Table of Contents

2019 ATD State of the Industry Report

state of the learning and development industry

Each year, the Association for Talent Development publishes its annual State of the Industry Report. The data is gathered from organizations across the country and around the world who report on things such as average amount of money per employee spent on professional development and the average number of hours that employees spend in formal training. It can offer some useful data points against which you can benchmark your own organization’s professional development strategy.

In this podcast, we talk to Sarah Schillen, Director of Research at ATD Puget Sound, and look at the ATD 2019 State of the Industry report. We take some time to discuss the data, how it was captured, and surprises we encountered while sifting through the findings. We also take some time to discuss how smaller organizations can capture and learn from similar data.

Listen using the player below. Please leave us your thoughts in the comment section or on twitter @train_champion.

Conversation With Sarah Schillen

Heather Snyder: Hello, and welcome to the Train Like You Listen podcast, a weekly short podcast for learning and development professionals. I’m Heather Snyder. And today we are talking about the 2019 ATD State of the Industry Report with Brian Washburn and Sarah Schillen. Sarah, we like to start things off with a six-word summary that describes us today. What is your six-word memoir today? 

6-Word Introduction

Sarah Schillen: Given our topic today, I’d say “I love nerding out on data”. Brian, what about yours? 

Brian Washburn: I love that. For me, I would say I “really prefer research-supported training practices”. How about you, Heather? 

Heather Snyder: Mine is “learn the past, better your future”. 

Brian Washburn: We are all nerdy. I think that is my conclusion. (CHUCKLING)

Sarah Schillen: (CHUCKLING) Love it.

Brian Washburn: Let’s start this off. But, Sarah, thank you for joining us. I met you in our local ATD chapter. You’re our Director of Research for ATD Puget Sound. And so I thought that you’d be a really good person to help us, kind, of digest some of the findings that emerged from the State of the Industry Report. But before I jump in there, you know, anytime that we take a look at research, when we take a look at the ATDs State of the Industry, is there anything that people should be keeping in mind about the methodology and what this can or can’t tell us?

What Can and Can’t ATD’s State of the Industry Report Tell Us?

Sarah Schillen: Yeah, absolutely. I think there are a lot of things to keep in mind. One specifically is that this is one organization’s study and one small sample, right? And so there are a lot of questions left unanswered just in that regard. So, for example, we don’t know who answered and what the role of their scope of the organization was and was this consistent across all organizations?  So there’s a lot of trust built into that. And then I think the other key note just in general about this report is that it’s always a look back. And so it’s a benchmark for what we have been doing, and it tends to be more valuable as we move forward and continue to look back and have that cross-sectional data over time.

Brian Washburn:  I think that’s a really good reminder that this isn’t a randomized sampling of potential respondents. This was voluntary, right? So that’s their sample size are those who volunteered answers. 

Heather Snyder: So Sarah, when you’re looking through some of these findings, was there anything that really jumped out at you?

What Was Remarkable from ATD’s 2019 State of the Industry Report?

Sarah Schillen: Several things jumped out at me more specifically at a high level as opposed to digging granularly into the data, I think it’s really interesting that there’s such a happy focus on separating the BEST Award winners. So I think that these organizations are set up to be successful. And they’re definitely is something that we can look at and be, kind of, inspired by.

But I also think there are plenty of smaller organizations that have leaner teams and are doing really cool things in the talent management space in more of a scrappier innovative way. And I don’t think that L&D professionals should feel discouraged by that. So I think that definitely is something to celebrate and I actually would challenge ATD to celebrate those innovations more diversely across different organization types and biases.

Brian Washburn: Did you have any thoughts on some of the specific numbers that were coming out or did any of the specific numbers, whether it is, you know, hours per employee or amount spent per employee, things like that. Do have any– were there any numbers that jumped out at you that you’re like”hmm, that’s really interesting”?

What Specific Data From the Report Surprised You?

Sarah Schillen: Yes, absolutely. So one specifically that stood out to me, was that instructor-led classroom learning is still approximately 53% of learning hours available. And that’s slightly up from the year prior. I anticipate that this number will go down, moving forward into the future. But it really shocked me that it is still that high.

