How to Prove ROI for Leadership Training

Any leadership development journey consists of several steps: setting goals, getting buy-in from executives and employees, engaging a leadership training partner and conscious, consistent practice are among them. But perhaps the most difficult step to master is proving return on investment (ROI), showing that your leadership training is “working.”

Difficulties of Measuring Leadership Training ROI

Measuring leadership training ROI is notoriously difficult, for a variety of reasons.

  1. You never decided what to measure (until it was time to measure it).
  2. It’s tough to attribute success directly to leadership training (other factors could be involved).
  3. Behavioral changes are hard to measure objectively.

At the same time, proving the ROI of your training investment is arguably the most important step. After all, if you can’t show positive results, then not only will your leadership development journey be short-lived, but you’ll also have wasted all the resources—time, money and effort—you put into the endeavor in the first place.

How To Measure Return on Investment For Leadership Training

Measuring the ROI of your leadership training doesn’t have to be complicated. Keeping the following considerations in mind can make it easier.

You Don’t Have to Start From Scratch

Before you begin a leadership training program, decide how you’re going to measure its effectiveness. The good news is that you don’t have to pull these metrics out of thin air. Look closely at your organization’s goals and objectives and consider what business measures support them. Those two items provide the information you need to identify the outcomes you want from your leadership training—and the behaviors you must change to achieve those outcomes.

If you’ve correctly identified your objectives and know the outcomes you want to measure, then a positive change in those outcomes correlates with the effectiveness of your leadership training.

Get Next-Level Managers Involved

Proving—and improving—leadership training ROI requires the enthusiastic participation of next-level managers (NLMs). These are the managers of the folks taking part in the training program. Involvement of the NLM can greatly increase trainee engagement, retention and leaderships skills transfer from training to job. How?

  • The NLM encourages the trainee to put their leadership training into action buy showing interest in the trainee’s development and behavioral changes
  • The NLM can hold the employee accountable and ensure implementation of learned skills, which will improve the metrics intended to show ROI

Use a Tried-and-True Model to Measure ROI

Beyond metrics, there are a few systematic, repeatable frameworks you can use to help you prove ROI for your leadership training program.

The Kirkpatrick Model

The Kirkpatrick training evaluation model consists of four levels of metrics that help you to measure if—and how much—trainees are putting what they’ve learned into practice and how those new leadership skills are affecting your organization:

  1. Level 1 (Reaction) measures how engaged your trainees were and how well they received the training.
  2. Level 2 (Learning) measures what your trainees have—or haven’t—learned and how they feel about making behavioral changes based on that learning.
  3. Level 3 (Behavior) measures how trainee behaviors have changed as a result of their leadership training, usually through interviews or observation.
  4. Level 4 (Results) measures the results of your leadership training based on the outcomes you decided on at the outset of training.

The Four Moments of Truth™

The 4MOT™ training evaluation model is a process for converting learning into performance, which you can then measure to prove ROI. The process supports trainees’ success before, during and after the leadership training:

  1. MOT1 (Same-Page Status) happens one to two weeks before training, and it’s where the trainee and his or her manager outline training expectations.
  2. MOT2 (Maximum Engagement) occurs during and immediately after the training. The trainee actively engages with the training and completes a learning summary to define key takeaways.
  3. MOT3 (Perfect Practice) takes place one to two weeks after training. It is a coaching session between the trainee and the manager to decide on goals and action steps stemming from the training and determining how to measure progress toward those goals.
  4. MOT4 (Performance Support) consists of longer-term, ongoing coaching and follow-up. The trainee and manager meet two to three months after training to assess progress toward goals and refine goals and action plans, as needed.

Remember, with both the Kirkpatrick Model and the Four Moments of Truth™, you are still tracking and measuring the data that connects an organization’s investment in leadership training to true measures of productivity.

The outcomes you use to prove the ROI of leadership training can be complex and hard to measure. Identifying your metrics early on, ensuring engagement from trainees and NLMs and having a true understanding of the connection between your leadership training and how it aligns and supports organizational goals are three considerations that make proving ROI much easier.

Application Challenge

  1. What metrics would you use to prove the ROI of leadership training in your organization? Can you clearly describe how those metrics align with your organization’s business goals?
  2. How do you plan to present your ROI findings to executives at your organization