We’ve all likely taken a personality assessment at one point or another in our careers—whether it was DISC, Myers-Briggs, or another measurement tool, the opportunity these assessments present for self-discovery and awareness are immense. Equally valuable is the insight these assessments provide to organizations seeking to hire and retain a talented, diverse workforce. For many years, businesses have leveraged personality assessments as part of their hiring processes in an effort to build high performing teams and better understand the makeup of their workforce. When leveraged properly, these assessments provide valuable insight into employee motivators, strengths, and communication styles.
However, where organizations often fail is in the application phase of the assessment results. Too often, these assessments are administered early in the hiring process and never revisited as part of professional development conversations. The reality is, organizations take this approach because most don’t understand how to consistently apply assessment results in their organization. But let’s back up a bit and start at the beginning.
What is “Personality?”
When we ask the question, “What is personality?” we must answer it with two subsequent questions:
1. Who are you?
2. What is your preferred style of interacting with the world?
Personality is not a question of, “what will I do?” These are your hobbies, your job, your passions. Personality is more a question of, “how do I do what I do?” This includes the ways you get energy, how you interact and engage with the world, and how you gather information. Psychologists seek to measure personality through several methods, the most common of which are objective tests and projective measures.
Most of these assessments are grounded in the Big 5 Personality Trait Theory. Research indicates that the Big Five personality traits can correlate to job performance outcomes. Understanding who possesses traits compatible with a specific position’s roles and responsibilities enables you to build a high-performing team. Some of the more widely used personality self-report measures are the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and DISC theory.
- Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) – In 1920 Katharine Briggs pursued her interest in human behavior and personality and posed a theory of four personality types: sociable, contemplative, executive, and spontaneous. Around the same time Carl Jung was also formulating his own theory of personality under the hypothesis that “random behavior is not random at all.” Both Briggs and Jung sought to describe the patterns that emerge that reflect a person’s preferences around energy sources, information consumption, and decision making.
Together, Briggs with her daughter, Isabel Myers, integrated their work with Jung to create a paper and pencil inventory in 1940 with the objective of identifying occupational roles for women based on their preferences. Consulting Psychologists Press formally developed the MBTI in 1970 and it was subsequently translated into several languages. Today, MBTI assists people in career choices, team building, leadership development, and diversity awareness.
- DISC – Ironically, Dr. William Mouton Marston of Harvard University was also researching personality theory in the 1920’s, however, his theory could arguably have more dimensions than MBTI. After all, Marston hypothesized that although there are four basic personality traits of human behavior, every individual has a unique blend as if DISC is the “color palette of the personality.”
Whereas MBTI is a valuable assessment tool for organizations seeking to understand an individual’s personality and where they may be best suited from a career standpoint, DISC takes this a step further to really identify the communication style, strengths, and motivators of the individual being assessed.
Applying the Results
Businesses use personality tests to assess where a prospective employee’s strengths and weaknesses lie, and to determine whether they would be a good cultural fit within the company. The tests are embedded in business culture, especially at top companies, with over 89% of the Fortune 100 currently using personality assessments in their day to day processes. However, not all organizations fully leverage the power of these assessments as part of their professional development practices and programs today. How do you do this?
- Train the individuals who are digesting these assessments in the theory behind the measurement tool. If your people don’t understand the theory and how to view and act on the insights gleaned, it’s like leading a dehydrated camel to water.
- Select an assessment partner that can provide you with actionable insights that extend beyond a “hire/don’t hire” recommendation or an “ideal hire” profile. If you truly want to leverage the valuable insights in these assessments more broadly, a capable assessment partner with help guide you.
- Acknowledge that personality assessments are about preference and preference varies over time. Individuals can and do adapt their style based on their role and their environment.
- Don’t allow assessments to overshadow the human element. View the assessments with curiosity and as an opportunity for a rich dialogue.
Utilizing personality assessments in management can be very beneficial in that it allows managers to understand what drives people individually. When you understand how to motivate each individual on your team, it has a tremendous positive effect on overall team performance. This is where assessments such as MBTI and DISC can be incredibly valuable – not just in understanding who you want on your team, but how you motivate them once they’re in the seat. Effectively leveraging personality assessments in the workplace helps your teams understand how their co-workers are different, and helps managers better understand their direct reports. The results can shine a light on ways you can adapt your processes in a way that will be most effective for different teams in your organization.