Change is happening as the new American workplace experiences shifts in demographics, tech advancements, and worker expectations. Yet many organizations continue to struggle with their leadership development program attempts. This shortfall results in underdeveloped succession planning and underwhelming diversity in leadership roles. It’s also making it increasingly difficult for firms to attract and retain the best talent.

The organizations that outcompete their rivals invest in internal or turn-key leadership solutions. For price alone, many organizations opt for a turn-key program. There are additional benefits to pre-packaged leadership development curriculums as well. They are quick to implement and require little customization or in-house resources to implement. However, externally-provided leadership development isn’t always the right choice for every organization.

1. Internal vs. External (Turn-key) Development

An internal leadership development program makes sense initially, but it’s rarely that straightforward. Compare the pros and cons of building your own leadership development system against an external turn-key solution. Both internal and external curricula aim to broaden perspectives and promote effective practices for projects and participants. But the differences between them are worth careful consideration. 

Pros of Internal Leadership Training Programs 

Internal leadership programs can benefit employees and organizations in several ways. You have greater control over aligning the program with your company values and leadership culture. In-house initiatives are potentially more cost-effective once they’ve been fully setup as well. They also foster cohesion among your emerging leaders working towards common goals.

Cons of Internal Leadership Development Programs

Internal programs can be resource-intensive and time-consuming to prepare and run. [1] Another potential drawback is that they can lack diverse perspectives and be susceptible to organizational bias. These things can hinder broader leadership skills development, which goes against your desired outcome.

Pros of Turn-Key Leadership Development Programs

External leadership development programs give your emerging and more senior leaders access to trainers unfetterd by internal company culture and politics. They offer objective insights and best practices from competing firms and even completely different industries, thus broadening perspectives and knowledge. 

External programs and trainers also facilitate additional networking opportunities. This relationship building is invaluable for forming connections, knowledge sharing, collaboration, and access to mentors and advisors beyond your internal employees.

Cons of Turn-Key Leadership Training Initiatives

Over time, external programs might cost more than internally developed programming and can lack the level of customization and focus of an in-house initiative. And turn-key programming can be less flexible in timing, which can disrupt work schedules.

Leverage the Individual Strengths of Your Emerging Leaders

EWF’s Emerging Leaders program is a popular turn-key leadership development curriculum for companies. Our experts help you prepare your top people for new challenges and leadership roles. Invest in your best early- to mid-career talent with the business acumen needed for personal and organizational growth.

Learn How EWF Prepares New Cohorts of Emerging Leaders Here

Evaluate Your Resources 

Creating an effective in-house leadership program can demand significant resources. It is crucial to consider your access to time, qualified personnel, content, technology, evaluation resources, and budget.

Evaluate your access to the following resources for the viability of hosting an internal leadership development program:

Resources for In-House Leadership Development Programs
Time: Programs take time to create; they may need input from several stakeholders
Personnel: Qualified staff to design, develop and deliver the training program
Content: Training materials, assessments, and various learning resources
Technology: Potential investment in new technology to support the initiative’s delivery
Evaluation resources: People, time, and means to measure course effectiveness
Budget: Financial means to cover the program/s design, development, implementation

One-time or Recurring Programs?

Opting for a one-off or recurring leadership development program depends on your specific goals. One-off programs are ideal for implementing new strategic initiatives. Routine programs are better for building strong leadership pipelines, job attraction, and retention rates. Recurring courses ensure the continuous development of essential skills that drive personal and company growth. [2]

2. Avoid Leadership Development Training Pitfalls

Leadership development programs can fail for numerous reasons. The most common causes are poor program design, implementation, and a lack of alignment with the organization’s goals. Other causes are inadequate resources and not enough follow-up or accountability. So, most curriculums will fail without an effective system to track and measure the intended results. [3]

There are several consequences of a turn-key program failure. Common effects include subpar performance, less employee engagement, high turnover, and missed opportunities.

Leadership Development Program Red Flags to Avoid

Red flags are warning signs or indicators that a particular training initiative is not right for your organization. Those responsible for choosing potential turn-key solutions should thoroughly review the presented content. Proper evaluation ensures the methods and expected outcomes align with the company’s goals, values, and culture.

Red flags to consider before seeking buy-in from stakeholders include the following:

  • Lack of clarity on program intentions
  • Absence of follow-up support, development, or evaluation in the plan
  • Implies a one-size-fits-all approach instead of specific solutions
  • No clear or measurable ROI outlined
  • Trainers lack qualifications or relevant expertise

Engaging the services of an experienced and reputable training partner specializing in turn-key leadership development programs will avoid many of these red flags.  