Brian Washburn:  That is always an interesting conversation in terms of why hasn’t instructor-led training been, kind of, snuffed out by the availability of rapid-authoring e-learning tools and things like that. Do you have any thoughts in terms of– now you said maybe that’s going to go down in the future. Any thoughts about why the instructor-led is still so high?

Sarah Schillen: Yeah. It seems like primarily the focus is on interpersonal skills and leadership skills, at least what I could glean from the report. That those are kind of still big areas of focus. And I think that organizations are still wrestling with how do we teach those skills in a way that’s sustainable and doesn’t require the classroom? I certainly don’t think that those skills can’t be taught outside of a traditional classroom, but we need to be really innovative as learning designers to make that happen impactfully. 

Heather Snyder:  So Sarah, you and Brian are both very involved in your local ATD chapters, and I know several folks are involved in their own local ATD chapters, or maybe even other organizations. How could we be collecting better data to influence their effectiveness?

How Can We Improve Data Collection in the Field of L&D?

Sarah Schillen: I think it’s really important to listen closely and listen carefully. So listen for, you know, questions that are coming up repeatedly in your conversation with leaders in your organization. And what are some of those questions that repeatedly are occurring, where the answers aren’t able to be supported by data right now? It doesn’t mean that the data doesn’t exist or that it can’t exist. But what are those patterns that you’re seeing and how can you potentially or realistically leverage data that is available or could easily become available to start to answer those questions? 

Brian Washburn: Do you have any examples, Sarah, from our own local ATD chapter and the annual survey that we do around, you know, what we’re doing as a local chapter to collect good data and use that to impact the way that we do things?

Examples of Good Data Collection by Our Local ATD Chapter

Sarah Schillen:  Yeah, absolutely. So over the last couple of years in my experience with our data as a chapter, there were some questions that we just kept hearing over and over. What kind of education level are our members at? And what is their tenure with their organizations? Or what’s their span of control in their roles so that we can start to dig into what are the programs that make the most sense for that audience? We previously didn’t have any data around those pieces of identification for our members. We started capturing that in our post-event surveys, as well as in our annual survey.

Brian Washburn: That’s really interesting and that goes back to one of your initial points in terms of things that jumped out at you for the national State of the Industry is just how it was broken down. And mostly it was broken down by best organizations versus all respondents for their survey. 

Sarah Schillen: Mm-hmm.

Brian Washburn: Whereas if you slice the data differently, you might be able to draw different action items from it. 

Sarah Schillen: Yeah, absolutely.

Heather Snyder: Great. That’s great information. 

Get to Know Sarah Schillen

Heather Snyder: We always like to end our show with a few fun-to-get-to-know-you questions, by using a speed round. Sarah, are you ready? 

Sarah Schillen: So ready. 

Heather Snyder: What is your go-to food before you give a presentation? 

Sarah Schillen: In the morning, it’s a breakfast sandwich and the afternoon, Qdoba.

Brian Washburn: Ooh, I like how she broke it–. So Sarah mentioned that we need to break down our survey data by different ways of collecting data. I love how she answered that in terms of breaking down a morning presentation versus afternoon. I love that. Thank you, Sarah.

Sarah Schillen: (LAUGHING)You bet.

Heather Snyder: Is there a book that you think the L&D professionals should be reading? 

Sarah Schillen: I mean, I think L&D professionals should be reading books first of all, yes. I just actually ordered a book titled Brilliance by Design after reading about it on getAbstract. What really stood out to me is that it’s centered around designing experiences, as opposed to data dumping or knowledge uploads. And so I’m really looking forward to those creative ways to apply that in the classroom and outside of the classroom as well. 

Heather Snyder: What’s one piece of training tech you can’t live without it? 

Sarah Schillen: Zoom. Absolutely same. I use it for everything. I use it for presentations, for team meetings, for ad hoc collaborations for sharing screen story mediums. I use it all day. So great. 

Heather Snyder: We love Zoom too. Well, thank you, Sarah. This was very informative and great information. 

Sarah Schillen: My pleasure. 

Heather Snyder: That’s all for this week. Make sure you never miss an episode of this podcast by following Train Like You Listen on Spotify, iTunes, or any major podcasting service. We want to hear from you. Leave us a comment on the blog or tweet us @train_champion.

This week’s podcast is sponsored by Soapbox.  Sign up today for a free demo at

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