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Learning In Tough Economic Times

August 26 2009 - A new report from the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD) shows continued commitment to learning in the current tough economy with learning budgets holding up well compared to previous recessions.

The ASTD/i4cp report, Learning in Tough Economic Times: How Corporate Learning is Meeting the Challenges also shows that substantial reduction in learning resources correlates with lower market performance and decreased learning effectiveness.

Four in ten respondents reported that the state of the economy had forced their organizations to reduce learning resources to a high or very high degree. However, the report indicates that extensive cuts to learning programs or content are the exception not the rule. More than two-thirds (67.2%) of those surveyed said they were looking for ways to be more efficient and effective with tighteed budgets. 37.9% said their organizations were emphasizing learning to a greater extent during the recession.

According to the report, only a few more than a quarter of survey respondents considered that their learning function's ability to meet organizational learning needs had suffered to a high or very high degree in the current recession.

Other major findings included:

  • 52.8% had restricted travel to a high or very high degree
  • 52.3% had cut expenditure on conferences, seminars, and workshops to a high or very high degree
  • Newer and cheaper methods of delivering learning, including e-learning and other online options, were gaining popularity

The report also comments on best learning practices being used in the downturn and points to three emerging themes:

  • involving subject matter experts in the learning process
  • leveraging technology better
  • raising awareness of cost issues

Specifically, the report identifies the trend towards crafting learning around smaller blocks of content by honing their focus and presentation times, and the realization that learning ultimately reaps rewards from improved employee engagement, retention, and overall organizational strength.

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