Introverted or Extroverted?

Intro

Do you know whether you are introverted or extroverted? 

Answer: you’re neither.

The idea of us being one or the other/type ‘A’ or type ‘B’ is not conducive to our make-up as human beings. Our personalities result from complex neural processes created through our lived experiences, with some genetic influences thrown in for good measure. We learn through these experiences, which influence how we behave in future similar interactions, and how we behave is nuanced and will be implicated by a myriad of factors relative to each scenario we encounter, even if we’re more inclined to act in an introverted or extroverted manner. 

What happens in the brain: 

When we experience something in our lives – whether a significant, emotionally charged energy-altering event or something seemingly insignificant – this learning influences the strengthening of different synaptic connections, which form complex interactions of other brain areas through a process called ‘neuroplasticity’. Neuroplasticity is our brain’s response to experience; our brains are most plastic earlier in life (commonly referred to as our ‘formative’ years), which is why experiences in these formative years can strongly influence who we grow to be. As we learn and develop through life, these synaptic connections either strengthen through repetition or weaken and even die from a lack of use. 

As we age, plasticity declines; however, despite our brain’s highly plastic and malleable nature in our early lives, this does not mean that change is not possible the older we are. However, it will take a more concerted effort to change our ‘innate tendencies’. Think about our synaptic connections; the older we get, the more time we may likely have been repeating what comes naturally to us and, in turn, continuously strengthening these connections the stronger they are, as refraining from habit to let the synaptic connections that drive that habit will require more concerted effort and be paramount to change while forming new habits through new synaptic connections will also require more intention and effort in comparison to when our younger brains were quicker adapt. Our thoughts, emotions and behaviours result from these internal processes influenced by; ‘message carriers’, ‘hormones’, and neurotransmitters developed over our life experience. We can behave differently in different environments and around different people.  

Personality 

As a result, our personalities are not singular or categorical but comprised of this multitude of complex connections we’ve built up over time. The connections formed, of course, have specific ‘tendencies’ or ‘preferences’. Considering ‘introverted’ or ‘extroverted’ favouring, if you’re invited to a party and a coin is flipped on whether you will go, you’ll generally know which side you’d rather it land on. The people in attendance and the location of the party may also come into play; some people know when they hear about a party that they’d rather go despite having minimal details, others weigh up the details before deciding whether they’d like to attend and some, would rather not even be invited in the first place! 

In personality research, traits are quantified with continuums, and we will all be placed somewhere on each continuum – this allows for the complexities of our personalities. If we imagine the continuum for the personality trait ‘Conscientiousness’, on one end, you will have free-spirited behaviour with a relaxed attitude to work or responsibilities; on the other end of this continuum, you will have routine, loving, innately driven behaviour with a keen preference for immaculate detail. We will have an operational preference and fall somewhere along this continuum. 

The trait ‘Conscientiousness’ in personality belongs to the five-factor model, and the traits have been continuously researched to establish them as stable innate traits that indicate a person’s personality. In the case of ‘introversion’/’extroversion’, these descriptive adjectives take components of these traits, indicating a person’s orientation of focus towards more ‘people’ or ‘analytical’ operating styles. An easily digestible example is a person who scores highly on a continuum for the Five Factor Model Trait of ‘Extraversion’ will, understandably, be comfortable in social situations and thrive off the energy they receive from group settings. At the same time, someone who falls on the lower end of the continuum of ‘Agreeableness’ can also be regarded as friendly and approachable but with a passive nature. 

But what about someone who scores high on the ‘Conscientiousness’ continuum, highly on the ‘Openness’ continuum, and lower on the ‘Extraversion’ and ‘Agreeable’ continuums? This person will have a strong work ethic and produce a high standard of work with a drive for innovation and be open to new ideas and collaboration. However, you might only know about it if you intentionally observe their work. They may not be inclined to notice that they are working to a higher standard than others and won’t naturally draw anyone’s attention to their work. However, their work could be an asset to your department or organisation.

The aspects of each of the five-factor traits which indicate information about a person’s tendency towards being more introverted or extroverted can be compiled to create a continuum which runs from ‘people-oriented’ (associating to extraversion) to ‘process or analytically oriented’ (associating to introversion). 

