More than ever, organizations recognize the value of good leadership. According to the Corporate Leadership Council, organizations with high-quality leadership outperform their competitors in shareholder returns and market capitalization, whereas poor leadership is related to an average of $1.2 million in net losses.

Much as flight simulators teach pilots how to manage life and death situations without paying the ultimate price, some leadership lessons should not be learned on the job. “Flight simulators put you in situations you hope that you will never encounter in the aircraft,” said Mark Gasta, chief people officer of Vail Resorts and a former commissioned officer and pilot in the U.S. Army. “In doing so, they give you the confidence that with the proper training and preparation you can overcome almost any situation.”

Simulations are more effective at predicting performance and leadership potential than interviews or situational judgment tests. A 2011 study by PDI Ninth House, a leadership consultant, showed that simulation ratings had stronger relationships with on-the-job performance than more traditional methods. Candidates scoring in the top 25 percent also were four times more likely to be high performers.

In addition to avoiding the cost of failure, other benefits of online simulations include reduced design costs, eliminated facilities and travel costs, easier deployment, global reach, and rapid customization of content and report format. Virtual simulators, which often last a few hours and are administered through email, phone calls and online meetings, may best mimic business interactions in today’s technology-rich workplace.

Julie Bellamy, vice president of human resources at PKC Group, a global wiring systems and electronics provider, said, “We are a small ‘large’ company that needs flexible and cost-effective talent development solutions. The new virtual assessments allowed us to pilot a program within one month, test it to ensure it provided the information we thought it would and to craft our assessment program while we piloted it. It was a huge leap for many of our leaders, especially those outside the U.S., but it proved highly valuable from both the company’s and the participants’ perspectives.”

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