Friday, 29 July 2016

Measuring Leadership Results

In a recent HBR Blog post, Ashkenas and Hausmann said that leadership development is a 'huge' investment for companies, citing US research which "shows that companies spent more than $24 billion on leadership and management training worldwide in 2013, an increase of 15% from 2012" (12 April 2016).

That's a whole chunk of change.

Ashkenas and Hausmann also pose the question: how do we ensure that the organisation, and staff, gets value for that training investment?

Getting measurable results is difficult, because (a) often the payoffs aren't visible for months after training, and (b) often we don't think to measure the 'right' things.

By the right things, I mean decreased staff turnover, increased staff satisfaction, increased productivity, increased creativity, increased innovation, improved R&D, decreased customer complaints, decrease in bottlenecks and greater throughput. And were talking about small degrees of change here: subtle, not obvious changes.

In order to be able to measure those things, we need to have benchmarks of what is 'normal' before training is undertaken, and, in my experience, most organisations do not have this data at the level of detail required.

Further, to be able to meaningfully measure development, we need to not only have good
leader measures before leadership training starts, but also for the followers in the team.

Then we can measure team changes immediately after the training has taken place, and for the following quarters out to two years.

In order for learning to stick, we must apply it: that makes learning 'sticky'. the trouble is, in most firms, just sending somebody to do the learning is considered to be enough. But it is not enough, because the learning, if not applied, just seeps away like water into sand.

After training, we need to actually conduct a review each quarter on how both the leaders and the followers performance are meeting or are required targets, in order to be sure that the leadership training has had a measurable impact. In my experience, few Kiwi firms do that.

We also need a way to (a) measure current leadership values, behaviours and skills; then to track changes in those from both the leader and the followers viewpoint, each quarter following training.

The kind of things we would be looking for and leadership development are openness and free dialogue, behaviour that seeks the hard questions, behaviour that is welcoming of diversity, that actions match words (walking the talk). We should also be asking key stakeholders, customers and suppliers for their views on improved performance in those areas (and to do that, we need their views before the training has taken place too).

Only then we can be sure that leadership development training has had real value.

And while this may be being done at some organisations in America, I can just about guarantee that there are hardly any New Zealand firms who are measuring how effective their leadership training is.

Our lack of review here in Godzone is such a wasted opportunity to embed learning, and probably part of our lack of national productivity (Conway & Meehan, 2013).



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