I asked a survey question about what makes us passionate about our job in the field of learning and development and got some great answers some time ago. So I decided to repeat the survey, ask a few more questions, and see what difference a global pandemic might have made too!

If you want to have a look at the data and come up with your own conclusions, you are most welcome to. Please link to this blog post if you use the data in any way.

I put the link to the survey out on various social media platforms, so it’s a self-selected group of 110 people that decided to share their thoughts.

I asked people what made them passionate about their job within L&D, and also asked them to pick as many categories as they liked from a list, so I didn’t have to do all the hard work!

By far the most popular answer, clicked by nearly everyone was “helping people/making a difference to individuals”, which is probably no shock in a people-oriented industry!

Second in the list is “making a difference to teams/organisations” and, I have to get some branding in somewhere, third is helping people with their “lightbulb moments in learning or developing”.

I thought it was great that so many people select “work/the world being a better place” and also “curiosity” and “problem solving” were high on the list. “Being part of and supporting community” was a strong contender, which I’m seeing become more of a focus in bigger organisations and independent groups.

I focused in on these categories by asking people to select just one of them, the top reason for their passion:

Again, no surprise that the top options were making a difference to people, teams, and the lightbulb moments.

It is interesting the few individuals that chose, for instance, “working at scale” or “not creating from scratch” as their main passion. This shows me how individual aspects of a role is important to people and what they can achieve for others.

Individual comments

I also asked for written answers about passion and these are some of the comments that I found most interesting.

These comments showed me how people want to make a change within our industry, for the benefit of people and our communities.

  • To develop capabilities in people so that they can keep pace with the changing times and nature of work
  • I really value vocational education as a viable option to academic learning. Apprenticeships and FE have been the poor relation for too long. I am driven by wanting to raise the quality of vocational education in Wales through educating practitioners in learning and development to make them better educators.
  • I highly believe that its time to stop using e-learning authoring tools as a crutch to force-feed learners boring animated PowerPoints. I think that we have all this technology at our disposal and an obligation to use it to make our learners’ experience better. What makes me passionate is showing people that it doesn’t have to suck.”

These comments focus on the challenges that we need to deal with, and succeed in!

  • People development, the training request is hardly ever the real learning need so you’re actually sort of business advisor instead (including all the challenges of having to explain why a 2 hour course isn’t gonna fix an issue and that is not because the training is bad)
  • I love the challenge of creating the most effective training with the available resources.
  • If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that our world is full of problems that are the direct result of people simply not knowing better. My job gives me a chance to change the world for the better by taking the things a person knows, and conveying them to those who don’t. To do it, I get to apply a proven toolkit of established know-how while experimenting with new and innovative solutions. The end result is nothing short of magic.

Again, it’s about our focus on people:

  • I have worked in many different industries and been both front of house and back of house. The common factor that puts the lightning in my soul is seeing someone better themselves as a result of something I provided. Ultimately, it is their achievement, but I am glad to play a supporting role.

And lastly, a great challenging question about the premise of my question:

  • Am I passionate though? Or am I just talented at what people need? Or am I talented at pointing out gaps in knowledge transfer? I suppose I can agree that I like my job. And the reason I like my job is the flexibility that comes with it.

The learning and development industry

A new question I added this time round was asking what people where passionate about with regards our industry, rather than their specific work.

True to form, the largest answers were “It’s all about helping people” and “making an impact in the business/organisation”.

And, again, when asking people to narrow down to one choice, those were the two highest options. In third place was “working with other people in L&D”, which related to the open categorisation, above, of “mostly the people are lovely”.

There’s a lot of rhetoric in blogs, published articles, podcasts, webinar discussions and the like about L&D not being business-savvy enough and so on. This shows me that the desire to and recognition of the success of make an impact on the business/organisation.

Individual comments

In the free-form answers, there was an interesting range of comments.

Firstly, the more negative in tone:

  • Relatively little. The industry is too insular in my opinion.
  • It’s not an industry. In fact, that’s what’s wrong with it; vendors leading non-professionals. You need thoroughly grounded learning and OD professionals.

This really highlights that L&D is a very broad industry and making sure that you get a good grounding as well as picking up inspiration and learning from outside of it is important.

There’s a feeling around the work and the change that we can bring about as well as what we can learn:

  • The ongoing research and advances in technology changing opportunities for delivering training.
  • There is an openness and curiosity that I see when I encounter others in this profession.
  • The work is constantly changing and evolving. There is never a dull moment and that keeps me on my toes. Also I get paid to learn new things. That’s living the dream!
  • The people are kind, helpful and willing to share. The field is always changing and evolving and there’s a never-ending need to keep learning. I love the way the field is a mixture of many other fields and that people can take diverse career paths within one industry. Finally, learning more about the brain and how we learn is fascinating!