At Work:

It is no secret that understanding aspects of ourselves makes for an easier life overall. Learning about ourselves can satisfy curiosity or serve the purpose of creating a foundation for development. 

Labels can be applied too flippantly when discussing others in the workplace; terms like ‘introvert’ are frequently used to describe people who can effectively work alone and produce a high standard of work, and typically speaking, assumptions about others are usually used by people who may not operate in the same manner themselves. When encountering someone with much to say about others, it is best to remind ourselves that this tells us much more about the ‘descriptors’ confidence in their assumptions than anything about the (individual) discussed. 

As we’ve established, the way we behave and aspects of our personalities will be dictated by a combination of factors. Someone who may be described as ‘extroverted’ gaining a confident title at work may not feel as comfortable in unfamiliar territory or even around people they’ve known for years, depending on the structure of those relationships. 

In people strategy, valid measures must be considered when supporting employees to operate to their best capacity. Not just for the employee’s experience but to maintain a sustainable overall structure maintained by retention that ensures organisational achievements. 

It is often the case that high-performing members of technically focused teams are naturally progressed or promoted into management positions. Remembering our ‘People’ – ‘Task’ continuum. You may have just promoted someone based on their proven capabilities, which lie on one end of this continuum, into an opposing role…..

 

AS

Designing an Effective Leadership Development Programme

Leadership development is crucial to succession planning, allowing organisations to shape and design their preferred future. Organisations must align strategic goals, values, and employee satisfaction to create a successful leadership development program. This article explores a step-by-step guide to designing a program that drives organisational goals through nurturing and supporting future leaders.

Identify Strategic Organisational Goals

The foundation of any leadership development program lies in a clear understanding of the organisation’s strategic goals. These goals serve as a roadmap for leadership development, ensuring that the program addresses the organisation’s specific needs and challenges in the long term.

For instance, if a company aims to increase its headcount by 40% over the next five years and a core value of the organisation is ‘Empathy’, the leadership development program should focus on identifying and cultivating leaders who can strike a balance between supporting and nurturing employees while prioritising organisational objectives. 

Cross Reference Strategic Objectives with Company Values

To create a leadership development program that not only achieves organisational goals but also maintains the preferred culture, it is essential to cross-reference strategic objectives with company values. This ensures that leaders effectively achieve targets while also embodying the principles that define the organisational culture. We are all aware of a company’s culture’s impact on its strategy. A robust culture needs to be a core consideration when planning for the long term. Many resources are invested in compiling a company’s values to ensure a desired workplace, so they are the best benchmark for mapping the skills required when planning for maintaining a company’s future preferred culture.  

Using the example of empathy as a core value, your leadership development program should incorporate training that hones skills related to effective communication, conflict resolution, relationship management, and cross-cultural understanding. This drives the strategic goal of expanding the workforce while fostering a culture of empathy.

Create Role and Department Specific Skill Banks 

An effective way to identify the skills needed in future leaders is to analyse the profiles of current high performers in leadership roles in your organisation. Gain stakeholder contributions on what is required of individuals to succeed in these leadership roles. Then, reverse engineer by skills that contribute to their success in these roles and use this understanding to break down skillsets by position and department. 

Create role-specific and departmental skillsets and align them with the skillsets you identified through your previous culture mapping. 

For example, a high-performing financial leader likely exhibits excellent attention to detail and the ability to think strategically for the overall financial health of your organisation; in this circumstance, analytical skills will take precedence. Another paramount contributor to your company’s overall financial health is your sales leaders. However, their relationship skills are what contribute most to their success. 

Now, you want to collate these skills by department and role to create your skills banks, which will frame your programme. 

Utilise your organisation’s resources and design your learning

Once the necessary leadership skills are identified and your role and departmental-specific ‘skills banks’ are compiled, the next step is to cross-reference them against accessible learning content: most organisations use learning management or experience systems and have subscriptions to services such as LinkedIn Learning or other learning options. Compile learning content in line with your ‘skills banks’ as the development that will be applied to participants in line with their developmental path in your program. This forms the basis for the development program’s content and is a valuable resource for facilitators and participants. 

