It's clear that good leadership is a key lever of organisational success. What's less clear, however, is the "how" of creating good leadership: finding the right development solutions and implementing them in a way that delivers a high ROI.

In a new whitepaper, The RBL Group has listed out the six steps of building a robust leadership development programme (LDP) from start to finish.

STEP 1 – Audience: Who needs to be developed?

Bucket your audience into three groups: executives, managers and individual contributors. If leadership development has never been formally undertaken in your organisation, then starting an LDP at the top of the house i.e. for executives can be beneficial, especially when when culture change is needed.

However, the most frequent type of LDP is targeted toward high-potential managers (generally 5-10% of your total employee population), because firms want to ensure that they have a strong cadre of leaders to sustain the business for years to come.

When technical and interpersonal skill development is the desired outcome to support the strategy, LDP dollars may be best spent at the individual contributor level.

STEP 2 – Curriculum: What should be taught?

Selecting the “meat” of the curriculum (or the high-quality protein portion, for vegetarians) should be done through a targeted needs analysis. Why are we proposing to teach this and not that?

Ascertain what the programme needs to address: business needs (get traction on strategy or major initiatives); leadership training (strengthen specific leadership competencies); or technical training (skills such as project management, quality processes, communication, etc.).

Suggestions for identifying needs in three possible curriculum purpose areas

STEP 3 – Pedagogy: How should it be taught?

  • E-learning modules: Delivery of e-learning is flexible and is generally a lower-cost option than other learning modalities. It cannot replace highly interactive classroom learning, but depending on the content you’d like to deliver, it can be a viable option.
  • Blended learning (e-learning with facilitated group sessions): Post reading materials online, participants can come together on a facilitated call, webinar, or at a central location. This is effective when content needs to be rolled out on a short timeline to a large audience.
  • Stand-alone training: Learning from other participant experiences, networking, and an ability to focus on business needs are hallmarks of this type of learning solution. Training times and locations are less flexible than other methods; however, the cost is moderate.
  • Integrated learning experiences: This can include classroom instruction, one-on-one coaching, action learning projects, and other custom experiential learning. The experience can be highly tailored to the participant, however you will need to balance finances with learning objectives.

STEP 4 – Faculty: Who will teach?

To select faculty, you could look in-house to HR professionals, C-level and senior leaders; venture outside your firm to consultants and/or academics; tap into the experience and knowledge of customers and investors; or some combination of these options. What will be most effective for your LDP depends on the previous factors — audience, curriculum, and pedagogy.

STEP 5 – Measures: Are we getting the right results?

Go past “smile sheets,” where participants rate the popularity of the facilitator, the availability of healthy snacks, and the temperature of the room. Instead focus on the impact the training is having on the individual, organisation, customer and investor.

Examples of potential measures in four impact categories.

STEP 6 – Process: How do we put it all together?

Organisations generally have a process they intend to follow in developing training programs. Consider your process and discuss whether there are needed changes to the usual flow given your LDP design and delivery, in particular. It’s imperative to include milestones with affixed dates.

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