How to Measure a Leadership Development Program

Countless studies and good old common sense tell us that good succession planning is critical to long-term company success. Despite that, very few companies seem to have much of a sense of whether or not their leadership development program is paying off. How do you measure the success?

There is no one-size-fits-all leadership development program. They vary just like the organizations that use them, and they should. Not all organizations need the same kind of leadership, so no one program will fit all needs. There are three steps that will help every organization to measure the effectiveness at developing future leaders.

Step 1-  Create a set of competencies or requirements

A set of competencies or requirements for potential and current leadership provides a foundation for your leadership development program. It’s pretty simple. If you don’t know what you need, it’s hard to know if you’re on the right track. Alternatively, if you know what you’re trying to build, you can focus your resources in pursuit of that goal. The process of bringing key people together to discuss what competencies future leaders should have helps to solidify thinking and get consensus about what leadership should look like in your organization now and in the future.  It also sets you up to identify who in your existing employee pool has the potential to lead and which areas your current leaders need to develop.

Our clients use our McQuaig Job Profile tool to assist them in creating the benchmark leadership traits. The process of using this tool also helps gain consensus and the report becomes a handy target or measuring stick.

Step 2 - Identify Employees with High Potential to Lead

Once you have your competencies established, you can start to look at your employee pool and identify which employees have high leadership potential. There are many ways to do this. We recommend our clients use the built-in Job Fit measure our assessments provide in combination with an interview process. However you identify your high potentials, once you have them you can start to ask yourself some questions about developing them. Are there any opportunities for them to learn from current leaders? Do they have any gaps in skills or behavioral traits? 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.

You’re now set up to create individual development plans that cater to exactly the areas these high potentials need to focus on in order to grow into the kind of leaders you know you’ll need. Our Self-Development Reports help our clients by providing action plan worksheets that can be customized based on their personal assessments and the target in the job analysis used to create the leadership target. You can do this however you like, as long as you are careful to make it targeted and personalized.

Before acting on any of this, though, having a one-on-one meeting with your high potentials may prove to be helpful. Ask some obvious questions. Are they interested in leading? Do they plan on staying with your company for the long term? These are questions that should be considered before too much of an investment is made in developing a high potential employee into a leader.

Identifying high potentials can be tricky business. Here are a couple of blog posts we’ve written on the subject:

High Potentials: 6 Components for Finding and Keeping Them

The Difference Between High Potentials and High Performers

Step 3 - 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. On a qualitative level, one-on-one meetings with your developing leaders gives them an opportunity to provide their feedback on what development efforts are working for them. Hiring managers can use the development action plans to track progress towards their goals and fitting the leadership target.

On a quantitative level, measuring retention rates, engagement levels and achievements in those undergoing development as well as their team members can help in determining the effectiveness of your leadership development program.

While measuring leadership development is not structured the same in all organizations, knowing what is required for leadership, who has potential to meet these requirements and how to create evaluation methods is an excellent start in building an effective leadership development program.

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