3. Turn-key Leadership Development Must-haves

There is no shortage of leadership development consultants, but they don’t all provide the same services or philosophy. A simple list of must-haves for your programming will help you make a well-informed choice. Use the examples below to help decide between different leadership development programming options, and add anything else you deem essential.

  • Must offer tailored curriculums around companies and leadership
  • Must provide coaches with a track record in leadership development programs
  • Must use evidence-based methods, supported by research
  • Must be flexible with times and scheduling
  • Must provide a framework to measurable deliverable results
  • Must promise confidentiality and privacy as requested

Clear Structure

A clear structure is vital to any successful leadership development effort; without it, there’s a risk of confusion and a lack of direction. The ideal framework is well-defined, outlining your training’s specific objectives, timeline, and content. A coherent outline tells participants what to expect and how the course aims to successfully develop their leadership skills.

Content & Format Details

The program’s content and format must be well-defined and aligned with your company’s needs and objectives. If not, participants may experience confusion, leading to reduced engagement and reduced learning. Many development programs benefit from format flexibility to accommodate distinctive learning styles. Examples are classroom instructions, online modules, and experiential learning.

Service-Provider Reputation

Prioritize reputation when shortlisting an LDP outsourcing provider. Check for a proven track record in delivering turn-key leadership development programs. Consider areas such as expertise, resources, and the ability to customize your programming when needed. Fully evaluating a provider’s reputation helps avoid poor teaching and inadequate outcomes.

Do You Have the Right Talent Available When You Need It?

At EWF, we offer a range of emerging leaders programs and skills-building workshops. We designed our courses to prepare your early- to mid-career employees for promotion and success. Moreover, EWF’s corporate programming support structure helps develop the skills needed to build and maintain your diverse leadership pipelines of the future.

More Here on EWF Skills-Building Workshops for Early- to Mid-career Talent

4. Additional Leadership Development Considerations

Every turn-key leadership development program and its implementation needs careful consideration. The training must align specifically with the needs of its participants and company objectives. When these elements work harmoniously, the teaching will maximize organizational impact. And, it also drives meaningful outcomes for the participating leaders.

Define the Program’s Target Audience

Consider the unique characteristics, needs, and aspirations of the course participants. For instance, what are their leadership capabilities, experience levels, and career aspirations? Do they engage better in particular learning styles like online study, group classes, or one-on-one? This type of data helps you tailor the content and delivery methods. It also helps improve employee engagement strategies that resonate with the participants.

Define Program and Participant Goals

Your training initiative must align with the company’s overall strategy and vision. Participant goals are more focused on effective leadership development or skills gaps. Present your aims to stakeholders for discussion during the development stages. Having a clear, mutually-agreed-upon program, and participant goals make it much easier to measure outcomes.

Bridging Training to Operations

Bridging the gap between leadership training and implementation in the workplace is key. Without follow-through, you risk coaching employees out of your organization. And those who stay are more likely to disengage if they feel the training did not lead to significant change. A lack of implementation of what was learned post-training can create poor ROI for your leadership development curriculum. Follow-up coaching and mentoring are ways to prevent this and reinforce learning.

How to Determine Program Success/Failure?

It’s not difficult to determine the success or failure of your leadership development program, so long as you have identified KPIs. The best way to measure results is simply through these KPIs related to your training’s predefined goals, and by soliticing participant feedback. At the most basic of level, you should be able to identigy what outcomes did the programming achieve, and have participants been able to apply their newly acquired knowledge? Those in charge should also develop speccific performance metrics to measure the impact in depth.

Final Thoughts on Leadership Development Programming

Internal and turn-key leadership development programs should both provide a speedy transition from training to execution. Be aware of red flags such as inflexible curriculums and lack of follow-up support post-program. When selecting a turn-key service provider, check their reputation, leadership development expertise, and ability to tailor plans to your organization’s specific training needs. 

Whichever approach you opt for, your leadership development efforts should align with your organization’s goals and values. Finally, measure success using predefined goals, participant feedback, and overall organizational impact. That will help you make adjustments to your leadership development efforts and refine them for even better impact.

Resource Links

  1. https://www.edweek.org/ldps-take-time/
  2. https://hbr.org/LDPs-drive-performance-improve-retention/
  3. https://www.mckinsey.com/why-LDPs-fail/