According to a Retention and Leadership Survey study done by Harris Poll (commissioned by Saba), 39 percent of companies surveyed offered leadership development programs, but only 15 percent of employees at those firms felt that the training they were receiving in any way prepared them for leadership positions. Too many organizations throw their high-potential employees into training without first seeing where they are today. If you’re not at a stage where a 360 survey makes sense, there are other benchmarks you can use.
One of the biggest mistakes that leadership program facilitators make is that they assume that whisking people off to some campus-like setting, away from distraction and work-a-day worries, will improve learning. Sure, if all you want to do is pour over academic articles about leadership, or meditate on the meaning leadership, that will work. So, when choosing or crafting your leadership training, be sure to keep it in the real world.
There are two great ways to “learn” leadership: seeing it in action, and trying it yourself. Of course, you might be worried about all this investment in different kinds of programs just to develop the next generation of leaders.

Those numbers, and a little math, tell us that about 60% of all leadership programs are failing their employees.
Employee personality assessments and cognitive tests can be a good way to screen for future leaders.
But many of those same studies show that retention is low for information learned in a classroom context when you move into the “real world.” That’s because we all learn better when the information presented is relevant, practical, and actually related to our work-a-day world? not when it is abstract and academic. Just knowing that they have a future with the company, and that it includes an opportunity for growth and challenge, is enough to keep your most high-powered employees around. Invest in employee recognition programs that make them feel good about what they (and their team, and the company as a whole) has achieved.
The senior leader will gain something in the mentoring process, as will the person being mentored. And the mentors you do have might not have the time to dedicate to intense, one-on-one training. Assign your employees mentors, but supplement the mentor relationship with more standard types of training.

Such a survey would not only allow you to measure the effect that leadership training has, it also helps you to select or customize your program to address the specific needs and challenges of your leaders. Even if they have the time, there’s no guarantee they will cover everything the new leader needs to know. For example, you can have groups meet in small workshops to role-play different scenarios a leader might face.
Providing a library of practical content that leaders can access for continued training and improvement isn’t a bad idea, either. Or you can keep a company archive of useful training videos that the mentor can point their mentee to if they need further guidance or training on a topic that crops up.
All great leadership programs make ongoing measurement and retention a large part of their strategy.

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