What value does the learning function provide the business? When learning is tightly aligned with the businesss priorities, both the learning team and stakeholders can readily articulate the learning functions value proposition. Rita Mehegan Smith

$171.5 billion. Its more than just a number to learning professionals. Its a statement, and a huge one at that.

According to the 2011 ASTD State of the Industry Report, organizations spent $171.5 billionalmost $46 billion more than in 2009on employee learning and development in 2010. This large increase demonstrates that organizations remain steadfastly committed to the delivery of knowledge to and development of all employeesfrom the executive level to the entry level.

The data in this report (see the feature article on page 44) show that numbers count and metrics matter, but on top of that, these encouraging numbers highlight what many learning executives have been preaching for years: Linking learning initiatives to company goals and strategies can translate into sustainability, which is a strong competitive advantage for all organizations.

The value of learning came out strong in the At C Level interview with SunTrust Banks CEO Bill Rogers on page 32. Rogers, a new CEO himself, avowed that personal growth and learning are major competencies for leaders. Im looking for leaders who want to grow as individuals and who understand that a commitment to personal growth is what makes the difference. Im a brand-new CEOsince June 1and I need to be in a learning mode along with everyone else in the company. So willingness to learn is one of the first things I look for, says Rogers.

Millennials will make up about 50 percent of the workforce by 2014, and that will have a huge impact on training and employee engagement, according to Rogers. Millennials are known for their constant desire to learn and take part in training opportunities, he says. Some wont work for a company that doesnt invest in their training.

The value proposition for learning is strong. The world is changing, the workforce is changing, and the expectations of customers and employees are changingwhich makes learning and development a major player in the success of organizations. With the dynamics of the workforce transforming the need for better communication, stronger teamwork, and increased employee engagement, the role of the learning professional is alive and well in the workplace.

Paula Ketter

Editor, T+D

pketter@astd.org