Support Participants in Identifying Skills Gaps

To foster accountability, your future leaders should be given some autonomy in the process of identifying their skills gaps. Attain uses a leadership trait assessment designed using the factor model of personality, the reason being that it is the most widely researched theory of personality and has been shown to align in research with various skills and capabilities coveted by organisations, which means that this theory traits can easily be mapped against the skills you now have in your organised banks. Once participants receive their assessment report, it not only serves as indicative support for personal development but also serves to support individuals in recognising where they align with the role or departmental-specific skills banks or where they may need to develop. It is always positive to have assigned individual coaches who can support this part of the process. Individual skills gaps can then be used to tailor the learning journey, ensuring that participants focus on areas where improvement is needed. This personalised approach enhances the program’s impact by addressing specific developmental needs.

Schedule Consistent Interactive Learning Sessions

Given the assumption that participants may be working remotely or across regions, scheduling regular interactive learning sessions is crucial. These sessions can be weekly, fortnightly, or monthly meetings where participants engage in discussions, case studies, and collaborative activities. Interactive sessions foster a sense of collaboration among participants and provide an opportunity for real-time feedback and discussion. This approach ensures the leadership development program remains dynamic and responsive to participants’ evolving needs.

Design Questionnaires for Continuous Feedback

Regular feedback is essential to gauge the effectiveness of your leadership development program. Designing questionnaires aligned with the program’s objectives allows continuous assessment and improvement.

Create weekly, fortnightly, or monthly questionnaires to gather insights into participants’ learning experiences, challenges faced, and progress made. Compiling and analysing these results provides valuable data to fine-tune the program and maintain a record of training effectiveness. Individual (possibly anonymised) feedback is where you will gain the most accurate insight into how your participants are feeling but also the predictive effectiveness of your programme. 

In conclusion, designing an effective leadership development program requires a strategic and comprehensive approach. By aligning organisational goals, values, and high-performer profiles, organisations can create a program that addresses current challenges and prepares leaders for the future. Utilising accessible learning resources, supporting participants in identifying skills gaps, and incorporating interactive learning sessions ensure success even with limited resources. Continuous feedback and evaluation contribute to the program’s evolution, fostering a culture that instils your values and prioritises retention and a sustainable future for your organisation.

AS

Navigating a Skills Shortage

Earlier this year, the World Economic Forum predicted that a staggering one billion people will require reskilling by 2030. This article explores the skills dilemma currently faced by corporations, delving into the evolving landscape of hiring practices, the persistent demand for specific skills, and the challenges of identifying and developing essential yet hard-to-quantify abilities.

Similarities Remain Across Top Required Skills:

In ’22, Pearson ranked Communication, Collaboration, and Problem-Solving in the top ten skills organisations searched for. By this year, not much had changed as skills related to creativity, analytical thinking, communication, innovation and the ability to work as part of a team continued to be listed by reports conducted by Pearson and others including the World Economic Forum (WEF) in whose ‘Future of Jobs’ report published earlier this year, the skills shortage was a key factor. The WEF detailed the top five most sought-after skills across sectors: 1. Analytical and 2. Creative thinking with Resilience is in third place, followed closely by Motivation and Curiosity. 

The Complex Nature of Skill Development:

The skills identified as companies’ top priorities are simple to include on a C.V. but lie in the components of a person not easily quantified through previous experience. Traditionally, the way we hire identifies that qualifications are met, knowledge has been acquired and sometimes whether a candidate would be a ‘good fit’, but these practices have contributed to organisations having to manage the results of a lack of focus on these coveted skills. A survey by CodinGame and CoderPad found that up to 47% of those involved in recruiting described trying to identify or evaluate ‘soft skills’ as the biggest challenge they face in remote hiring, and some companies even aim to discount traditional aspects of hiring in their search for essential skills. These coveted skills that companies seek to identify can come naturally to some or grow over time. However, in most cases, if a skill is not intentionally identified as necessary, it may never be developed. The way these skills are acquired or learned is complex compared to standardised educational techniques or systems. For example, communication with various people can come naturally to some; presentation skills required to pass a degree can help develop communication skills. However, a person can comfortably present to their classmates and still buckle if a presentation is conducted for clients or stakeholders. You can find the best data analyst, but if you need them to contribute findings regularly to your product team and active communication is an area they need help with, this will pose many issues over time. Most skills that fall into the ‘soft’ bracket are acquired and developed through personal experience.

