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Read time15 mins

Common traits of disability sector employees

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Woman in yellow shirt taking notes on a clipboard with employees working in the disability sector background.

What are employees like in the disability sector?

Our extensive psychometric testing data sheds light on cognitive abilities, from verbal to abstract reasoning, personality and values, with implications for talent recruitment and development.

Delve into the bright side of personality traits, including honesty, humility, and agreeableness, which characterise the sector’s workforce and play a pivotal role in effective leadership development.

To cultivate the leaders of tomorrow, it’s crucial to consider these psychometric insights during the recruitment and development process.

Identifying individuals who not only align with the sector’s values but also possess the ambition and self-direction to navigate its future challenges will be instrumental.

A psychometric profile of the disability sector

Watch the video to understand the typical cognitive abilities, personality traits and values found across employees in the disability sector, and the implications for recruitment and development.

Step 6 - Developing future leaders: From identification to succession

Step 4 - Develop and recruit future leaders with high performance modelling

If you know of anyone who would benefit from this video, please share it with them.

Typical characteristics of disability sector workers

Hi, Andrew Marty from SACS, and welcome to video number five in our six video series on Leadership Development in the Disability Sector.

How do we identify the leaders of the future in the disability sector and how to develop them.

So in this video, what we’ll be doing is taking you through some disability sector profiles from a psychometric measurement point of view, and showing you what people in the disability sector are really like.

So just to explain where this data comes from, we psych test literally thousands of people in the disability sector.

And you’ll see that we also psych test people in other parts of the not-for-profit or community sector.

And so what we’ll be doing is showing you what the data looks like in the disability sector, and also comparing it with some other parts of what might be called the community sector.

Cognitive ability in the disability sector

So firstly, we want to talk about cognitive ability and there’s some data here, which is once more based on thousands of people.

So you see this data we have on three sectors, aged care, disability and the general non-for-profit sector.

Now, aged care and disability, I think are a straightforward enough, but the general not-for-profit sector, are things like community development, they’re things like other forms of the health sector, they’re things like associations and clubs and sporting organisations.

So good data in live samples on each of these three sectors.

So firstly, what we want to do is show you the scores for what’s called verbal reasoning, numerical reasoning, and abstract reasoning.

And I did define these three in earlier videos, but verbal reasoning is to do with words, numerical reasoning is to do with numbers and abstract reasoning is to do with general problem solving such as seeing the sequence in things.

And it’s also the capacity to anticipate what’s likely to happen.

So the red ones are for the aged care sector, the green ones are for the disability sector and the blue ones are for the general non-for-profit sector.

Now, just to explain this diagram a little further, you see that there’s a blue line at 50, and 50, these scores are what are called percentiles.

So a score of 50 is population average or population median because it’s halfway through the population.

So if you have a score at the 10th percentile, that’s bad because your score is better than only 10% of anybody who’s ever undertaken this assessment.

If your score is 90, that’s really good because it’s higher than 90% of anybody who’s ever undertaken this assessment before.

So at a glance, the first thing that you can see is that all of these sectors are below population average for professionals in Australia.

And so when we norm these results against professionals in Australia, these professionals in this sector are below population average.

So you’d look at these results and you wonder why is it so?

And I think the most likely explanation is simply dollars.

There’s a strong correlation across the world between dollars and cognitive ability.

In other words, when jobs pay higher, you tend to get higher levels of cognitive ability of the people who perform those jobs.

It’s a natural selection process, which is to say they market for employment tends to value cognitive ability.

It doesn’t do this consciously of course, but smart people tend to rise up the ranks of seniority quite rapidly.

Now that’s not to say that there aren’t geniuses in these community sectors, of course there are.

But what you find is that across thousands of people, the lower levels of remuneration tend to attract not so strongly as the high levels of remuneration in the commerce sector.

And so I think that’s one of the reasons why the levels of cognitive ability are low.

Now we’re not showing these results to clients and people would say, well, how about in our organisation, if there’s psych testing, there’s no reason you need to be below population average because you simply factor this into your recruitment process.

And we provide these results to a very large aged care organisation for that we’ve been psych testing for a long time.

And we found that their average was above population average because of the fact that they had been screening on this.

So cognitive ability.

And I guess one of the things that we’re finding is that with changes to the nature of the disability sector, things like the NDIS and its continued roll out, things like pressures on margins, things like having to market and develop for the clients that you’re looking for or for the consumers of your services, whatever terminology you prefer.

