Data driven insights from assessing leaders

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Here are the insights we have gathered after conducting knowledge and skills tests on over 30,000 managers from all over the world:

First, a note on the data:

The data below is the result of each participant undergoing the Leadership Success Knowledge and Skills Assessment.

Key details on the assessment are as follows:

  • Participants sat a standardised Knowledge and Skills Assessment
  • During the assessment, participants are presented with 40 scenarios
  • These scenarios cover 40 universal, critial leadership skills
  • Participants are asked to select the BEST and WORST ways of handling each scenario from multiple choice options
  • A critical leadership skills gap is identified when the participants selects the WORST OPTION as the BEST OPTION for handling a given scenario

Critical skills gaps by level of management

The following graphic illustrates knowledge and skills gaps observed by various levels of management:

Knowledge and skills gaps by level of management

Critical skills gaps by competency

Even though the majority of emerging and frontline manager level have critical skills gaps, the specific skills gaps are distributed accross the competencies assessed.  There are no universal skills gaps, even in the least experienced managers.

Less than 1 in 100 managers have critical skills gaps in the following areas:

Topic area Specfic competency % Critical skills gap
Communication Ensuring mutual understanding 0.3%
Change management Getting buy-in for change 0.3%
Innovation & Continuous Improvement Piloting ideas for improvement 0.4%

Even in the topics that had the highest occurance of skills gaps, they still equate to less than 2 in 10 managers sharing the same critical skills gap:

Topic area Specfic competency % Critical skills gap
Time management Balancing deadlines and quality requirements 17.62%
Self management Taking ownership and showing initiative 16.37%
Operational planning Defining timeframes and assigning responsibility 15.01%

The full results covering all competencies can be seen in the graph below:

Critical knowledge and skills gaps for all competencies

Number of critical skills gaps per manager

In the case where a critical skills gap is identified, we looked at how many critical skills gaps that individual had. 

Critical skills gap areas per manager (Out of 40 areas) % of managers with a critical skills gap
1 - 3 critical skills gap areas 62.5%
4 – 6 critical skills gap areas 34.7%
7+ critical skills gap areas 2.8%
Average # critical skills gaps 2

This data shines a light on the effectiveness of one-size fits all leadership programs and their effectiveness in addressing critical knowledge and skills gaps.

ROI on leadership development programs

Using the data gathered, we are able to make predictions on the effectiveness, efficiency and ultimately the ROI of one-size fits all leadership development programs from a learning perspective.

There are other valid reasons to conduct group based leadership development sessions, such as networking and building relationships, however we are looking at the value to the participant in addressing critical knowledge and skills gaps.

Assuming a one-size fits all leadership program attempts to target the 40 critical leadership skills that we identified in this guide, we get the following equation:

  • If done internally, the organisation needs to commit the time and resources to developing and maintaining a leadership program
  • The participant needs to commit the time and effort into learning 40 competencies
  • The participant will already have the skills to implement 38 of those 40 competencies
  • Only 2 out of the 40 competencies will address critical skills gaps
  • That is a best case scenario as the new knowledge might get lost amongst all the other content, plus the individual may not be aware they even have a skills gap in that area
  • We can conclude that in terms of training efficiency:
    • 95% of the training is wasted teaching the participant things they already know
  • Conclusions about using an objective leadership skills assessment to identify critical skills gaps:
    • The average manager would reduce learning time by 95% and;
    • Each organisation would have a leadership development program that is 20x more effective

Summary insights on critical skills gaps:

Knowledge and skill gaps cluster in emerging leaders and frontline managers
  • 82% of emerging and frontline managers have critical leadership skills gaps
  • Less than 20% of middle managers have critical leadership skills gaps
  • Less than 10% of senior and executive managers have critical leadership skills gaps
Frontline and emerging leader skills gap profile
  • The average number of critical skills gaps is 2 out of 40 areas per person
  • In a group of 10 managers, only 2 are likely to share a skills gap area
Leadership development program efficiency and ROI
  • One size fits all leadership skills training and development programs are less than 5% efficient
  • Objective skills assessments provide the opportunity to increase training ROI by 20x on average

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