Leadership Development for a Company with 500 Employees: A Comprehensive Guide for HR Directors

January 19, 2023

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Leadership development is a crucial aspect of any organization's growth and success. Let's say you're an HR director for a company with 500 employees and you are tasked with the responsibility of designing a leadership development program that will help your employees reach their full potential. However, with so many different elements to consider, and so many frameworks or methodologies it can be overwhelming to know what to focus on. In this blog post, we'll discuss the most important things to consider when designing a leadership development program for a company of your size.


1. Define what good looks like

2. Understand the performance gaps

3. Consider the delivery method

4. Define your success metrics

5. Identify and involve stakeholders

6. Embed it in the flow of work

7. Evaluation

8. Helping employees measure their own progress

9. Making adjustments as you go


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1. Define what good looks like

First and foremost, it's essential to identify the specific leadership skills and competencies that are needed within the organization. This could include things like being able to create and lead effective teams, communication skills, decision-making, strategic thinking, or problem-solving. By understanding the specific skills that are required, you can tailor the program to focus on areas that are most important for your organization.

A good place to start is speaking with senior leadership to understand - from the company objectives and the intended strategy and tactics - what the implications will be for the workforce. e.g. a planned shift to a remote or hybrid work structure, upcoming mergers or acquisitions, increased competition in the market etc

Many organisations are shifting their mindset from developing individuals to developing teams. A recognition that teams are really the core unit of performance - and gains in team effectiveness have a bigger ROI than gains in performance of individuals. 


2. Understand the performance gap

Next, it's essential to assess the gaps. Both in current leadership ability - measuring where are people now versus where do they need or want to be as well as gaps in your current leadership development offering. What help or support is available to people now versus what do they need in order to succeed.

In many companies this is a sobering exercise.

  • 75% of 1,500 managers surveyed from across 50 organizations were dissatisfied with their company’s Learning & Development (L&D) function;
  • 70% of employees report that they don’t have mastery of the skills needed to do their jobs;

Don't be put off - you're designing a new program.

Measuring these two gaps could involve quantitative data from surveys and KPI's or qualitative data from focus groups, or interviews with employees, managers, and senior leaders. Either way, aim to get a sense of where the organization's strengths and weaknesses lie versus the ideal. By understanding the current state of the company, you can design a program that addresses the most pressing needs.


3. Consider the delivery method

Once you have a clear understanding of the skills and competencies that are needed and any gaps, it's time to determine the appropriate delivery methods for the program. Classroom training, online learning, mentoring, and coaching are all traditional options, but it's important to choose the method that best suits your organization's needs. For example, if your employees are spread out geographically, a program that leverages digital tools may be more effective. Alternatively, if employees need hands-on training, a mentoring program may be the best fit.

There's significant research to show that if learning isn't applied we forget it. In fact if we don't apply it within 6 days, we'll forget 75% of it.

  • Only 12% of employees apply new skills learned in L&D programs to their jobs; and
  • Only 25% of respondents to a recent McKinsey survey believe that training measurably improved performance.

This might make you consider a program centred on the principle of on-the-job learning.


4. Define your success metrics

Creating a clear and measurable set of objectives for the program is also essential. This will help you track the progress of the program and measure its success. The objectives should align with the overall business strategy and objectives of the organization.

Check out this guide on how to calculate and measure the ROI of your L&D programs.

5. Identify and involve stakeholders

Key stakeholders, such as senior leaders, managers, and employees, should be involved in the design and implementation of the program. This will help ensure that the program is aligned with the overall business strategy and objectives, and that the program is supported by all levels of the organization.

Engaging with stakeholders from the planning stage of the program means you can develop a common understanding of the scope, timelines, budget and resources you'll need from the start. It's also a great way to get support from the rest of the business - particularly senior leadership.

6. Embed it in the flow of work

Providing opportunities for participants to apply their learning on the job is also crucial. This will help employees understand how the skills and competencies they're learning can be applied to their day-to-day work, which will help them see the value of the program.

For a great guide on how to make learning part of every day work, check out our guide for on-the-job learning.

Or for a guide you can share with your managers, check out our tips for learning to be a great manager on the job.

7. Evaluate and adjust

Continuous evaluation and adjustment of the program is also important. Feedback from participants and results should be used to make necessary adjustments to the program. This will help ensure that the program stays relevant and effective over time.

Perhaps the two main reasons for doing this are for engagement and cost effectiveness. If program participants see their feedback is being listened to and acted upon then they're likely to be much more engaged - both because it gives them a sense of ownership and because the program will be better suited to their needs. Removing redundant elements of the program and replacing them with elements more likely to be engaged with subsequently improves the overall cost-effectiveness of the program.

8. Help employees evaluate their own progress

Providing a career development path for the employees who complete the program is also vital. This will ensure that they have a clear understanding of how the leadership development program fits into their overall career development and how they can continue to grow and develop within the organization. Three main reasons why this is important are:

  1. Self-awareness: Allowing program participants to evaluate their own progress helps them become more self-aware of their strengths and weaknesses. This self-awareness can help them identify areas where they need to focus their development and set goals for themselves.

  2. Ownership and Accountability: By evaluating their own progress, participants take ownership of their development. This helps them to be more accountable for their learning and to take responsibility for their own growth.

  3. Alignment with personal and professional goals: Allowing participants to evaluate their own progress helps ensure that the program aligns with their personal and professional goals. This alignment makes it more likely that they will see value in the program, which will increase their engagement and motivation.

In addition, when they evaluate their own progress, the participants can give valuable feedback to the program organizers and trainers, which will help them to improve the program and make it more effective. This feedback can be gathered through questionnaires, surveys or interviews, which can be incorporated into the evaluation process.


9. Be prepared to adapt as you go

Finally, it's important to allow flexibility for different levels of employees and different departments. Not all employees will have the same development needs, and it's essential to design a program that is flexible enough to meet the needs of all employees.

In conclusion, leadership development is a critical aspect of any organization's growth and success. As an HR director for a company with 500 employees, you are tasked with designing a leadership development program that will help your employees reach their full potential. By considering things like specific leadership skills and competencies, current needs and gaps, delivery methods, objectives, key stakeholders, and continuous evaluation, you can design a program that will be effective and beneficial for your organization.


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