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Evaluating Executive Learning Impact

How the CISL Impact Benchmark Study helps improve leadership development with data

Tuesday 27 November 2018


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As leadership development professionals, we all want to design programs that have an impact and shift the way that people think and act. Measuring that impact effectively takes time and careful consideration, quite often it is overlooked or given less attention. Yet undertaking a good quality impact assessment not only provides learning professionals with more compelling data that can be used to secure ongoing stakeholder buy-in, but also the ability to learn and continuously improve programs.

Many leadership program evaluations focus on short-term feedback mechanisms in which participants are asked to rate their learning experience shortly after completing it and appraise what they have learnt.  While these types of evaluations serve a purpose, providing quick data points that can be used to suggest (hopefully) positive impact, they do not assess the longer-term impact and capture information on changes in behaviour and results that happen as a consequence.

Processes that enable long-term impact data to be captured are more complex and take time. Participants (and other stakeholders, such as line managers) need to be tracked over time and followed-up with. This takes resources, and response rates are often lower as people move on from the learning experience.

Evaluating the long-term impact is one of the things that makes the Corporate International Service Learning (CISL) long-term impact benchmark study very special. The Study, which measures global leadership skills, depth of learning, business impact, engagement and responsible leadership, captures data from participants who completed their learning experience at least 12-months previously (on average at least 2 years). As such, the results give a deeper understanding of the longer-term impact that programs have on participants and their business.  

What makes the Study even more distinctive, is that it enables participating companies to benchmark with each other. This is possible because the survey uses the same set of common questions which are carefully designed to be relevant to each company involved. The benchmarking session is a guided web-based discussion which provides a space in which program owners can learn from their peers and see how another organization’s program design is impacting participants. Benchmarking with other organizations also enables program managers to further understand their own results, see the clear strengths of their program and identify areas of relative weakness. It is often these sessions that provide organizations with the detail needed to shape their program.

The current benchmark, calculated for the 2017 CISL Impact Benchmark Study, is made up of data from 688 program participants of 6 global organizations. Analysis of this data provides valuable insight that demonstrates how program design affects outcomes. Using this data, along with expert knowledge, has helped the organizations that have participated in the study understand how their programs are creating changes in behaviour and results, and shown where efforts should be focussed to make their programs even stronger.

The participating companies of the most recently published Study were BD, Credit Suisse, EY, Merck and Microsoft. Feedback received from these organizations highlights the importance of impact assessments and how data is used to improve leadership development programs.

“We put impact measurement at the centre of our program, and so benchmarking with other corporations helps us understand where MySkills4Afrika is strong and where we can focus our efforts to strengthen the program’s impact. By sharing experiences, we now have a clear idea of how to build on our success and we’re also exploring areas of potential collaboration as a result.” Wanjira Kamwere, Microsoft


Emerging World will shortly be launching the 2019 CISL Impact Benchmark Study. If you are interested in learning more about the Study please contact:

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