• Published November 9, 2020
  • 9 Minute Read
LEADING EFFECTIVELY ARTICLE

Measuring Impact of Leadership Development Investments: 6 Steps

Published November 9, 2020
Measuring Impact of Leadership Development Investments: 6 Steps

Evaluating Leadership Development: A How-To Guide

Several months into a new leadership program for first‐time managers, and an HR team is breathing easy.

The launch and follow‐up sessions were well‐received, with enthusiasm spilling over into the use of mobile and self‐paced online courses. A second cohort is slated to begin soon.

Then, the discussion turns to measuring impact — finding ways to present the initial good news and demonstrate value over time.

Unfortunately, this team has already missed the best window for getting an evaluation started. The most useful and effective evaluations for measuring impact are those that are designed at the beginning — parallel to designing your program or initiative — and not tacked on later.

“You can never go back to the beginning,” says Tracy Patterson, the director of evaluation services in our Leadership Analytics practice. “It’s much better to think carefully about evaluation at the onset than try to work from a retrospective lens.”

If the idea of measuring the impact of your investments in development creates anxiety for your HR organization, we can help. At CCL, we address evaluation early on in conversations with HR leaders looking to create or expand their leadership development efforts. Evaluation and techniques for measuring impact are threaded throughout the discovery, design, and implementation process for all our custom leadership development offerings.

Some Dos & Don’ts for Measuring the Impact of Your Investments

Best Practices Based on Experience

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 needs and know-how. Take a look at these tips for how not to measure impact, and instead, let the Dos guide you down the right path.

1. Don’t delay.

As noted above, it may be tempting to focus on delivering the initiative now and worry about the outcomes later. But if you wait to design the evaluation and start measuring impact until after implementation, 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 to clarify the goals of the effort today.

Do design the evaluation as you’re designing the initiative, and well before it’s implemented.

2. Don’t deny.

It’s easy 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 measuring impact, you lose the chance to learn from mistakes and capitalize on successes.

Do use evaluation as a tool to enhance organizational learning.

3. 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.

  • Do spend time on discovery. At CCL, we have a comprehensive process of partnering with you to uncover and understand your leadership development needs.
  • Do discuss and define the purposes of each evaluation.

4. 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 in measuring impact, 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.

5. 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.

6. Don’t override.

If you or a business leader or colleague doesn’t like a part of the process of measuring impact 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.

7. Don’t blame.

Evaluation data will likely reveal problem areas. Don’t use the measurement data as ammunition; instead, use it as fuel for improving and learning.

Do be honest about the data, even if it shows shortcomings.

8. Don’t halt progress.

Measuring impact gives information that can help you create broader change and learning at your organization — 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.

Evaluating Leadership Development at the Organizational Level?

A Special Note About Measuring Impact of a Culture Change Initiative

As noted above, while there’s often a temptation to delay measuring impact until after an initiative is completed, it’s best not to wait. That’s true for individual leadership development efforts, and also true for evaluating the impact of a culture change initiative. Measuring impact isn’t as simple as a box you can check at the end — especially when it’s about your transforming your organization.

Organizational culture change is about changing beliefs, assumptions, and attitudes — and changing these things is never easy or fast.

Strategically collecting, analyzing, and using data along the way can tell you whether your culture change initiative is successful and provide insights that can make your efforts more effective. Using data to gain insights throughout the process can shift beliefs and practices — and lead to real, long-lasting organizational change.

That’s why we recommend moving from a mindset of measuring results to ongoing evaluation. Make learning integral to the change process. Think about the impact desired and what you want to achieve early, and use data to drive insights throughout the culture change process.

As with other types of evaluations, the most effective way of measuring the impact of a culture change requires planning before the initiative even begins. Read our full white paper for more advice on how to measure your organization’s culture initiative, including:

  • The big questions to ask;
  • The mindset shifts that are needed;
  • What you should measure;
  • How and when to measure; and
  • How you’ll use the results.

While you could skip ongoing measurement of the impact of your culture change initiative, just as with measuring the impact of other types of investments in your people, the ultimate outcome is likely to be less positive and impactful.

Ready to Take the Next Step?

We can help your HR team create scalable but personalized leadership development to ensure you get the results that matter most to your organization. We can provide customized leadership development for your unique context and culture, and our Leadership Analytics experts can help you with diagnosing your current state and measuring impact

Based on Research by

Sarah Stawiski
Sarah Stawiski, PhD
Director, Insights & Impact Group

With more than 15 years of experience conducting applied research and program evaluation, Sarah leads a team that uses data to improve programs and show evidence of impact with a goal of helping us advance our mission and achieve greater results. She has published multiple articles in peer-reviewed journals and contributed to several books on topics including evaluation of leadership development, generational differences in the workplace, shared group cognition, ethical decision making, and bias in the workplace.

With more than 15 years of experience conducting applied research and program evaluation, Sarah leads a team that uses data to improve programs and show evidence of impact with a goal of helping us advance our mission and achieve greater results. She has published multiple articles in peer-reviewed journals and contributed to several books on topics including evaluation of leadership development, generational differences in the workplace, shared group cognition, ethical decision making, and bias in the workplace.

John B. McGuire
John B. McGuire, MBA
Honorary Senior Fellow & Former Practice Leader

John is an international authority on leadership culture and organizational transformation and the co-founder of our Organizational Leadership practice. He specializes in vertical leadership culture as the core mechanism in his change leadership methodology for the transformation of executives, their teams, and organizations.

John is an international authority on leadership culture and organizational transformation and the co-founder of our Organizational Leadership practice. He specializes in vertical leadership culture as the core mechanism in his change leadership methodology for the transformation of executives, their teams, and organizations.

Tracy Patterson
Tracy Patterson, MPP
Former Portfolio Director & Faculty

Tracy has extensive experience in leading programs and initiatives in the government, nonprofit, and health sectors. During her time at CCL, Tracy directed and expanded our global evaluation function and served as a facilitator for leadership development, program design, and capacity-building programs with nonprofit organizations.

Tracy has extensive experience in leading programs and initiatives in the government, nonprofit, and health sectors. During her time at CCL, Tracy directed and expanded our global evaluation function and served as a facilitator for leadership development, program design, and capacity-building programs with nonprofit organizations.

Measuring Impact of Leadership Development Investments: 6 Steps
© Center for Creative Leadership. All rights reserved. CCL

What to Explore Next

About CCL

At the Center for Creative Leadership, our drive to create a ripple effect of positive change underpins everything we do. For 50+ years, we've pioneered leadership development solutions for everyone from frontline workers to global CEOs. Consistently ranked among the world's top providers of executive education, our research-based programs and solutions inspire individuals in organizations across the world - including 2/3 of the Fortune 1000 — to ignite remarkable transformations.