Far too often, ineffectual talent development practices go unnoticed until it’s too late. Most HR executives claim to have an intuitive sense whether their talent development programs are working. Sometimes they’re right; if you’re very closely involved in the implementation of systems of talent management, small changes in individual employee actions are easy to notice. But when a company has invested significant resources in a talent program, it’s vital to ensure that the methods and techniques are efficient, cost-effective, and producing the desired results.

Effectively measuring employee development requires both a holistic approach and a keen eye for small details. A combination of qualitative and quantitative metrics – as well as high-level assessments of your program’s goals as they relate to overall company strategy – will yield the largest amount of actionable data that will enable you to make informed decisions.

Employee Development As A Whole

Before diving into individual metrics, take a birds-eye view of your employee development efforts. A program that’s been properly designed and implemented should have a clear purpose, a straightforward articulation of skills to be learned and actions to be taken, and an understanding of the business outcomes that can be expected as a result.

A coach helps employees grow at a company

Say the overarching purpose of your talent development program is to cultivate new leadership among your current employees. Your first step should be to establish a framework that clearly outlines the competencies required of up-and-coming leaders. This leadership competency model could include skills and traits such as:

  • A balance of social and emotional intelligence
  • The ability to both receive and provide constructive criticism
  • Interpersonal skills, including a degree of cultural competency and sensitivity
  • Strong communication skills
  • A sense of empathy, integrity, and honesty
  • A strategic orientation combined with sharp analytical ability
  • The ability to work both independently and in teams

Every action taken and every resource spent within your talent development program should be tied directly to fostering the skills and traits articulated in your leadership competency model: for example, providing constructive feedback through performance reviews, empowering employees through different types of employee training and coaching, rewarding employees who take initiative, encouraging independent thinking, or promoting a culture of accountability and self-assessment.

You should next identify the specific and measurable business outcomes that indicate whether these actions are working. We’ll discuss how to choose these metrics in greater detail in a moment, but first and foremost these metrics must be directly tied to and informed by the purpose of the program. It may be tempting to look immediately at revenues, but while the bottom line can be a good measure of the overall strength and performance of the business, it doesn’t necessarily indicate how successful you’ve been at cultivating leadership from within, for example, because there could be any number of reasons or combinations of reasons to account for an uptick in revenues.

Taking a holistic view of your employee development program and allocation of resources is a valuable exercise both in the early stages of design and implementation as well as after the program is off the ground and running. Remember: there is never a bad time for an honest assessment of your HR practices and policies. In particular, you should always consider whether any shifts in employee training policies or procedures appropriately serve the purpose of the program. Don’t add a new tool to your arsenal just because it “seems like a good idea.” It should be tied directly to achieving the goals you’ve established for your talent development program.

Choosing What To Measure

As mentioned above, not all measurements of business outcomes will be directly applicable to your talent development program. The metrics you choose should relate directly both to the established goals of your talent development efforts, as well as to the specific action steps you’re taking to achieve them. As we already mentioned, revenue is influenced by such a wide variety of factors that it’s not necessarily a good indicator of successful leadership cultivation. On the other hand, retention and turnover rates tell you much more about the extent to which employees feel valued, supported, and empowered.

A woman measuring employee development results

The more individual metrics you choose to measure, the clearer the overall picture of your employee development efforts will be. Quantitative metrics are especially helpful because they can easily be compared year over year. Quantitative metrics that can demonstrate results in the context of leadership cultivation include:

  • Overall turnover rate
  • Turnover rate of executives, managers, and employees
  • Percentage of high-potential talent (HiPos)
  • Percentage of external vs. internal hiring
  • Cost (both in terms of time and money) of onboarding external vs. internal hires

It’s important not to neglect qualitative factors, however. While the tendency can be to lean on the easily defensible objectivity of quantitative data, qualitative metrics can help illuminate aspects of talent development that numbers are unable to encompass. Qualitative factors that relate to leadership cultivation include:

  • Employee and manager satisfaction
  • Employee engagement
  • Exit interviews
  • Employee performance review remarks

In addition to qualitative metrics, stories and anecdotes are also worth considering when evaluating the effectiveness of a program. Solicit input from your team about their impressions regarding talent development efforts and employee training. Stories and examples can often point you in the direction of aspects of the program you hadn’t thought to consider or measure previously.

360-degree performance reviews can be an effective way to gain a broader picture of the competencies of your employees. Rather than a traditional employee performance review conducted strictly between manager and employee, a 360 review will involve input from an employee’s direct and indirect supervisors, peers, and subordinates. The content of a 360-degree performance review can be especially enlightening when considering employees for leadership positions, because peers will have insight into each other’s performance that may go overlooked by a boss or manager.

Two co-workers completing employee performance reviews for each other

Another useful framework for assessing talent is talent mapping. Essentially, this process involves taking stock of the skills and competencies your business will need on hand in order to be successful and comparing these to the skills and competencies that your employees and leaders currently possess and demonstrate. If there is a mismatch between these, what is the best way to bridge the gap? Will your talent development program – including any formalized training or coaching – be able to foster these skills in your employees, or will you need to look to external hires?

What To Do With Your Data

Once you determine which metrics will be most useful in assessing your talent development results, it’s time to analyze your findings and take appropriate actions based on your observations.

If you’re not seeing the results you had expected, first make sure that you’ve allowed enough time for your efforts to start making a difference in the metrics you’ve chosen. Some factors – like retention and turnover rate – can take months or years to reflect new talent development practices, while others – like employee engagement and satisfaction – can show signs of change relatively soon.

Interrogate what you’re doing to find what needs to be changed. Your goals helped you decide on a course of action, which in turn informed the expected business outcomes and metrics you used to measure results. If something isn’t working, go through that same process in reverse by analyzing your results to help determine how you should alter or adjust your practices.

With the efficiency and success of your business riding on the line, you can’t afford not to invest in sound, reliable methods to measure the results of your employee development. A careful and methodical approach can yield actionable data that will allow you to tweak your employee coaching and training procedures to ensure that your team is performing at the top of their game and remains supported and encouraged in their work.

Interested in learning more about effective employee development solutions? Talk to one of Ace-up's representatives today to see how we can assist with your talent management.

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