BOX 7.8 Training in ASTD Firms

Larger firms, and the human resources development experts they employ, often participate actively in the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), a professional association.1 In an ongoing effort to measure the value of training and skills, ASTD provides a free benchmarking service to organizations that provide detailed information on their training investments, innovative human resources practices, and performance outcomes. In 1998, about 750 organizations participated in this process, reporting on their training activities and expenditures during 1997. Large firms in several sectors that employ large numbers of IT workers, as well as the IT sector, participated in the study.2

Among this small,3 self-selected sample, the IT sector was a leader,4 with the highest training expenditures as a percentage of payroll and one of the highest expenditures per employee, when compared to other industry sectors. Not surprisingly, the IT sector led in the use of advanced training delivery technologies. Although reporting one of the highest levels of internal trainers per employee (compared to other sectors), IT firms also used a large percentage of outside trainers and independent consultants, educational institutions, and product suppliers.

During 1999, an even smaller group of 276 organizations responded to a new component of the ASTD benchmarking survey, designed to measure intellectual capital. Because this new portion of the survey is difficult and time-consuming, only those organizations most committed to innovative training and human resources practices are likely to respond.5 Among this group of organizations, the single largest group is IT companies. Overall, the 276 firms, including large IT firms, had low turnover rates (averaging 11.5 percent) and high levels of basic IT literacy, and they spent an average of 2.2 percent of payroll on training.


Founded in 1944, ASTD focuses on workplace learning and performance issues. The association provides information, research, and analysis, as well as conferences, expositions, seminars, and publications. ASTD is made up of more than 70,000 people, working in more than 15,000 companies, government agencies, colleges, and universities worldwide. Additional information is available online at <>.


In the financial, insurance, and real estate sector, Allstate, Aetna, Citibank, Chase Manhattan Bank; in manufacturing, Boeing, Caterpiller, Hoffmann-La Roche, Johnson & Johnson, Levi Strauss, Lockheed Martin; in government, the U.S. Departments of Energy, Health and Human Services, and Transportation and the Office of Personnel Management; in the IT sector (as defined by ASTD—see footnote 4), AT&T, Compaq, IBM, Intel, MCI, Motorola, Sprint, Qualcomm, Xerox.


By comparison, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that there are nearly 5 million private business establishments in the United States as a whole.


The information technology sector—defined by ASTD to include computer, electronics, and communications equipment manufacturers; software designers; telecommunications services; and information technology services and consulting firms—made up 15.3 percent of the 750 respondents to the 1998 benchmarking survey.


“Intellectual Capital: Measuring It Like It Matters,” a presentation by Bassi et al., American Society for Training and Development, January 13, 2000, National Center for Postsecondary Improvement Policy Seminar (supported by the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education).

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