From time to time, we are asked which leadership development programs deliver greater results. Unfortunately, there is a small sample compared to the number of programs available. Three major forces have created a need to rank leadership development programs based on the results they deliver.
The Investment in Leadership Development
Recessions exist in some countries, a few industries, such as oil and gas, are still depressed, and there is much global uncertainty about the future. Still, sparked by the need for results-oriented leaders with high integrity, agility and diversity, there is a very heavy investment in leadership development, somewhere between $20 billion and $50 billion according to one 2017 analysis by Bersin by Deloitte.
With the high level of investment comes greater need for accountability to show business value for leadership development. The more you spend the more you need to show results, pushing evaluation beyond the classic approach of showing the new behavior in place to showing how it has made a difference in the organization in business terms and in some cases financial ROI.
Business Connection is Key
Various studies indicate what executives most want to see from learning and development is the connection to the business. This is particularly true for soft skills. Unfortunately, few leadership development programs are measured at this level because executives can easily see the need for hard skills programs and rarely question the value of entry-level training for new employees, compliance training or technical training.
They do question investment in leadership development or other soft skills where the connection to business need is not so obvious. The challenge for CLOs is to align the program to the business in the beginning, keep the focus on business impact during the program and validate business improvement in a follow up to make sure it delivered the promised business value.
Lack of Relevant Ranking
Although there have been several attempts to rank leadership development programs, these rankings have not been based on the business results they deliver or are designed to deliver. Instead they have been based on volume, faculty, history and sometimes program innovations. For example, the 2017 Financial Times ranking of leadership development programs is based on course design, teaching methods and materials, faculty, food and accommodations, aims achieved, and facilities.
The Ranking System
In today’s climate, a ranking is needed based on business results delivered or at least on how the programs are designed to deliver results. If this existed, it would help internal leadership development teams see clearly which programs have this focus and which do not. It could help guide them into a decision of which program to pursue, explore and implement on a pilot basis.
The criteria for delivering results should be based on the key success factors for leadership development. These factors are based on hundreds of studies where leadership development was evaluated at the business impact or ROI levels.
If these factors are in place, results are delivered. It is much more important for an organization to have steps in place to design for the needed results instead of just measuring results only to be frustrated with the lack of results.
The ranking should be based on eight condensed success factors:
1. Start with Why: Align programs with the business.
2. Make It Feasible: Select the right solution.
3. Expect Success: Design for results with impact objectives.
4. Make It Matter: Design for input, reaction and learning.
5. Make It Stick: Design for application and impact.
6. Make It Credible: Measure business results and calculate ROI, if desired.
7. Tell the Story: Communicate results to stakeholders.
8. Optimize Results: Use black box thinking to increase funding.
The ranking of leadership programs should be based on an objective process with rating systems, document reviews and actual case studies. The outcome is a ranking system based on the extent to which programs are designed to deliver results.
Jack J. Phillips is the chairman, and Patti P. Phillips is president and CEO of the ROI Institute. Comment below or email editor@CLOmedia.com.