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Are personality tests really worth the investment?

“Do you have the same personality type as Prince Harry or Beyoncé? Are you an ISTJ or an ENTP? Are you a leader? A people pleaser? An observer?”

Your employees are the heart of your business—no ifs or buts.

Workplace psychology is critical to a business (according to APA anyway); it enables managers to select, support, motivate and train employees.

Personality tests are a great way to understand your employees, either during the hiring process or as a new starter.

Discovering the best ways to collaborate, give feedback, and handle workplace conflict can build a more positive place to work and allow for deeper connections to be made.

What are personality tests?

Personality tests determine the characteristics of an individual. Results allow you to see if the candidate or employee has a suitable personality for the role and how well they’ll fit into your business.

Personality, attitude, and moral compass all play a big part in whether someone will be best suited to a role or not.

Understanding individuals, what qualities they’ll bring to the organisation, and how they work under stress may well be the step to propelling your company from strength to strength.

It’s fun discovering who has the same personality traits as Mother Teresa but is it all really beneficial to how employees perform in the workplace?

Popular personality tests

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

Developed in the 1940s by mother-daughter duo Katharine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers (hence the name), the MBTI test was created to enable individuals to grow through an understanding of individual differences.

The MBTI test looks at:

  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Decision–making
  • Behaviours
  • How information is processed
  • Communication

MBTI personality types

Myers and Briggs proposed four key dimensions that used to categorise people:

  • Introversion vs. Extroversion
  • Sensing vs. Intuition
  • Thinking vs. Feeling
  • Judging vs. Perceiving

Individuals will prefer one psychological difference over the other for each pair, and results are a combination of four letters associated with your personality type.

Each personality type has its standard profile that outlines how the individual likes to work, communicate, cultural preferences, motivators, and conflict-resolution methods that work well for them.

There are 16 personality types in total, including ISTJ, ENFP, ESTJ, and INTP.

While the MBTI is one of the front runners, it’s entirely based on honest-self reporting and how people view themselves. Employee’s answers may differ from day-to-day, so it’s good to take the results with a pinch of salt and use the data as a conversation piece rather than concrete information.

DISC

DISC theory is a method of identifying predictable actions and personality traits within human behaviour. Originally created by Dr. William Moulton Marston in 1928, Marston condensed these personality traits into four DISC personality types.

One box doesn’t fit all when it comes to DISC.

It’s common for individuals to have a blend of personality types. One person can be mainly Dominant but with a mix of Compliant. Understanding someone’s primary, secondary, tertiary, and even absent personality traits allows you to see how they function, communicate, and react in day-to-day life.

If you hadn’t guessed by now, ‘DISC’ combines the first letter of all four personality types.

Dominant – usually direct, decisive, high ego strength, and a problem solver. May overstep authority but will contribute innovative ideas. Greatest fear? Being taken advantage of.

Influence – Enthusiastic, talkative, wears their heart on their sleeve, and brilliant motivator. Tends only to listen when convenient and may be more concerned with popularity than tangible results. Provide them with a friendly environment and a compliment every so often, and you’ll see an Influencer soar!

Steadiness – The loyal one. The friendly, predictable, sensitive to criticism type. Feeling secure motivates the Steady personality.

Compliant – Accurate. Fact-finder. Anayltical. Needs clear boundaries and all the dirty details. Doesn’t like criticism, but my goodness, their quality of work will be high! P.S – if you noticed the spelling mistake, you’re probably the Compliant type.

Understanding DISC personality types can bring benefits like enhanced communication methods, effective teamwork, and increased productivity. Who knows – long, tedious meetings could be a thing of the past if employees learn how to communicate effectively.

Hire and keep the best talent for your business

Instead of using the data to place people in boxes and not accommodate their personality types (which is all too common), it’s important to dig deep into what the results really mean.

Knowing how people communicate and collaborate within the workplace is vital to creating a non-judgemental, comfortable atmosphere.

Adapting interview questions to play to their strengths and weaknesses

Personality tests are common during the hiring process. In fact, psychometric tests are used in over 75% of the Times Top 100 companies in the U.K. Utilising data from personality tests helps you hire the best fit for the job, skills-wise and culturally.

Once personality profiles are defined, you can tailor interview questions to shine a light on their strengths, weaknesses, and values.

Example candidate one: “Direct” personality. (tends to be direct and decisive)

  • How do they work under pressure?
  • Are they a team player?
  • How do they feel about leadership roles?

Example candidate two: “Steady” personality. (known for being stable and predictable)

  • How do they respond to direct feedback?
  • How do they deal with workplace conflict?
  • How do they adapt to change?

It’s important to remember there are no right or wrong answers when it comes to personalities. A mix of characteristics within a company and teams is a good thing, it can create a stronger, more balanced workplace.

Celebrating individuals’ differences is crucial to retaining talent. Don’t write someone off because they’re an introvert, and don’t give someone a job just because they’re direct.

65% of senior executives viewed introversion as a barrier to leadership. Take a look at Bill Gates, Meryl Streep and Barack Obama, they’re all famous introverts that have disproved this theory.

Every personality type has strengths and weaknesses; it’s understanding the personality traits and working towards a healthy workplace culture, which is important.

In fact, according to research from Deloitte, 94% of executives and 88% of employees believe a strong workplace culture is important to business success.

Getting to know your existing employees

Completing the tests and discussing the results can be a fun team-bonding exercise. Round up the new starters and turn this into an ice-breaker session.

After all, I’d be pretty impressed if I discovered my colleague had the same MBTI personality type as Oprah Winfrey – it’s ENFJ, if you’re wondering.

Encouraging employees to understand each other on a deeper level can help them communicate better and discover like-minded people they can turn to when faced with problems. Equally, learning to work with contrasting personality types can help develop a strong working culture. A mix of personality types is ideal to help a business thrive.

Leaders become more naturally effective when they understand the preferred working styles of their employees. Personality styles can help teams discover methods for keeping the peace and becoming tighter knit.

Companies that communicate effectively are 4.5x more likely to retain talent; teach aspiring managers to discover personality types and how effectively applying this knowledge to specific characteristics can encourage a cohesive and collaborative team.

Are personality tests the be-all and end-all?

The short answer: invest the extra effort but be cautious.

According to Scientific American, the results provided by personality tests can differ from day–to–day, depending on how users are feeling and respond at the time. Employers should be wary when introducing personality tests like MBTI due to the lack of scientific evidence involved.

In some cases, candidates can be so nervous that their personality results don’t reflect their true selves. Contrary to that, overconfidence and cockiness can portray a false image of themselves.

Without a doubt, personality tests, at the very least, promote self-discovery and enable employees to play to their strengths, work on their weaknesses and find ways to cope with workplace struggles.

Regardless of the type of personality test used, when given insight into how your employees work efficiently and productively, the results can create a conversation and shine a light on how you adapt your work processes to affect your teams positively.

Remember, use the data strategically to attract, engage and retain great talent, and you might just see how much your employees become more cohesive, collaborative, and communicate more openly.

Written by Mara Swann

Mara has a passion for promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion across global workplaces and hopes to inspire learners to focus on their own careers with self-directed learning content.

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