Simplify Your Measurement of Leadership Development

Many find measuring the impact of leadership development especially difficult. They try to tie leadership training results to organizational goals which may be impacted by leadership. Unfortunately, this is a long list since one can reasonably argue that better leaders should contribute to achieving ALL the organization’s goals, including higher sales, greater productivity, more cost reduction, better quality, higher employee engagement, and lower turnover. I have never seen anyone do this successfully since the impact of leadership on all these goals is indirect and very difficult to quantify.

There is a better and much easier approach. Start by stepping back and asking why you are doing leadership development. If the answer is to address one goal, like sales, then measure its impact as part of your suite of learning programs to improve sales. In this case, you should have designed the leadership training specifically to help achieve that one goal (like sales), and the target audience would be only those leaders in sales.

Chances are your needs analysis also found other ways learning could help achieve the sales goal so it is likely you are doing more than just leadership training to improve sales. When it comes time to measure impact, ask the participants (and perhaps their bosses) what impact the suite of leadership training programs had on the improvement in their sales. If you are using the Phillips methodology, there are five methods you can use to isolate the impact of learning from other factors.

More often, the leadership program is developed to help improve leaders across the organization. In other words, the leadership training is not developed to help achieve a single goal but instead to increase leadership competency in general which should help achieve all the goals. In this case, the best approach is to measure the impact directly on leadership. Ask the leaders whether the training improved their leadership, but also ask their employees and the leader’s boss whether they saw an improvement in the participant’s leadership. The key is to measure impact as directly as possible.

In addition to these measures, most medium and large organizations have some version of an employee engagement survey and most of these surveys have questions about leaders. At Caterpillar, we had a 50-question survey with seven questions about leaders. Create a leadership index based on the leadership questions and use this index to gauge the improvement in leadership.

If your leadership program is well designed to address your organization’s leadership needs, the index should improve after leaders have completed the program. If you wish to isolate the impact of the leadership program on the change in the index, then you could use a naturally occurring control group (if available) or ask the participants and their bosses to estimate how much of the change in the index was due to the leadership training.

If you would like to calculate an ROI on the program, you could easily ask each leader to identify an increase in income or productivity or a decrease in cost. Then you would apply the Phillip’s methodology to convert the impact to dollars and calculate the ROI.

There is another method, which is easier at scale, which can work if a goal of the leadership training is to make leaders more efficient in terms of interactions with employees. Better leaders often will conduct more efficient staff meetings and require less time helping employees set goals and review performance. Simply add a question about time saved due to better leadership to the survey given to the participants and their employees. Then find the value of the time saved by multiplying the hours saved by the labor & related rate of the participants. (Needless to say, don’t use this method if the goal of your program is for leaders to spend more time with their employees!)

Bottom line, take the most direct approach possible to measuring leadership impact. This will simplify your measurement and will be much easier than trying to measure impact on all the organization’s goals.

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