How to Measure the Impact of Your Talent Management Programs

“I know it’s working. I see the results every day.”

How many times have you heard those words, or something similar, when meeting to discuss the value of a talent management program, such as leadership development and coaching?  Those close to the program see the value first-hand as they witness employees picking up new skills or changing their behavior for the better.

If that’s true, the impact should be obvious in terms of business outcomes, right? Unfortunately this is often not the case. A skeptic may suggest that program participants were already high performers and would have picked up the skills anyway, or would have “figured it out.” ROI estimates based on assumptions can produce lofty values that can be hard to believe. And anecdotal evidence can be seen as just that – a story.

So, what can you do? It’s imperative to measure the value and impact of organizational programs that use vital resources. Here are some ways that I’ve found helpful to clarify the link between a talent management program and business outcomes.

Connect the dots.  Establish a clear relationship between the purpose of the program, what skills or behaviors should be learned, and how those influence company results. Without such linkage, the strength of relationship is tenuous at best. I recommend clients develop an impact map, similar to the one below, which details the learnings, their applications on the job, and the expected business outcomes.

 

 

 

 

 

The impact map helps clarify what outcomes can be reasonably expected based on what was learned, as well as connect the talent strategy to the business strategy.

Choose relevant metrics. Whenever possible, use metrics that are compelling to the business. Chosen metrics will greatly depend on the purpose of the program, but may include such factors as tenure, succession or next-level readiness, promotion velocity, employee engagement levels, and production rates. Part of “connecting the dots” is to establish why these metrics are important to the business. Let’s say a percent increase in engagement has been tied previously to a percent increase in revenue. Keying on that metric to show that the program has led to higher levels of employee engagement demonstrates a clear benefit that is meaningful to the organization.  Linking relevant metrics (turnover, engagement) to the top or bottom line can help make the business case for the measure and the program.

Use stories to highlight the numbers. Qualitative data is often seen as soft, but can help bring the numbers to life. Which of the following two stories is more compelling?

1. After Jack Smith applied what was learned in the program, revenue and margins increased.

2. After participating in the talent management program, Jack Smith returned to his team with a new approach to working with his team. He changed the nature of the conversation with his direct reports to move beyond the numbers to focus on their thoughts and perceptions. He quickly learned that team members did not know one another and had not established trust, which was hindering collaboration. By creating an environment in which team members were able to connect and build confidence in each other, the team began to function more as a cohesive unit, resulting in increased revenue and margins.

The bottom line results in both scenarios are the same – revenue and margin increases – but the second version provides an interesting story that draws people in and provides data to back up the positive impact to the business. It works because it engages both aspects of decision-making – emotional and rational – to help leaders better evalu

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