At their recent conference in Phoenix, AZ., the organizers of the Training Directors’ Forum (TDF) announced the results of a survey of training executives. The survey was sent out before the conference to 4,500 people: conference participants and subscribers to the TDF e-Net, the Forum’s electronic newsletter.

The audience included senior training, learning, and knowledge executives. For more than 15 years, the Training Directors’ Forum has organized the yearly conference that emphasizes making connections—with thought leaders, new ideas, and colleagues.

Mat Juechter, a 30-year veteran of the training business, presented the survey results to the crowd at the start of the conference earlier this month. Juechter discussed the entire survey, picked out the replies he found most interesting, and commented on the increasing amount of responsibilities facing training directors.

“I believe there is no greater time than right now to learn from each other,” he said.
Click here to download the complete TDF survey, including all 10 questions and detailed results.
Online learning strategies
The poll covered a wide range of topics, from the current priorities for training departments, to the state of online learning efforts, to budgets and staff size.

Juechter said he found the results of the survey surprising, in part because there were some contradictions in the answers, particularly about online learning. In a question about this topic, moving training from the classroom to an online format was listed as a priority or a top priority for 51 percent of the poll takers.

However, in question 6, a total of about 75 percent of the respondents said that only 25 percent or less of their training is offered online.

This percentage seems small, given that in another question, about half of the poll takers said that their company has a plan for online learning.

Juechter also commented on the final survey question about online learning, which asked if online training efforts were guided by an organized strategy or were developing without a plan.

He said that while the importance of online learning is clear, there’s no set path to reach this goal and not everyone is sure how to proceed.

“We’re all watching one another to see what works,” he said. “It’s like looking through the keyhole and seeing another eyeball.”

Juechter also questioned the effectiveness of online training.

“Do we really think that all those people who didn’t read training books are going to start reading them on the screen?” he asked amid general laughter.

Juechter said that the challenge of e-learning and e-training is to make sure that the presentation comes across as well on a computer as it comes across in person.

“People who are adept at technology are very enthusiastic about online learning,” he said. “Are we coming from a different place?”

Budget and staff sizes
The survey results showed one good trend, an increase in the size of the training staff.

This increase follows an increase in the number of people who need training.

In other good news for trainers, replies to another survey question showed that outsourcing of training was not on the increase.

Juechter said that he thought the fight for training dollars was over, due in part to the good press that training has gotten recently.

“There are major articles all the time in business magazines about the importance of training,” he said.

Additionally, another survey question about documenting return on investment for training was rated as an immediate priority for only 19 percent of the respondents.

Knowledge management
One survey question covered the topic of knowledge management, which was discussed in several conference sessions.

“Knowledge management is getting a lot of press, although I don’t know that many people know what it is,” Juechter said, adding that it often meant different things for different companies. defines knowledge management as a practice in which “an enterprise consciously and comprehensively gathers, organizes, shares, and analyzes its knowledge to further its aims. In early 1998, it was believed that few enterprises actually had a comprehensive knowledge management practice (by any name) in operation. Instead, many companies are focusing on existing processes and striving to bring them together.”

Regardless of what it actually entails, many conference presenters saw this task becoming a big part of training departments’ responsibilities.

Near the end of the session, Juechter opened the forum up to questions and comments from the audience. He asked the group to describe the biggest challenge they were facing that wasn’t covered in the survey. The most interesting reply was that the biggest hurdle was middle managers.

“They are preventing employees from taking time to go to training,” a woman said. She added that upper level management had signed on to the goals of the training program, but that attitude wasn’t accepted company-wide.

The discussion of the survey results was a good starting point for the conference and got people talking about what is important right now and what will be important in the training industry in the next 12 to 18 months.
If you’d like to read the entire TDF survey complete with information about purchasing trends and working with upper management, click here. If you would like to know more about the Training Directors’ Forum and their free e-mail newsletter, click here .