How to measure the success of leadership development programs

Kerrie-Anne Chinn, Content & Editorial Manager

In an effort to make their managers and leaders the best they can be for the business, today’s companies are investing record amounts in leadership development programs for their employees. This is understandable – after all, your company’s long-term success depends on creating strong, successful leaders for the future.

However, with such large proportions of funds going into this area, it’s important for organizations to develop ways of measuring leadership outcomes, to see if these investments are paying off. Unfortunately, leadership is a lot harder to assess than other more tangible aspects of an organization, such as sales figures or productivity reports. So how do we go about measuring leadership development?

Patti Phillips, president and CEO of the ROI Institute, believes that “investments made in developing leaders deserve the attention measurement and evaluation can bring.” Taking the time to set up a framework for measuring and evaluating your leadership development methods will give you a far better idea of just how effective these methods are. You’ll also be able to determine how well your money is being spent in this area, which is important for your company’s bottom line.

Let’s see how you can start measuring and evaluating the effectiveness of your company’s leadership development programs, to ensure positive leadership outcomes for your business and a return of investment on your spending.

Establish Leadership Competencies

The first step in improving your development strategy is to create a set of competencies – that is, a list of essential requirements that all potential, current and future leaders of your organization need to have.

Book time with your senior leaders or management team to think about exactly what your business needs in terms of leadership. It’s important to determine, as a group, the specific leadership skills and behaviors needed to successfully drive your business. Make sure you’re really clear about what these needs are – the more specific, the better. 

Next, look at your current pool of employees and identify those with leadership potential. With your competencies set, it’ll be far easier to see how a candidate measures up. Consider training and development tools that could help these individuals improve and develop their leadership skills. You can then start addressing these needs and consider the relevant resources you need to cater to them.

As Phillips says, “by knowing who your potential leaders are and what they need to do to fit the competency mold you’ve created, you’ll know what must be done to develop their leadership acumen.”

Use Evaluation Methods to Measure Your ROI

As with most aspects of a business, you want to be sure that you’re balancing your costs and benefits. It’s important to be able to show a return on investment to key stakeholders, to show the value of your leadership development investments.

Kristen Harcourt, corporate consultant writing for the McQuaig Institute, recommends the following three points for building an effective leadership development program:

  • Knowing what is required for leadership
  • Identifying employees who have potential to meet these requirements
  • Working to create evaluation methods

“Once you’ve established the competencies that your leaders need to have and your high potential employees, it’s time to use these two parts of the equations to help build evaluation methods for your leaders,” says Harcourt. 

Work performance results from both leaders and their direct reports can give a good indication of leadership outcomes. Use these in combination with one-on-one meetings with your upcoming leaders, to gain a sense of the training tools and methods that work best for each individual, as well as to see how they are tracking against your leadership competencies. Include assessments at various stages of each individual’s professional development program, to help keep future leaders on target. This practice will also help employees in knowing exactly what skills and training they need to develop to further advance their career.

Taking these steps to improve your leadership development strategy will give you a much clearer idea of what you’re looking for in potential leaders, as well as ways in which you can measure their success. While you may not ever get an exact tangible figure on your ROI in this area, you’ll gain important insight into your expectations for potential leaders and how you can assist them with their professional development. In doing this, you’ll be doing your best to support and empower strong future leaders for your organization and the world.


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