That's what he said.

Employee Opinions of Workplace Communication Seminars and Personality Profile Inventories

Sun, 01/27/2013 - 20:15 -- Doug


Running a successful business is easy. All you need to do is 1) sell the right products or services, 2) hire the right people, and 3) keep those people from killing each other. In truth, even assuming you’ve been fortunate enough to succeed at the first two, it’s almost inevitable that you’ll have your work cut out for you on the latter. Most employers seem to instinctively recognize this. In an effort to improve workplace relations and efficiency, they turn to personality tests, books, team-building retreats and self-help programs.

I have worked on several teams that were required to participate in programs like these, and have found them to be of questionable value. Personality exams don’t seem to be at all predictive of who will perform well at work[i].  Many popular books and seminars emphasize common sense and folk wisdom over empiricism (“first things first!”). The distillation of rich, complex personalities into a few neat boxes homogenizes personal interaction to a point where what one wishes to say is often lost in how they are expected to say it.

Although I personally find many of these programs distasteful, I wanted to ascertain how other people regard them. Do others find them effective and useful? Upon having participated in these programs, how likely is it that a person would recommend a program to others?


Ten questions were presented in an online survey hosted on my personal Web site[ii]. Lacking the time and means to acquire a random sample, invitations were instead sent via Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. There were 59 survey participants over five days, of which 53 completed all of the questions[iii].  The results were tabulated automatically by the survey software[iv], and exported to an Excel spreadsheet.


Questions and Results




Are you now or have you ever worked in a position that required you to manage other people?

Have your current or previous employers ever required you and your team to read books or participate in seminars from any of the sources below?

Respondents who selected “other” gave the following written answers:

  • Company Business School
  • Marshal Goldsmith
  • Convergys Training 101
  • Don’t remember name
  • Corporate Visions
  • Personality Index
  • Who Moved My Cheese?" (2)


Would you recommend any of the programs you selected to peers or employers?


How likely are you to read these types of books or attend this type of seminar outside of work?

Why do you think your employer chose the course(s)? Please select all that apply:

Respondents who selected “other” gave the following written answers:

  • To illustrate the need for change.
  • To benefit the company when hiring as well as trying to help the team I work on.
  • They believe it’s relevant.
  • Because they're friends with the idiot giving the seminar.
  • All above.


How well do you believe your employer’s objectives were met by the course/books?


After the training/books, my loyalty to the company:


One third reported a sense of increased loyalty to the company after the training, but they were almost evenly split on whether or not the programs met their objectives. Only a minority of participants explicitly expressed that they would actually seek out programs like these on their own (20%), or recommend them to someone else (41%). Given the large proportion of managers responding to the survey (83%), these numbers may skewed positively, since programs like these are typically chosen by management.


Clearly, this survey can’t determine the actual effectiveness of any given program. However, if these results are a reflection of current attitudes, employers might want to take notice.  Employees who are unwilling to risk their reputation recommending your program probably aren’t 100% sold on it, and  might not be ready or willing to put what they’ve learned into practice.





[i] “All in all, the correlations between measures of the Big Five personality dimensions and measures of job performance are generally quite close to zero; even Conscientiousness accounts for only a small percentage of variance in job performance.” Murphy, Kevin R., and Jessica L. Dzieweczynski. 2005. "Why Don't Measures of Broad Dimensions of Personality Perform Better As Predictors of Job Performance?" Human Performance 18, no. 4: 343-357.

[ii] To view the questions in the order they were asked, see the survey online at

[iii] Participants had the option of skipping a question and continuing with the survey. In these cases, the answers are displayed as “no answer”, and the surveys were counted as incomplete.