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Canadian Employers’ Investment in Employee Learning and Development Continues to Rise

Canadian spending on learning and development catching up to the U.S.

Ottawa, January 31, 2018—Canadian organizations’ spending on learning and development has been steadily increasing since the end of 2010. According to The Conference Board of Canada’s latest Learning and Development Outlook, Canadian employers spent, on average, $889 per employee on learning and development in 2016–17, an increase of $89 per employee since 2014-15. The average number of hours of learning per employee per year is also on the rise, increasing from 25 hours in 2010 to 32 hours in 2016–17.

Canadian organizations are now spending an average of 81 cents for every dollar spent by American organizations on learning and development, representing a significant increase in the overall average of 57 cents since 2006. While they are still lagging their counterparts in the U.S. on overall spending, Canadian employers are gaining ground and the gap has narrowed, partly as a result of reduced spending by American organizations.

“The trend in increased learning and development spending over the past few years indicates more than a renewed confidence in the Canadian economy, it is the result of organizations having both the capacity to invest in learning, and the knowledge of where that investment should go,” said Colin Hall, Associate Director, Organizational Excellence, Learning and Leadership, The Conference Board of Canada.

“Organizations that invest in employee learning and development understand the importance of maintaining a strong knowledge-based workforce and keeping pace with dynamic, volatile, and ever-changing business environments. Organizations with strong learning cultures are focusing spending where it is needed the most allowing them to realize a return on their investment.”


  • In 2016–17, Canadian employers spent, on average, $889 per employee on learning and development.
  • Organizations with strong learning cultures exhibit better overall organizational performance.
  • Self-paced learning and informal learning are on the rise in Canadian organizations.

Fifty per cent of the Canadian organizations surveyed in the 14th edition of the Learning and Development Outlook survey agreed or strongly agreed that learning is a top organizational priority for them. Organizations with strong learning cultures exhibit better overall organizational performance in the areas of employee engagement, customer satisfaction, overall productivity, and overall leadership performance compared to organizations with weak learning cultures.

Although Canadian organizations are indicating that learning is a top priority for them, approximately 58 per cent say that they have experienced challenges in their business environments in the past few years that have directly impacted their learning and development strategies or budgets.

While classroom learning remains the most common delivery method for formal learning, its prevalence is diminishing. Instructor-led classroom delivery used to consistently make up more than half of all learning time, but has now dropped to 48 per cent in 2016–17. Meanwhile, informal learning is on the rise and Canadian organizations have indicated that this is a result of an increasing number of employees who initiate their own learning. Self-paced e-learning through online courses remains firmly established as a delivery method of choice, with more than three quarters of organizations offering it in some form.

This report is based on the responses to a biennial survey of Canadian organizations. A total of 127 organizations participated in this survey over the course of the fall of 2016 and the winter of 2017.

Colin Hall will present key findings from the Learning and Development Outlook in a live webinar on March 7, 2018 at 2 p.m. EST.

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