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 potential effects on employer-provided training, the American Society for Training and Development focused its most recent state of the industry report, 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, including hospitals, clinics, doctors’ offices, and home care companies, this segment of the market showed some significant trends.

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 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 also had the highest percentage of eligible employees trained—93.7 percent—and ranked third highest in terms of providing the most hours of training per eligible employee (25.5 hours).

Healthcare joined the finance/insurance/real estate segment as the only two segments that increased outsourcing in 2001; the other seven sectors 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, but still have a way to go to catch up to the technology and agricultural/mining/construction sectors, which spend more than 13 percent of their training time on e-learning.

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 percent and 77.8 percent, respectively. Increases also are projected for their use of e-mail, intranets, LANs (local area networks), and the Internet.

- Not too surprisingly, 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.

- 100 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/virtual community/research/measure/bnch svcs.html, or e-mail benchservice@astd.org. The full report is available through ASTD’s online store, www.store.astd.org.