According to Gallup, a 100-person organization with an average salary of $50,000 could have turnover and replacement costs of approximately $660,000 to $2.6 million per year, not counting lost productivity and damage to morale. That’s an incredibly high price tag for an issue that’s largely preventable. Research has shown that the main reason why people leave jobs is because they feel like they have stopped growing. HR departments have acknowledged this in recent years, and we’ve seen an explosion of training, coaching and skill development programs and startups to help employees grow. But HR and leadership development departments spearheading these new programs also need to quantify and prove their impact to the business. This presents a challenge, especially when dealing with soft skills like leadership or communication that are difficult to measure precisely.

Measuring Leadership Improvements – Starting With Self-Awareness

The root of any meaningful change in leadership ability is self-awareness. Most managers want to become better versions of themselves, but in order to make appropriate changes they need to have a deep understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses. Enter self-awareness. Self-awareness is critical in creating the intentional behavior changes that can help managers become better leaders.

The best tool to generate true self-awareness is hard data. Data is not subject to time constraints, respondent fatigue, perception or human biases. Internalizing data does not require the same concentrated effort as true self-evaluation. But capturing this sort of self-awareness data has historically been challenging, and where most leadership and development platforms fall short. They provide input on how to improve, either through human coaching, an online training session or a batch of feedback, and let the manager try to apply it. They can’t measure the ongoing effects of that input on user self-awareness and behavior.

But Cultivate can. In fact, over 80% of managers report better self-awareness of how they treat their team(s) after using Cultivate’s AI-driven feedback platform for just a few weeks.

Cultivate’s Unique Approach to Measuring Improvement

But identifying leadership issues with self-awareness is just the first step. Once issues are identified, how can an individual or a company then measure improvements? Unlike most leadership and development programs, Cultivate’s artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) platform can understand improvements in user behavior over time. First, the platform provides users with unique analytics on their digital relationships and identifies opportunities to better their leadership skills. After an opportunity is identified, Cultivate coaches the user through in-the-moment feedback, educational content and assistive tools. This all happens organically and in a non-programmatic fashion.

While using Cultivate, users can see how often they do things like give detailed feedback to their team, if they get better or worse over time, and if they act differently toward specific team members. The platform’s natural language processing models can determine the intent of emails, chat messages and meeting invites, which allow it to quantify many “squishy” attributes like giving recognition, positivity or asking for feedback. This allows users to see how increased self-awareness translates into changes in behavior.

How Cultivate Improves Giving Recognition, After-Hours Messages and Asking for Feedback

Here are three specific examples of communication behaviors that Cultivate can improve. To test this, the team looked at data across four Fortune 500 enterprises using Cultivate, and performed an in-depth analysis of managers’ behaviors towards direct reports just before—and 30 days after—Cultivate identified an opportunity for those managers to improve. It took into account how long managers had been using Cultivate and allowed for the reality that managers start at different baselines and change at different rates. For each of the behaviors below, the team found that Cultivate significantly changed manager behavior toward the direct report identified in the opportunity.

Managers gave direct reports 62% more recognition 30 days after Cultivate identified an opportunity for improvement. Direct reports who receive more recognition from their managers have been found to perform better,1 put in more effort,2 and are more productive3 than their less recognized colleagues. Those with less recognition have higher workplace distress4 and job stress,5 and a greater intention to leave the company.3 Thus, encouraging managers to recognize their employees more often has positive downstream impacts.

Cultivate also had a positive impact on the number of after-hours work requests that managers sent to their teams, improving the work-life balance for direct reports. Managers made 74% fewer after-hours requests thirty days after Cultivate identified an opportunity, which should reduce those direct reports’ burnout, psychological distress, and intention to leave, while improving their job performance, job satisfaction, and life satisfaction.6

Asking for feedback is as important for managers as it is for direct reports. The Cultivate platform increased feedback requests from managers by 65% over 30 days. In previous research, we have shown that managers who ask for feedback are higher performing7 and create a better culture of information sharing among their team.8 Frequent feedback requests have also been found to build trust9 and improve employee engagement.10

Cultivate can clearly quantify user’s progress and demonstrate value, unlike many other leadership development and coaching solutions. If you want to see what else the Cultivate platform can do, and the other user behaviors it can measure and improve, get in touch and request a demo.


1  Stajkovic, A. D., & Luthans, F. (2003). Behavioral management and task performance in organizations: conceptual background, meta-analysis, and test of alternative models. Personnel Psychology, 56(1), 155-194.
2  Grant, A. M., & Gino, F. (2010). A little thanks goes a long way: Explaining why gratitude expressions motivate prosocial behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98(6), 946.
4  McVicar, A. (2003). Workplace stress in nursing: a literature review. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 44(6), 633-642.
5  Gillespie, N. A., Walsh, M. H. W. A., Winefield, A. H., Dua, J., & Stough, C. (2001). Occupational stress in universities: Staff perceptions of the causes, consequences and moderators of stress. Work & stress, 15(1), 53-72.; Kirkady B. & Siefen G. (2002) The occupational stress and health outcome profiles of clinical directors in child and adolescent psychiatry. Stress and Health, 18, 161–172.
6  Sirgy, M., Lee, D. Work-Life Balance: an Integrative Review. Applied Research Quality Life 13, 229–254 (2018).

Rachel Habbert, PhD

Rachel Habbert, PhD

Rachel is the Senior People Scientist at Cultivate. As a psychologist, she’s always been interested in people: how we think, grow, evolve, and interact. She is excited to help Cultivate users interpret their behaviors through a scientific, research-based lens.