Training magazine has published its 34th annual Industry Report that is based on a survey of its database of organizations with 100 or more employees, asking them questions about training expenditures and activities. The 2015 study has 777 respondents which is typically a good size sample from a statistical standpoint but I would question the reliability of this data given that it’s not a random sample. I would expect the margin of error to be high.

In any case, assuming that the findings, in general, describe the state of the industry in 2015, it is disappointing to see the continuing substantial investment in “push” training. “Instructor-led classroom TrainingIndustryReport only” is still reported to be the primary method of employee learning and development. If we include “blended learning”, “virtual classroom/webcast only”, and “online or computer-based methods” in the mix, we see that companies are continuing to invest most in methods of learning that have the least payoff.

We know from previous studies that only about 10% to 50% of learners (depending on the nature of the training and workplace environment) actually apply what they learn in training programs back on the job. If Training magazine’s numbers are accurate and approximately $70 billion was spent on training programs last year, we can estimate that the industry wasted roughly between $35 billion and $63 billion on training.

Organizations might be increasing their investment in “pull” learning through social media, on-the-job training, and action learning. However, we don’t hear about these learning interventions because they don’t fit the more easily observed and measured formal methods.

In any case, I think we need to look at all of the ways employees learn in their organizations and to what extent employees apply that learning on the job. Currently, we have a good picture of the state of formal training. If we are to truly understand learning in organizations, we need a better picture of the informal and "pull" ways in which employees learn.

I welcome a different interpretation of Training magazine’s data. Please comment to either support or to challenge my view of the industry.