Does the word “evaluation” create anxiety for your HR organization? Or do you have a handle on how to measure outcomes of leadership development efforts?

Evaluation is oftentimes the process of figuring out to what degree goals have been accomplished. But putting evaluation into practice isn’t simple.

Over the years, we’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly of evaluation. We’ve helped HR teams with a wide range of need and know-how. Take a look at these evaluation don’ts, and let the do’s guide you down the right path.

Don’t Delay. It may be tempting to focus on delivering the initiative and worry about the outcomes later. But if you wait to design the evaluation until after leadership development has been implemented, you miss the chance to ensure that the design is tied to expected outcomes and to build measurement into the process. One of the benefits of evaluation is the thought process that goes into it — thinking about what matters enough to measure later helps clarify the goals of the effort today. Do design the evaluation as you are designing the initiative and well before it is implemented.

Don’t Deny. It may be easier to assume good things will happen when you provide learning and development. But your efforts may miss the mark or have unintended consequences. If you don’t take a good, research-based look at impact, you lose the chance to learn from mistakes and capitalize on successes. Do use evaluation as a tool to enhance organizational learning.

Don’t Rush. External deadlines and directives for development may create urgency — but don’t forget to focus. Slowing down to ask the right questions is essential for getting results that will matter to your organization. What broad goal is addressed by the initiative? What are the objectives? What is the context? What should be signs of success? How will evaluation information be used and by whom? Do spend time on discovery — CCL’s process of uncovering and understanding the leadership development needs of an organization. Do discuss and define the purposes of each evaluation.

Don’t Work in Isolation. Make sure appropriate stakeholders (Executives? Participants? Their managers? External funders?) are clear on expected outcomes and what they want from the evaluation. If you wait until after evaluation data are gathered to include stakeholders, they can argue about what was wrong with the process rather than use the data to move towards a shared goal. Do involve stakeholders at all stages of the process. Do create organizational support for leadership development initiatives and evaluation.

Don’t Oversimplify. Don’t just focus on what you can control or the most obvious metrics. Evaluation can, and should, factor into the complexity and reality of leadership development in organizations. Do consider multiple measures, multiple perspectives and measures at multiple points in time in order to gain a comprehensive perspective of program processes and outcomes.

Don’t Override. If you or a business leader or colleague doesn’t like a part of the process or a question that’s asked, don’t just change it. Do work with your evaluation experts to deal with concerns or changes — and to understand the evaluation design and methodology.

Don’t Blame. Evaluation data will likely reveal problem areas. Don’t use the data as ammunition; instead use it as fuel for improving and learning. Do be honest about the data, even if it shows shortcomings.

Don’t Halt Progress. Evaluation gives information that can help you create broader change and learning — but not if a few slides make it into your next presentation and then the report is filed away.Do use the evaluation findings. Figure out how to effectively communicate the findings, identify specific courses of action, create action steps and see them through.

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