The reasons for building a strong employee development program are simple and obvious. Recruiting costs in high-skill, high-demand professions are becoming increasingly exorbitant. In-demand talent is being pulled in a hundred directions, and difficult to find and entice. Outside talent won’t be familiar with your organization’s operations and will take time to acclimatize.

With these concerns, it’s no wonder that more and more companies are turning to internal employee development to build out their management ranks. Training your employees to be managers, and your managers to be better managers, can alleviate a lot of the issues that come with outside recruiting. It can also be a huge morale builder, and increase the effectiveness of your operations.

But how do you know if your employee development program is on track? Here are some suggestions to make sure your employee development program stays on track and produces great, consistent results.

1. Focus On Soft Skills

A lot of employee development programs focus on the hard skills that employees perform every day. Things like accounting, programming, supply chain management, etc. This is great, and is a vital part of a successful training program. However, it is critical to remember that soft skills are likely even more important to developing a high performing employee. Soft skills are more transferrable to different tasks than hard skills, and improving these interpersonal skills can lead to better results in the rest of the development program.

2. Don’t Just Test, Talk

Assessments like the EQ-i and EQ-i 2.0 can help you understand where your employees are strong and where they can use some work. Remember, though, that it’s not enough to just test your employees once. Regular benchmarking should be performed to track progress on these soft skills will help you keep abreast of progress being made. Even more importantly, you should meet with employees after every assessment and go over the results with them. These coaching sessions will give you far more insight into how the development process is going, and will let you catch problems that might not be obvious from the assessment.

Almost more importantly, having these in-depth and personal conversations with employees in a development program can drastically improve morale. Having regular post-assessment conversations that go into the hows and whys of test results lets your employees build strong bonds with your coaching team, and creates a model of emotional intelligence-based management.

3. Look Deeper Into The Data

Coca Cola, as part of their Scholars program, began offering optional EQ-i assessments to college-bound students, to gauge their college-readiness. They tested once, at the beginning of a pre-school week-long training session, and then once more at the end of the week of coaching. Shockingly, test scores were almost uniformly lower at the end of the week of intense training.

In one on one meetings with the students, it became obvious that the reasons scores went down wasn’t because the students lost emotional intelligence – it was because at the end of the week of coaching, the students were more self aware, self-critical, and had a better understanding of what leadership qualities looked like. The ratings went down because the model against which the students were measuring themselves went up.

These deeper dives into the data are important for accurately assessing the success of a program. Make sure that you have a team that has the time, resources, and know-how to look past obvious explanations and really examine the inner workings of your program.

4. Don’t Make Assumptions, Ever

Speaking of the Coca-Cola scholarship program, by offering EQ-i tests as an option for all of the incoming college students, the program administrators realized that they had made a critical error of assumption. They assumed that students who came from disadvantaged homes would have a lower emotional intelligence than students who came from more traditional backgrounds. However, after administering the EQ test, they realized that often disadvantaged students had as high an EQ as any other scholar – they just didn’t necessarily realize it.

Don’t make assumptions about which employees belong in a development program because of who they are, what their current job role is, or what skills they are perceived to have. Instead, test everyone. Give your employees a chance to stand out, and you may well be surprised to see how many of them are more than meets the eye.