Limitations in Training:

One of the most advanced ways in which companies are attempting to support employee upskilling is the use of learning experience platforms – these technologies, which were born out of a necessity for a more tailored learning experience from their predecessors – the ‘learning management systems’ (LMS) – allow potential or current employees to complete skills assessments which then indicate to the user which training they should undertake based on their results.  

According to the WEF ’23 report, companies planned for 41% of employees to complete training to bridge their skills gaps, with the highly sought after ‘Analytical Thinking’ accounting for 10% of these initiatives, but how do you train someone in ‘Analytical Thinking’ exactly, and how can companies correctly or accurately suggest that someone cannot think analytically or need to develop it? Revisiting what we mentioned at the beginning of this article, the skills workplaces attempt to develop are challenging to quantify, and development practices still need to follow trial and error no matter how ‘tailored’ the experience. Training is an expensive practice, and Ebbinghaus’s forgetting curve tells us that employees will inevitably forget up to 70% (or even more) of what they learn in a corporate training session (due to how information is lost over time when there is no attempt or application to retain it) the

ROI on corporate training is, again, challenging to quantify. Formal training faces increasing challenges, with attention divided among various factors hindering its effectiveness. There is also some research to suggest that how we train is not conducive to how we learn.

Gauging Desired Skills using The Five-Factor Model:

The most widely assumed theory in personality research, The Five Factor Model of Personality, consists of five traits; ‘Openness’, ‘Conscientiousness’, ‘Extraversion’, ‘Agreeableness’, and Neuroticism’. In the past year, researchers have identified correlations between these traits and the skills deemed paramount for organisations. Researchers who took a group of over 1,000 university students found that an individual’s ability to think critically reduces with a lowered ability to manage higher feelings of stress, while levels of the trait openness were directly linked to communication and creativity, as was conscientiousness. Participants’ extraversion score was an indicator of their ability to collaborate with others, along with, again, a higher openness scoring. Similarly, Kevin Stanek, a Human Capital Researcher at Gilead, along with Deniz Ones, and other researchers, including volunteers, spent 14 years conducting a meta-analysis of over 1,300 studies of global datasets shown which represented links between these personality traits and intelligence. Amongst their findings were correlations between the previously discussed research; Openness and Extraversion were correlated with an increased ability to incorporate and retain new information. 

Despite the (LXP’s) algorithm, which collects data to refine the ‘indicative’ process of applying the correct learning for employees to upskill in a particular area, these processes will never compare to the rigour involved in the scientific space when validating a theory. This rigour makes the Five-Factor Model of personality a reliable indicator of an individual’s skill set and predictive success.

Conclusion:

The skills dilemma corporations face demands a shift in hiring, identifying and training paradigms. As the demand for these essential skills persists, organisations must navigate the complexities of identifying and developing these abilities. Embracing innovative technologies, indicators designed using the Five Factor Model of Personality, and reassessing traditional training methods can pave the way for a workforce equipped to thrive in the future job landscape.

Effective Development

In a previous article, we discussed challenges faced by organisations attempting to recruit and cultivate in-demand skills, specifically, discussing what companies can learn from research which correlated traits of the five-factor model of personality the five-factor model of personality to the most consistently coveted skills and the efficacy of training and its limitations. This article explores the intricacies surrounding training and development, how we learn and retain, how effectively individuals can acquire and then apply the attained knowledge, and how to design development practices that benefit company objectives while prioritising employees’ growth and positive experience. 

How we learn: The Power of Engagement

‘Nothing taught by force stays in the soul’ – Plato.

Learning requires engagement; engagement is necessary for memory creation and retention. For a subject to be engaging, it needs to be of interest. So, how do we make learning enjoyable? 

Creating engagement first requires understanding where the learners are – where does their current knowledge lie? Learning and developing too familiar content inhibits engagement as the mundane is tedious to interact with. At the same time, something that is too foreign or outside of our scope of understanding is difficult to engage with, so facilitators want to aim for ‘not so foreign that it’s difficult to understand but just enough that it keeps learners wanting to know more.’ 

