Corporate Leadership Development Programs: Level-Up Employee Performance

Corporate Leadership Development Programs: Level-Up Employee Performance

This article was updated on Oct. 3, 2018.

Developing great corporate leadership is a top priority for CHROs, especially in an organization that is rapidly growing. Chief Learning Officer reports that organizations with strong leadership development practices have high growth in customer satisfaction, market share, revenue and profit.

The problem is that there seems to be a widening gap between the leadership skills that organizations need and the leadership skills that organizations have; so growth is suffering. Let's face it, strong leadership development is important for company growth and learning and development teams need to prioritize investments in leadership development and implement programs that will fuel that growth.

This is no easy task. Leadership development programs can be expensive to implement and results are often anecdotal at best, offering little objective reason for organizations to invest in what is needed. If, however, an HR team can target the right metrics and implement cost-effective leadership programs, leaders will emerge who will propel the organization to the next level.

There are many effective, and nontraditional, leadership development programs that can be implemented to close the leadership gap and make a strategic impact on the business.

Professional Coaching

Professional coaching is an often overlooked leadership development intervention that can have a huge impact on organizational performance. The International Coach Federation (ICF) reports, "Organizations with strong coaching cultures report that 61 percent of their employees are highly engaged, compared to 53 percent from organizations without strong coaching cultures."

Organizations are using coaching to develop leaders and improve productivity, reports the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp). Campbell Soup uses coaching as a critical element of its talent strategy, and W.W. Grainger uses peer coaching to extend leadership development after participants complete its first-time manager program. When it comes to performance improvement, these tactics work.

Stretch Assignments

According to the Association of Talent Development, stretch assignments can increase the size of talent pools, build organizational capability and enhance enterprise sustainability. The NCR Corporation gave stretch assignments to potential high-level leaders on a major project to help the company bring manufacturing back from being outsourced. NCR knew this would be a stretch assignment for these individuals, so it designed support into the program. Instead of allowing the typical "sink-or-swim" approach, NCR believed it could stimulate learning and extend the learning curve by including feedback, a developmental coach and a structured program into the stretch assignments.

Stretch assignments not only develop leadership skills through experience, but by their very nature have a direct impact on strategic business results and can be measured objectively.

Online Courses

The value of professional coaching and stretch assignments is in the ability both options give people to learn on-the-job and through experience, which is especially important for a skill like leadership. This type of experiential learning can be augmented with formal learning opportunities like training classes and reading books.

Online courses are a great way to offer leadership learning opportunities, as they are generally more flexible and can "trim billions," per a CNBC report. Udemy, and other massive open online course providers (MOOCs) like Coursera, Udacity and, offer online education programs for businesses to suggest to employees. Organizations such as Bank of America, AT&T, Intuit, Qualcomm, Yahoo!, Disney and Apple have all signed up for similar services.

Measure Success of Leadership Development

Whatever types of leadership development interventions are used, organizations should have a plan in place to measure the success of the program. You can start by measuring the participant leaders with existing metrics an organization is already measuring, such as retention rates, time-to-hire, productivity and performance ratings over time.

These metrics are important, and should be examined, but don't necessarily assess the program's impact on organizational performance. When Jeff Immelt took over as CEO of GE, its leadership development program changed focus to measure innovation and new ideas that come from potential leaders, according to Harvard Business Review. By measuring results like these, HR teams can tie successes back to the leadership learned in such programs.

No matter how an organization measures leadership development, the metrics used should be aligned with the strategic direction of the business to maximize its potential benefit.