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Assessing the Business Impact of Leadership Development

Updated: Jan 29, 2023

Evaluating the Return on Investment of the MIT II High Potential Leadership Development Program at Southwest Airlines

I hope you all made the most of Labor Day this week, as you were able. Life is full to overflowing these days, and a day to rest from your labors is well deserved. Need a bit of encouragement? I shared some for you here. It's a quick read, and will remind you why what you do everyday is important and valued.

In the next couple of posts, we are wrapping up a series on high potential leadership development at Southwest Airlines called Manager-in-Training (MIT). For context, begin here if you'd like to take a peek at the beginning of the series. In this post we're covering that ever elusive return on investment assessment that we'd always like to do, but never have the time, resources or know-how to get it done.

ROI = Return on Investment. It's a common business figure used to determine the value of a program, initiative or investment. For training & development it relates to the business value of a specific program. HRDQ includes a simple definition in a nifty article they wrote:

"ROI for training is a purely economic measure. It tells you the benefits of the program, relative to its costs. In a simple number, you learn the value your program adds to the organization.

Benefits include any economic improvements to your company's operations that flow from your training, such as increased profit or cost savings. Costs include the all-in costs of operating the training, from facilities costs to training materials to the economic impact of time away from work."

Assessing and calculating ROI can be tricky. It takes a well thought out strategy to do it effectively and efficiently. So you know what I've figured out about how to conduct an effective ROI assessment? Find someone who has the know-how and enlist their help!

Chantrell Goodgames is just such an expert and has been on the Leadership Development Team at Southwest Airlines for almost three years. She's a go-to resource for many, and she agreed to share with us a write-up on how she conducted an assessment on the business value of MIT Level II.

What I really like about the write-up is that while it's focused specifically on the MIT program, you can see the approach she used to tackle the assessment. Chantrell, thank you for making time to put together this business impact study as a Guest Writer!

You can download the Business Impact Study here:

Business Impact MIT II 2018 by Chantrell
Download • 1.18MB

A few take-aways that I noted:

  • The approach was methodically conducted and reflected the exact learning objectives we set out to address with the program. She kept it simple and focused on the goals of the program.

  • This approach asks participants to reflect on how the program increased their effectiveness verses asking for another's subjective input into their effectiveness. In light of bias, I like the self-rating perspective.

  • She asked about enablers and barriers - very helpful data to roll back into the program as improvement points.

While Chantrell has made the study look straightforward, I had the benefit of watching the process unfold during the assessment. I can attest that it took a lot of work to develop and refine the questionnaire, solicit participants to take the assessment, crunch the data, develop a supporting PowerPoint to tell the story, and coordinate all the things in between. An ROI study is not the right answer for all of your training & development programs, but it can be a strategic tool you apply to continually share the value of the programs you and your teams produce.

If you want to learn more about ROI and business impact studies, here are two classic resources that all L&D Folk should be familiar with:

Chantrell, again, thank you for your insight!

Oct 2019 | when live conferences were a thing


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