More often than not, employees’ development is dictated to them – almost always with the best intentions – but these practices can lead to disengagement when people are allocated learnings that they struggle to relate to or understand. With three of the top five reasons people consider leaving their roles related to a lack of learning support, companies can’t afford to ‘tick boxes.’ Keeping clear communication with employees about their personal goals before aligning with the workplace’s objectives is the best option to establish the correct employee training. Clear communication is not limited either to verbal conversations. Companies can create clear and consistent understandings of employees’ goals and how they align with their skill set through low-cost, consistently updated tools and software. 

Engagement fosters motivation: The Neurological Dance

Part of what happens during engaged learning is the release of the excitatory neurotransmitter Acetylcholine (ACh)’ which is involved in attention, focus and memory consolidation in the Hippocampus (the brain area involved in learning and memory). The release of ACh prompts attention and focus on the learning task, reinforcing motivation and engagement. Doing so contributes to synaptic plasticity and consolidating information received into long-term memory. But this consolidation in our Hippocampus of what we are exposed to during learning happens following the teaching, meaning the actions we take or scenarios we involve ourselves in following the education can directly impact the brain events associated with which the actions of ACh contribute to retention and most notably in the context of organisational development; memory retrieval long-term. The consolidation of the memories required for long-term retrieval is enhanced through revision and repeated application of learning closely following the learning. The neurotransmitter Dopamine is released when we encounter something novel or exciting, and the interplay of both neurotransmitters contributes to the process of neuroplasticity that solidifies the formation of the new memory. 

Factors that inhibit information retention: 

Applying what is learned closely following learning is excellent for solidifying that information we’ve just learned into memory, but this is only sometimes practical in the workplace. In leadership development programmes, for example, learners foster future skills. Commonplace, what is learnt in corporate training is intended to be remembered and applied months or even years later. An issue Micro-Learning trends aim to tackle through bite-sized momentary skills development.  

It is commonplace for organisational development to be squeezed into tightly packed schedules, where individual workload is only sometimes considered or reduced per the time required to complete the training. Resulting in extended working hours, skipped rest periods, and, as a result, higher bursts of stress. The stress hormone Cortisol can prevent the consolidation of memories in the Hippocampus, so if your company tends to operate in a ‘high-pressure environment’, this is not conducive to information retention. It’s less likely that employees will retain what they have learned. 

How we train: Adapting to the Modern Landscape

Organisations utilise various training methods, including online tools (LXP, LMS). The challenge is aligning training to individual requirements to ensure learnings convert to retained information. Even in the context of the LXP, which aims to tailor development through skills assessments, it is compounded by the fact that engagement rates within companies are often suboptimal, with 60% considered the best that companies can hope for, diminishing the return on investment. 

Challenges in the Virtual Realm: Practical Learning Concerns:

Virtual training sessions bring their own set of challenges. Technical limitations, such as The rise of broken cameras and internet instability, contribute to the challenge of practical learning in a virtual environment. Portions of a company’s training budget may be lost due to information needing to be communicated to participants. 

Utilising How We Learn To Support How We Train

At Attain, indicated personal traits are a core consideration to decipher suitable learning on the periphery of the employee’s already attained knowledge. However, defining acquired traits or skills is only sometimes the case. In many circumstances, employees’ development is dictated to them – almost always with the best intentions – but these practices can lead to disengagement when people are allocated learnings that they struggle to relate to or understand. With three of the top five reasons people consider leaving their roles related to a lack of learning support, companies can’t afford to ‘tick boxes.’ Keeping clear communication with employees about their personal goals before aligning with the workplace’s objectives is the best option to establish the correct employee training. Clear communication is not limited to verbal conversations. Companies can create clear and consistent understandings of employees’ goals and how they align with their skill set through low-cost, consistently updated tools and software. 

Conclusion,

Creating effective organisational development strategies requires consideration of how we engage with, learn and retain information through a multi-approach that incorporates valid techniques and supportive software for a tailored development approach to employees’ specific needs. Organisations can secure and foster talent that drives their future sustainability.