare were new employee orientation, customer relations, occupational safety/compliance, and managerial/supervisory skills.

  • One hundred percent of participating healthcare organizations supported conference attendance as a training practice. Just over 94 percent also provided tuition reimbursement and a training resource center.

If you're interested in participating in ASTD's Benchmarking Service, go to www.astd.org/virtualcommunity/research/measure/bnchsvcs.html, or e-mail benchservice@astd.org. The full report is available through ASTD's online store, www.store.astd.org.