Leadership Development Risks and Rewards
In this era of rapid and disruptive change, (technological, economic, generational, etc.), human resource and training organizations stake the future success of their organizations on their ability to develop leaders with a broad range of competencies and skills who can meet the challenges of the times and steer their organizations effectively. In response to this need, the leadership development universe has exploded with varied and complex learning approaches that address strategic alignment, transformational leadership, innovation, emotional intelligence, globalization, etc.
And yet, amidst this explosion of new content and approaches to developing leaders, most organizations possess precious little data to inform them which programs produce results for them and which do not. Without this information, it’s simply impossible to weigh the potential risks and rewards of any program, resulting in decisions based not on evidence, but on faith in a particular management ideology, celebrity leader, or popular book.
The potential rewards of “getting it right” with a program that genuinely responds to the pressing needs of managers, and supports them in addressing the strategic challenges of the day, are compelling. This hope and optimism often rules the day. After all, most trainers are essentially optimists, believing in the in the potential for change, growth, improvement, etc.
But, as optimists, many of us gloss over the real risks involved in making a decision that cannot be verified by data. The risks of wasting time and money are bad enough, but the additional risk of distracting your managerial and leadership team with a program that does not lead to positive, measurable outcomes looms even larger. Worst of all is the risk that many organizations experience: they don’t even know whether their leadership development programs are effective or not!
According to industry research, the majority of organizations are not able to measure and report on the effectiveness and impact of their leadership development programs. As a result, the utility of these high-visibility, expensive programs naturally gets called into question, especially when resources are relatively scarce, as they are in many sectors of the economy at this time.
The number one reason L&D staff give when for not measuring impact for these programs is simple.
“It’s difficult to know what to measure or how to measure it.”
In many cases, this confusion masks the larger issue, which is that the real desired outcomes of the program have not been identified to begin with!
Between Competencies and Learning Objectives Lies Behavior
Many organizations describe the performance expectations of their leaders as high-level competencies, such as “displays emotional intelligence,” and many leadership learning programs echo the same high level competencies in the their Knowledge/Skills/Attitude –based learning objectives. However, in order to effectively measure the outcomes of such learning programs it’s necessary first to clearly identify the set of observable behaviors that would indicate successful application of the learning program by participants.
Because the desired leadership behaviors are typically not observable in the training context, training professionals can be tempted to dismiss them as belonging to the performance realm, instead of to the learning realm. However, these behaviors are truly located in the middle of the intersection between learning and performance, and in order to accurately evaluate the impact of leadership development programs, the responsibility for these behaviors must be shared by the training organization, performance management and the leaders themselves.
Clearly defining the desired behavioral outcomes of the learning program and establishing the methods for monitoring and measuring them aligns the goals of the training organization with those of learners and supervisors. Moreover it also becomes possible to accurately measure and evaluate the success of the programs themselves in a robust and credible manner.
About the author:
William Kasper is the Practice Manager for Dashboards and Analytics for PTG International. At PTG he brings to bear a unique blend of knowledge and experience in training team management, training evaluation, and in the design and implementation of business performance management solutions. Prior to joining PTG, Mr. Kasper worked for The Advisory Board Company, where he helped some of the country’s most prestigious hospitals and health systems create business performance dashboards and data analytics. His experience as a government contractor includes management of technical training for numerous clients, including Los Angeles County Human Resources, Raytheon, California Department of Transportation and a number of Federal agencies.
Mr. Kasper holds a B.A. from Oberlin College, an M.F.A. from California Institute of the Arts, and has completed additional educational programs at M.I.T. and the Robert H. Smith School of Business.
PTG International provides clients with a range of services and technologies to help them design and implement robust, multi-level training evaluation solutions that are sustainable and cost-effective. Whether providing guidance for a single, mission-critical training program or implementation and management support for an enterprise-wide system coordinating multiple technology platforms (LMS, Performance Management, etc.), PTG strives to help government agencies and private companies accurately measure, monitor and value their investments in learning and development