What that’s doing is it’s causing organisations within the disability sector to become more commerce-like, and if you’re going to become more commerce-like, I think there’s a workforce planning challenge here.

And what you need to do is to ensure that you’re recruiting people who have the levels of cognitive ability on average to be leaders and to be able to undertake this commercially competitive line of work.

Now, if you go back to some of the earlier videos in this sequence, and in fact, we talked about the intrinsic characteristics of leaders in one of the earlier videos in this sequence, you will know that I had mentioned the cognitive ability as a predictor of leadership capability.

People like to be led by people who are smart.

And so that’s something that people might like to factor into their recruitment practises within their own organisation.

Final thing I’ll say about this cognitive ability is largely genetically determined.

And so it’s not like you can teach people to improve their cognitive ability.

Yes, you can teach them techniques to use whatever cognitive ability they have to use it better, but you can’t make people smarter, yet, maybe somewhere down the track, it will be possible to inject people with stem cells and cause them to be smarter, but right now that’s not possible.

Personality traits in disability employees

How about personality?

Well, if the sector results in cognitive ability were a little depressing, the sector in terms of personality are really encouraging, which is to say that people who are attracted to the sector seem to have very positive personalities.

They seem to be very likeable types of people on average, they tend to have some really favourable characteristics that a lot of people in commerce would be jealous of.

So let’s talk you through what that looks like.

Firstly, this characteristic here is a thing called honesty-humility.

That’s from the HEXACO model of personality.

And these scores here, are the percentile scores that we showed you earlier.

And what we see is that this entire sector, and this is based on thousands of people, I think this sample was something approaching 3000 people that we’d psych tested in the disability sector.

And you’ll see that the scores here are extremely high in comparison with population average.

So the people who work in the sector are in general, much more honest, truthful, and straightforward, than people who work in commerce, which would be here.

How about emotionality?

And in fact, the good news is that the sector in general is reasonably emotionally stable.

So no high scores here.

I mean, these are all, these three sentimentality dependence and fearfulness or about population average and anxiety is really quite low.

So anything that’s in a big sample below 45 or above 55, you’d say that that’s a fair divergence from population average.

So a relatively emotionally stable sector.

How about extroversion?

Well, this is a very people-ish kind of a sector.

So it’s a little above average in terms of extroversion.

Now, obviously, if you’re looking at this at the individual level rather than thousands of people, there are extreme extroverts and extreme introverts in the sector, but on average, a little above population average for extroversion, but look at these agreeableness scores.

Now just to explain once more, what agreeableness is, it’s about not being angry and it’s about being reasonable and approachable.

And those scores are very strong, so forgiveness, people not holding grudges.

Gentleness, not being harsh on people.

Flexibility, not having, to have things your own way.

Patience, not being angry.

So those are very favourable characteristics.

But one thing I will say about, this is a slightly two-edged sword.

And that is to say, when you have a sector, that’s extremely agreeable on average, big sample here.

And these samples are certainly large enough to be considered, to be normative for the entire sector.

If you have a big sample that’s so strongly agreeable, it may well mean that they have trouble holding people to account.

And certainly we get a lot of folklore about this, that people within the sector can find it difficult to hold people accountable for delivering outcomes.

So yes, it does say that agreeableness is a positive thing, but maybe it can be a little too high if you’re looking for the leaders of the future, maybe you need to ease off slightly and have a little bit closer to population average.

But the other thing, it can’t be too low or you’ve got trait anger, you got angry working in the sector and we all know that’s a bad thing.

Going back to the diagram, let’s talk about conscientiousness.

and what we see here is that people who are in the sector are above population average for conscientiousness, more organised and more hard-working than population average.

So they tend to be organised people.

They tend to be acceptably diligent and perfectionistic, perfectionistic meaning detail-minded and able to deal with detail and highly prudent, which means that they like to make thoughtful decisions and they’re unlikely to be impulsive in what they do.

And then we look at openness to experience and openness to experience how broad-minded they are, but population average, just maybe a fraction above, but unconventionality just about population average.

Unconventionality being uncomfortable with ideas that seem unusual.

So what you have here is a sector in general, that’s about population average or a little above in terms of preparedness to do things new way from a personality point of view.

