Training Industry: Trends and Perspectives


Training Industry shares their insights on the North American training market

Training Industry researches, publishes and tracks the intersection of business objectives and the role of learning and development. This work includes profiling thousands of training companies each year and releasing Top Training Companies lists in 12 categories, highlighting training vendors with notable strengths and unique capabilities to meet the needs of the L&D practitioner. Training Industry also gathers substantial market intelligence through primary research and other analysis, which represents the input of thousands of L&D professionals across a range of functions and industries.

Training Industry’s Supplier Directory, operated in partnership with, connects professionals to a searchable database of training providers, products and courses, listing more than 4,000 companies globally. This article highlights trends likely to influence organizational learning in North America and globally, based on observations and original research.


Corporate training spends 40 percent on external resources

Of the $161.1 billion spent by companies in North America on training in 2017, $38.5 billion, or 24 percent of the total, was allocated to external programs, resources, vendors, courses and tools. A further $25.1 billion, 16 percent of the total, was spent on direct course tuition, including reimbursement programs.

Of the money spent on external resources, 72 percent went toward courses, with the remaining spend allocated for a variety of outsourced services, content development and other uses.

Total North American Training Spend, 2017: $38.5 Billion


NA Total Spending 2017

Learning is a collection of systems, not just a series of events


Learning and development professionals operate in an increasingly complex environment. Educational technology investment (comprised both of direct investments in companies but also of company mergers and acquisitions) continues at a robust pace: Several estimates of total educational technology (edtech) investment in 2017 exceed $9 billion (USD), with dramatic year-on-year increases in each of the past five years.



Learning leaders share common challenges


L&D professionals operate with limited resources – a finite budget, defined by a business reality. Learning leaders must pick the right initiatives and ensure they are effectively aligned to business goals. 

Learning leaders are expected to evaluate effectiveness, to manage the outcomes of the investments they manage. 

In L&D, one of the tasks driven by this need is to create systems to gather and evaluate data and to use these data to make decisions that improve performance.

The impact of learning continues beyond the learning event. Our responsibility is to improve employee performance, so sustaining training’s impact is important to the training professional and the company.

Having the support of management is, perhaps unsurprisingly, important to the ability to deliver a successful, ongoing learning initiative. Obtaining this support can be complicated by the fact that some learning initiatives may exist over a longer timeframe than the tenure of an executive internal champion, but it can be mitigated by making sure program outcomes align closely with core business outcomes.

The challenge of content relevancy refers to the need to provide training content that is current, appropriately curated, timely and perceived by learners to be relevant to their jobs.

One of the most significant challenges for the learning leader is to manage the quality of the learner experience across modalities, particularly as new and additional modalities are introduced. The support for and momentum behind training initiatives can be undermined if employees perceive training as becoming an obstacle to job performance. If there is a perceived conflict between doing a job and taking time to be trained for the job, line managers may resist supporting workers’ training. Learning leaders can address this challenge by structuring training in a way that makes it accessible and relevant, so that the conflict in prioritization of training versus job performance is minimized.


Top 8 Challenges for Learning Leaders


Challenges for Learning Leaders


The learning and development professional can reshape the organization


Well-designed corporate training programs are efficient, cost-effective and impactful to business performance.

Historically, L&D objectives have been defined to align with macro performance indicators – individual or departmental performance of specific tasks or objectives. But new Training Industry research points to more transformative opportunities for L&D.

Learning programs are more complicated to manage, due to growth in the number of modalities and ever-smaller “classes.” As the delivery of training continues to evolve and be transformed by advances and changes in learning technologies, we continue to move closer to being able to deliver individualized learning experiences – both to improve learning program effectiveness but also to meet learner expectations. This trend is reflected in the perspectives of most L&D professionals – 70 percent say multiple modalities are crucial to training.


Number of modalities used in a training programme


In today’s learning environment, 59 percent of training classes are smaller than 25 people. Nearly a quarter of classes (23 percent) are smaller than 10 people.


No. of Modalities Used in a Training Program


In the research report “Women’s Access to Leadership Development: A Tale of Two Experiences", for example, Training Industry analysts confirmed that a significant gender gap exists in women’s access to, and perceived outcomes from, leadership training. But more so, the analysis reveals what L&D can do to address the issue and connects it with business performance. “Multiple third-party analyses demonstrate a correlation between gender equity and business performance,” says Taylor. “The report’s recommendations take the logical next step and point out how learning and development can, by narrowing the gender gap, contribute to business outcomes.”



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Training Industry provides research reports, webinars and reference materials, all focused on supporting the leader of training and improving the business outcomes of learning programs.

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Courtney McIntosh

Courtney McIntosh is the Site Manager for She attracts and converts target visitors and continually optimizes and expands the product to better help connect training buyers with the right information and opportunities.