BIG BUCKS SPENT ON TRAINING,SAYS NEW SURVEY Companies are spending more than ever on training. U.S. organizations with 100 or more employees budgeted $58.6 billion for training in 1997, a five percent increase over the previous year, according to Training magazine's 1997 Industry Report.

Total spending on training has increased a healthy 26 percent since 1992, according to the report, although it isn't clear whether that's a sign of the commitment to training or a strong economy.

Looking at the past five years, the report notes dramatic growth in spending for hardware (audiovisual and video equipment, computers, and teleconferencing equipment) and for training seminars and conferences by outside providers. Outside expenditures as a whole, covering training-related goods and services, jumped 32 percent in the past two years to $13.6 billion in 1997.

According to the study, classroom instruction is alive and well, with 94 percent of organizations still using live instructors. So is computer-based training: More than one third of respondents use CD-ROMs to deliver computer training, 28 percent use disks, 24 percent use their corporate network or intranet, and ten percent use the Internet.

TRAINING DURING DOWNSIZING?: NOT A BAD IDEA Companies that cut jobs but also increase training are twice as likely to report quality improvements, 75 percent more likely to boost worker productivity, and 60 percent more likely to increase operating profits than those that skip the training. The more frequent the job cuts, the better the results in worker productivity, operating profits, and shareholder value.

So says the American Management Association's (AMA) annual mid-year survey of member companies. The survey also found that major U.S. companies created twice as many jobs as they eliminated in the 12 months ending in June 1997--the lowest level of job cuts and downsizing so far in the 1990s.

As Eric Rolfe Greenberg, AMA's director of management studies, put it: When it comes to cutting jobs, "a trimmer is more effective than a buzz-saw. There's an advantage to continuous, incremental change. Naturally, training is a key element in this. Surprisingly, simple cost cutting is not."

Of the 1,168 firms surveyed by the AMA, 73 percent created new jobs, up from 68 percent in the prior 12 months, while 41 percent reported job cuts, down from the previous 49 percent. Downsizing--defined as a net decrease in the workforce --dropped to 19 percent from 28 percent in the previous period and an average of 30 percent in the five-year period 1992 through 1996.

WHAT EMPLOYEES WANT: TRAIN THEM, TALK TO THEM Employees want to succeed but often simply don't know how, according to a report by Watson Wyatt Worldwide, the Bethesda, MD-based consulting firm. Watson Wyatt studied 9,144 employees and found that 83 percent of them understand their company's goals and 87 percent understand their own job responsibilities, but only 43 percent believe they're given the skills to achieve those goals.

Two-way communication appears to be at the heart of the problem. While the study found that 64 percent of employees said they understand and share their company's values and 94 percent understand how their jobs affects customers, only 36 percent said their companies sought their opinions and just 38 percent said thay have the information they need to achieve company goals.

"The companies that will be winners in the 21st century are those that succeed in aligning the goals, behaviors, and skills of their employees with their business strategies," said George Bailey, global director of Watson Wyatt's Human Capital Group. "Workers want to succeed but sometimes just don't know how. And many companies aren't helping them figure it out."

Other findings from the survey: * 61 percent of employees are satisfied with their jobs, but only 32 percent think management makes good decisions and just over half (52 percent) are satisfied with their companies.

* Half of employees are satisfied with their salaries, but only 30 percent see a clear link between pay and performance.

* Just 34 percent said they are rewarded for taking risks and being successful.