This is what L&D people are like

Dr George Sik, consultant psychologist at eras ltd gave a Topic Taster session at the CIPD L&D Show.  Using psychometric data from over 4,000 people, the talk was entitled:

“Learning and Development professionals: what gives you the edge?”

Self-knowledge is clearly a big draw, judging from the crowded arena.  Perhaps as many as 150 nervous professionals waited on the couch for a professional diagnosis.  Are we as nice as we think we are?

Dr Sik pointed out that psychologists are well advised not to enter popularity contests.  He recalled the survey of NASA astronauts, in which psychologists came second on the astronauts’ all-time list of worst things about being an astronaut.  Rectal thermometers came first.

But a bit of self-reflection does us good.  As a profession, we spend so much time trying to help other people -so what about turning the spotlight around?

The background: eras ltd used their Quest Profiler to get data on 24 key behaviours. The samples for this session were  525 L&D people, 3,000 people in wider HR, and another 500 in neither.

The caveats: small differences are not statistically significant; this isn’t normative; you are probably different; stereotypes don’t help.  You don’t have to take this particularly seriously.  That said..

The People Side

  • outgoingness and extroversion. We’re more outgoing than both HR and non-HR people.
  • supportiveness.  Although we’re exactly as supportive – no significant difference there.
  • empathy.  We are much more likely to place ourselves in other people’s shoes
  • empowerment.  We like to let people experiment, and learn for themselves – we are significantly higher than others in this respect.
  • social ease. We are way higher than others on this.

Working in the Organisation

  • team working.  We are much less inclined to a collective mentality than HR and others. We are not herd creatures, we are more like eagles making occasional efforts to fly in formation [my words, not Dr Sik’s]
  • curiosity and creativity.  We are higher on both than HR and others, especially when it comes to curiosity.
  • strategy, analysis and precision.  Oh dear.  Oh dear.

Emotions and Drives

  • we are more sensitive to criticism than most – including those in HR [is this why many people despise Level 1 evaluation sheets?]
  • we seem to be less buoyant at bouncing back from setbacks

Across the board, Emotional Intelligence (EI) is a clear strength of the profession.. but with the caveat that it can be harder to maintain EI if you’re sensitive to criticism.

So.. you may or may not recognise these traits in yourself, or your team, or the wider L&D profession.  This is not hard science, but it might raise some interesting questions.  Both strengths and weaknesses can be amplified if the members of a team all tend to come from the same professional area.

One question is whether L&D teams should focus on their weaknesses (lots of team planning sessions anyone?) or bring more diversity into the team with some deliberate “non-L&D” appointments (probably more compatible with a strengths-based approach).

One implication is that we may need to bring all our feedback skills into our own interactions.

Another question is whether the wider organisation is exploiting the collective strength of its L&D teams – who should be the sort of people who can go out into the business, and gain the trust of the workforce.. just as long as you don’t expect them to analyse the data systematically or plan the follow-up.

Does any of this resonate?  Are there any questions your team could ponder?  Or are you Sik to death of psychometrics?


George Sik


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