And, lastly, it’s appreciating what we can do and offer, and the people we work with:

  • I absolutely love the diversity. Our people hail from every corner of the globe and all walks of life. While there are sects of L&D that are cliquish, the reality is that no one is too short for this ride. We convey knowledge for a living, and we tend to freely give ours to anyone who wants it.
  • I grew up in a country where education was beyond the reach of many – even primary schooling. To live in the UK, in a country where most education is free, and to live in a time where knowledge is at our fingertips… that is the most wonderful dream.
  • On top of helping others, it is one hell of a community of sharp and extremely caring and generous people.

The effects of the global pandemic

2020 and into 2021 everyone has been affected in some way by the Covid-19 pandemic, and I wanted to find out a bit more about that with regards how we feel about our work.

From the categories I offered, people selected the following:

The most popular answer was people saying that this time had “helped cement my passion within L&D”, which is very heartening. Also “got me to do more of what I’m passionate about” and “helped me work out/define my passion within L&D” are very positive outcomes from such trying times.

It wasn’t great for everyone though, as some people “didn’t get to do as much work I’m passionate about” or were “confused me about my passion within L&D”.

Individual comments

The free-form answers bring in more detail, where I asked if people wanted to share any more about their work during this time is linked to their passion.

These are some of the answers that highlighted what a challenge this time has been:

  • 2020 has been a year of forced disruption and even if we are heading in the right direction, I feel we still have a long way to go before we regain the level of work satisfaction we were at before.
  • Because our product sales are down I was less able to pursue my passion projects.
  • Think that there isn’t the space in organisations to allow L&D – focused on other stuff.
  • Less training work, less revenue, greater frustration at not affecting trainees.
  • Technology has enabled our team to work from home and to maintain and sometimes increase productivity during these trying times. However, sometimes I feel that my passion of digging deep with clients has suffered somewhat from not be able to meet face to face. The lack of human connection and socialization that having to work from home has created has affected my passion and motivation somewhat. So clearly a big part of my passion is connecting with people, analysing issues and sharing those lightbulb moments.
  • 2020 was a year of survival—not passion.

These comments share the struggles and the successes possible with digital learning and live online delivery:

  • Whilst many L&D people have excelled in delivering and facilitating virtually, I have not enjoyed this at all and miss the face to face interaction and tremendous opportunities for networking that simply cannot be replicated remotely.
  • 2020, the year of change and wind back. Organisation sees online learning as only option, but just upload only PPT and PDF docs to read.
  • My work in L&D has kept me going. There have been times when I have thought about getting a full time paid job (I run my own training company), but we spent time at the start of lockdown converting our delivery in to live online sessions and the excellent feedback we have had as a result has definite kept me going. Thanks to Jo at this point who spent time with us at the start of lockdown (and have listened to many of the podcasts) to help us consider what we needed to do and to purchase to take our learning on line. Our course delegates have said that they will actually use our techniques in their own delivery and have been inspired to take their own learning online.
  • Some of the issues we face on a day to day basis have become struggles for everyone, and that’s led to us being able to work wider, e.g. running a meeting over video conferencing is different to face-to-face, but similar to running a training session.
  • 2020 provided the push we needed in our organisation to embrace live online learning as another facet of our L&D offer.

And these are lovely positive comments to reflect on:

  • My work helped people quickly adapt to working from home.
  • I’ve been lucky that my business has flown!
  • My work in 2020 is equal parts “make it work” and “make it better,” both of which are valuable endeavours to me.
  • It has forced me to become more tech aware, and given me the opportunity and time/space to work more creatively in collaboration with other L&D professionals.
  • 2020 made us [L&D] less of a novelty and more of a hardened requirement, while also affirming the legitimacy of what we do. For all of our challenges this year, this silver lining has been very illuminating.
  • Job insecurity prompted me to start my own L&D company–something I had thought about for a long time but lacked the courage to put all my energy into. It’s been the best decision I’ve made in a long time.
  • It’s shown that I can adapt my delivery which has given me new confidence in my capabilities.
  • It forced me to focus rather than spreading myself across numerous types of work
  • 2020 pushed our work into the spotlight. Now is the time we should work towards sharing great examples of the work we do!
  • The challenges of 2020 nudged us to looking beyond where we thought we could go!
  • 2020 involved a lot of stepping back and giving myself a chance to catch my breath. I love sharing a ton with the industry, but the stress of the pandemic meant I had to give myself permission to take more recharging breaks so I didn’t burn out. That was hard, but in the long term beneficial for my passion for the industry in the long run.
  • It’s about ‘being’ not just doing.
  • As long as the passion is there I wouldn’t call it work 😉


What do you think and how to you interpret these results, let us know in the comments below.

I’ll leave the last comment to an answer from someone about what makes them passionate:

Helping people become better humans. Better humans have a ripple effect on all around them.


If you want to get involved in some more research, I’ve teamed up with Jane Daly, Behavioural Scientist specialising in evidence-based culture and capability transformation, to find out more about your live online learning experiences!

‘Through the lens of research: virtual and hybrid learning’ is a research survey open from 4th October until 4th November 2021. Simply click here to join the conversation to have your say. We’ll share our findings to help you and your teams create even better live online learning.