By Margery Weinstein
Any organization with a comprehensive training program has a leadership development curriculum. These programs include everything from conventional classroom learning with guest speakers to high-tech simulations and lavish retreats. There also may be mentorship thrown in, as well as multiple job rotations. Despite the well-rounded curricula, many companies don’t do enough to determine whether any of it is working. With budgets still tight in an uncertain economy, companies need to ramp up their efforts to better assess their leadership coursework.
Effective leadership development takes both program relevance and personal drive, notes Lisa Cummings, vice president of products, Corporate Visions. “First, the program has to be relevant to today’s work and today’s employees. If there is no chance for employees to apply new skills in the current role, then the program represents merely a motivational speech.” Second, Cummings says, “both parties need to have the determination and drive to make change happen. This urgency is important because significant opportunities lie outside of the world of indecision, otherwise known as ‘the status quo.’ Neuroscience teaches us that people need to believe their world is changing fast, and they must do something different today in order to be successful tomorrow. Without this sense of urgency for change, implementations get low commitment from managers or the people being developed.”
When it comes to measuring success, a 90-day post-class or program business impact assessment is the most effective way to assess learning as opposed to, say, standard evaluation sheets, according to Tim Riesterer, chief strategy and marketing officer, Corporate Visions. “While evaluation sheets are still helpful and satisfy some of the needs of the training department, they do not satisfy senior executives who are looking for definite business impact and results based on the metrics they care about most.”
At PNC Financial Services Group, Inc., leadership development is only considered a success with evidence and job performance to back up the investment. “A successful leadership development approach flourishes in an environment where there is alignment with the belief that the organization’s success is driven by engaging and developing talent,” says Chief Learning Officer Robin Connolly. “Data is derived from a talent assessment process that analyzes the organization’s leaders and subsequently informs a wide variety of integrated leadership development programs including, but not limited to, training.” Connolly also notes the importance of leadership development that is in synch with the rest of the organization, aligning with “business priorities and culture and clearly articulating what leadership means within an organization.”
Connolly says PNC talent development consultants collect data derived from an analysis of and dialogue with PNC’s lines of business. “The goal is to understand and support these business’ current leadership bench, talent gaps, and how the development of leadership will positively influence business results,” she says.
Evaluation of PNC’s leadership development is a multi-layered approach in which success indicators are expected and seen in both the short and long term. “Talent assessments help create baselines, as well as track growth over time,” Connolly explains. “Equally telling indicators include engagement, promotion, and retention metrics.” PNC’s Dynamic Leadership program, a leadership experience targeting senior leaders, measures both the development of specific leader-participants and how their growth is translating into real-time business results. “Ownership of developing talent, another success indicator, is a priority and business imperative at PNC,” says Connolly. “Talent development is seen as everyone’s job: the organization, the manager, and the employee.”
Kirkpatrick’s Level 1 evaluation (leader-participant reaction) is seen at PNC as a best practice and is used for all of the company’s training. The belief that self-awareness supports self-management and the ability to positively influence others and the business is key to the company’s approach to training. “This awareness and the understanding and capacity to self-regulate comprise the knowledge we commonly measure (Level 2: leader-participant learning/understanding),” Connolly notes. “Almost all leadership development programming engages an assessment or similar mechanism that raises the leader-participant’s understanding as to how he or she affects others and business results.” Connolly says this assessment typically takes place at the group level or with a leadership coach—both equally effective, she says, in providing the leader-participant with additional feedback to further deepen self-awareness.
PNC’s 360-degree Enterprise Competency Assessment is the company’s tool of choice to measure and track leadership capability and impact over time (Level 3: leader-participant behavior.) “Talent assessments completed at the line-of-business level,” says Connolly, “provide the company with Level 4 data as to the impact of leadership awareness and behavior on business results, along with other large-scale measurement.”
Relevant and Valuable
At Verizon, leadership development is taken out of the abstract and made applicable to everyday work. “Leadership development programs that work directly align with your business goals and priorities, making them relevant and valuable to the participants,” says Vice President of Workforce Development, Verizon Wireless, Lou Tedrick. “Additionally, they work when the leaders of the participating leaders reinforce and support the programs—ideally before the experience and, at a minimum, after the experience. What doesn’t work is rolling out a program for the sake of rolling out a program…the ‘if we build it, they will come’ philosophy.”
Verizon is a big believer in the “leaders teaching leaders” philosophy. In 2011, the company launched “Leading for Shareholder Value,” a program focused on developing financial acumen, strategic thinking, and increasing cross-business-unit collaboration to drive business results. In 2012, Verizon is designing a similar program for its director-level leaders with “Cascade Kits” to reinforce messages deep within the organization. “Together, these programs are resulting in the critical skills and required mindset that will transform the way we do business and drive shareholder value,” says Director, Leadership Development, Verizon, Amy Hirsch.
When designing leadership development programs, Verizon always tries to identify upfront what it expects to be different as a result of these programs, Tedrick explains. “Do we expect behaviors to change and/or do we expect certain HR and/or business metrics to shift?” is a typical Verizon leadership curriculum question. In the company’s front-line leader and mid-manager high-potential leadership development programs, the company has tracked participant promotions, developmental moves, turnover rates, and performance ratings and compared them with non-participating peers. “Over the years, we’ve seen a positive correlation between program participants and these HR metrics,” says Tedrick. “We know there are other informal development strategies being deployed as well, so we would not say the formal development programs ‘cause’ the positive results, but rather ‘support and contribute’ to these results.”
Pre- and Post-Follow-Up
ResMed recently revamped its leadership development by making it “a more holistic program that involves managers and has pre-work and follow-up to ensure participants have a constant reminder to use the newly gained information back on the job,” says Manager of Achieve Global Projects Treasure Addis-Mills. The company counts the involvement of managers in discussions and having managers commit to action plans as keys to success. “We also create a common thread throughout all the courses we offer, so that it continuously builds from one course to another,” Addis-Mills points out. “It’s not like what is learned in one course just stands on its own, but it ties into the next course and the next.”
ResMed ties metrics on program success into the design of leadership programs. “We try to focus on hard data,” says Addis-Mills. “One of the main goals of the program is to retain top talent, so we use retention data to demonstrate how our program keeps people in the company,” she says. “We also look at how many people within the program have received promotions. In addition, we have looked at reduced sick leave rates, satisfaction surveys, and before and after 360-degree feedback reports to show the impact the program had.”
On the final day of leadership development programming, ResMed gives participants a review activity to complete. The company also gives learners talking points on the course to take back and share with their manager and teams, “so in essence,” says Addis-Mills, “they are teaching back what they learned.”
ResMed also has participants fill out and send in action plans, so they review the information again while showing how they plan to use what they learned to improve the company. “It’s more about whether they can put the learned concepts into action back on the job,” says Addis-Mills, “rather than knowing they can regurgitate the key points. We need to make sure it is practical and that they actually can use the new information and tools.”
From 2012 Training Top 125 winners PNC Financial Services Group, Inc.; Verizon; and ResMed:
From Tim Riesterer, chief strategy and marketing officer, and Lisa Cummings, vice president of products, Corporate Visions:
From Chris Musselwhite, president of Discovery Learning: