Knowing me, knowing you: Should you use workplace personality tests?

Tuesday October 4, 2022

Companies often make personnel decisions based on academic achievement, professional qualifications, performance and general rapport of an employee.

Increasingly, though, personality testing is becoming a tool of choice for people management. Is it something you have considered? Is it universally a good thing? We dig a bit deeper to uncover the benefits and pitfalls of personality testing.

What is workplace personality testing?

Personality tests, which come in many forms, attempt to profile individuals based on psychological traits and types. These drive behaviour, motivation, communication and such like.

So understanding any employee’s personality in this technical sense can help show how naturally suited they are to a role, or how to manage them most effectively. It is important, though, that personality tests are interpreted by qualified people.

Two of the most famous personality tests are SHL Occupational Personality Questionnaire and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.

What are the benefits of personality testing for your organisation?

There are undoubtedly many benefits to conducting personality testing in the right context. It can help with:

  • Motivating staff – by giving insight into what makes them tick (and what doesn’t).
  • Conflict resolution – where people repeatedly at loggerheads can learn to understand their differences based on personality and develop ways of accommodating them.
  • Management and leadership development – equipping current and future leaders with new skillsets to face the challenges ahead.
  • More efficient and effective communications – as your whole organisation comes to appreciate different communication styles, such as where brevity or detail is called for.
  • Identifying key job attributes – like drive, energy and resilience which are important for some roles.
  • Staff retention – through providing engaging and meaningful learning and development.

Are there any downsides to using personality tests?

To enjoy the benefits of personality testing there are several pitfalls to avoid. You’ll want to make a business case for it internally showing the value, as a budget will be required. There are many tests available, and picking the right ones for the right context will be key.

Two measures of a given test’s quality are its reliability and validity. Reliability is: if the same person takes the test on numerous occasions (in the same conditions) they will generate similar results. Validity is whether a test is able to measure what it claims. Does it do what it says on the tin? If the test you are considering does not have this rigour, it may do more harm than good.

Even if the personality assessments you choose pass the above two tests, it’s then down to you to ensure that you use them in the correct context. For example, something proven to be useful for team-building might be wholly inappropriate in your selection process during hiring.

On the whole, according to one expert, personality tests which assess traits can be used for hiring selection; ones which assess psychology types should not.

Another point to be wary of is that, for all the good that understanding the technical aspects of each other’s personalities brings, there is the potential for a bad egg to use this knowledge to manipulate or bully colleagues. This could be addressed by good training, not oversharing individual personality test results and working hard to maintain a positive culture in your business.

Want to learn more about personality testing?

We’ve mentioned Myers-Briggs and SHL, and hinted at a host of other tests to choose from. These include: Caliper Profile, Gallup StrengthsFinder and California Psychological Inventory. If you would like to explore introducing such testing into your business and want advice, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.

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