Values and disability workers

So let’s look at values.

And what we see here is we see the three sectors that we mentioned earlier, the aged care sector, the disability sector and the general not-for-profit sector.

And once more, we have the 50 line, which is giving us a population average.

So firstly, the aged care sector, the disability sector and the general not-for-profit sector and psychometricians will take some really immediate information from this.

The first thing is, how does this compare to population average?

You can see that these sectors are really different from population average.

So the value set of people in the three sectors are different from population average.

It’s not your typical employee that goes into any of these sectors.

I think the second thing that hits you in the eye is how similar the sectors are across aged care disability and the general non-for-profit sector, which kind of suggests that there’s, a community sector value set, if you want to put it that way.

And if you look then at the specifics of what we see, you say that this is a sector or these three sectors, or maybe we should consider them one sector because the correlations here are incredibly strong and you might call this a community or a not-for-profit-ish perspective on life.

Low in power, don’t want to be dominant.

Relatively low in achievement, which is all about being ambitious, not an overly ambitious sector.

And once more, bear in mind that this is based on thousands of people, hedonism is all about having fun and enjoyment.

And so it means that people are coming to this sector for reasons other than just having fun.

This is all about stimulation, which means that I believe that it’s important to do new and different things.

Self-direction, very low, which means people don’t need to be self-directed in their work, and all but what people are very strong in is this thing called universalism.

Now universalism is all about, I want to make the world a better place.

I want to create social justice.

I want to create environmental sustainability.

I want to be able to help the world to get on.

I want to be able to help the world to be a fairer, more reasonable and more sustainable place.

So that’s a very strong motivation for people to come to the sector.

But you can also see that things like being self-directed and not particularly strong motivations.

So if you’re looking for the leaders of the future, what it means is that you may well have to undertake a workforce planning process to identify people who have the right value set to be more natural leaders.

Benevolence is all about helping people and not surprising, just a little about population average.

This has to do with tradition.

And that’s really interesting to see that people who are in the sector are quite traditional.

And what that means is that they tend to have strong beliefs that come to them from let’s say their family or from society or even from religion.

And so that could cause whilst we had a sector that in a personality sense was a little above average in terms of, or around about average in terms of openness to experience, which is a personality characteristic.

You see that these traditionalism may get in the way of change management from time to time.

But look at this score on conformity.

Conformity means I will obey and I will obey the organisational rules and I will obey the social rules of the groups that I belong to.

Now, what that means is that it’s hard in large populations in the sector to get what’s called disruption, because just think about the idea of organisational deviance.

Deviance is where people do something against what is typical in an organisation.

And we often talk about positive deviance in organisations.

The idea of positive deviance is that if you truly want change in an organisation, you can’t get it until somebody does something that’s against the typical.

Positive deviance is change, which causes change for good in organisations.

So this is a sector which will struggle to find large numbers of people who believe in this.

And finally security, which means that people are very keen to have safety security, where people are unlikely to be damaged or harmed.

And obviously that’s a good thing on balance.

Now, if you look at this values profile, it suggests people who are extremely principled.

It suggest people who are not really very ambitious or driven to advance their career in a value sense.

It’s just people who are very keen to obey the rules and to do the right thing.

Now, that’s great.

But, is it the leadership profile of the future?

It may well be that you are able through your recruitment practises and once more values will change over time, but they don’t change very much and they don’t change very quickly.

So unlike personality, there’s not such a strong genetic streak in values, as there is in say personality or cognitive ability, but still at all, if somebody has been living out a set of values for a long time, 10, 15, 20 years, they don’t automatically or quickly change.

It’s not easy to train people out of their values.

So it may well be that for the leaders of the future.

You’re looking for people who are a little bit more ambitious and may well be that you’re looking for people who are a little bit more inclined to be self-directed and it may will be the people have to be just a little bit less risk averse in order to embrace the changes that are happening so quickly within the disability sector.

How to create disability leaders of the future

The next video in the sequence and the final one is all about the development of leaders.

So what we’ll be doing in that video is to give people an opportunity to understand what we know about how you train people up to be leaders.

What are the things that you need to focus on to coach, guide and counsel them to be leaders?

Thanks for watching and click on the links to see the next video or any of the previous ones.

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Step 6 - Developing future leaders: From identification to succession

Step 4 - Develop and recruit future leaders with high performance modelling

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