3 Evidence-based Steps to Boost Leadership Development App Use
With the ongoing global economic volatility, labor shortages, and remote work, mobile apps are continuing to take center stage in many leadership development programs – from frontline-manager to high-potential programs, all the way up to executive education. Instead of delivering traditional content in articles or videos, many leadership development apps now focus on behavior change. These apps usually follow the nudge theory or research in habit formation.
However, as with any change intervention, these apps are only effective when participants use them regularly. So how can you boost their adoption?
We analyzed data from almost 2,000 participants (n= 1,957) who had access to The Pinsight App, our leadership development app designed based on the leader habit formula. The app delivers simple, 5-minute daily exercises to participants that can be practiced and utilized on the job.
An example exercise for one of the Leader Habits, Active Listening, would be: After realizing that you want to ask a question, start it with the words “what” or “how.” Participants are encouraged to put these exercises into practice throughout their workday and record how they felt, how it went, or another quick observation in the app to track their progress.
Here are the key recommendations stemming from our research:
Pick the Right Audience
Our app is available to every level of leadership, but we have found the highest adoption rates among people holding frontline manager jobs. Frontline managers were significantly more likely to try the app at least once compared to all other groups – individual contributors, mid-level managers, and senior executives.
Perhaps it’s the lesser experience in people management and often being “thrown in” to the job without much preparation that creates the hunger for development tools in early managers.
We also found higher adoption rates among participants in IT vs. others industries, esp. finance and manufacturing. Those in IT, on average, engaged with the app to track their practice significantly more total days than participants in other industries. It could be the comfort with technology and general attraction to technology-based tools that motivate IT managers to use the development app more often.
Use a Baseline Assessment
Our development app is tied to a simulation-based assessment of leadership skills, the results of which determine the participant’s unique development plan. We found that participants who receive lower scores on leadership skills during the baseline assessment are significantly more likely to try the app than those who receive average or high scores.
Furthermore, those who receive lower baseline scores are also significantly more likely to practice with the app more frequently, i.e., practicing more days during the week. Thus, having a solid baseline assessment, such as a leadership simulation, not only helps to highlight development areas and set the direction for the development plan, it may also enhance motivation to grow, especially for lower-scoring participants.
Get Them Started Right Away
Our research showed that the timing of the first use matters in the long run: Participants who don’t wait and try the app earlier after enablement tend to practice more frequently, i.e., more days out of a week. Out of those who try the app, we found that 54% try it within three days of enablement, and 75% try it within seven days.
Moreover, the sooner participants try the app after enablement, the higher their adoption rates tend to be. This effect holds even after controlling for learning aptitude and personality characteristics. Perhaps it’s the initial excitement and energy that continues to drive participants to practice over the long term.
The 3 Steps to Boost Leadership Development App Use:
- Pick the right audience: We found highest adoption rates among frontline managers (as compared to individual contributors, mid-level managers, and senior executives) and in the IT industry (as compared to esp. finance and manufacturing).
- Use a baseline assessment: Baseline assessments set the direction for development and can increase the motivation to grow. We found highest adoption rates among low-scoring participants.
- Get them started right away: We found that the sooner after enablement participants try the app, the higher their adoption rates tend to be. Focus on motivating participants to start early.