Workplace personality tests are used in many different industries, usually to help employers and managers to understand their staff better. There are many different personality tests available, and some are more commonly used than others - but should you be using them as part of your staff development?
In this article, we will look at what a workplace personality test is, and why they might be used. We will also look at the benefits and limitations of workplace personality tests, and what you should look for if you want to implement them into your development strategy.
What is a workplace personality test?
Personality tests are readily available, from the Buzzfeed-style assessments you can take on social media to the tests that have been developed based on research by psychologists. They are used by individuals (and businesses) to get an insight into the behavior, motivations, and reactions of people.
Most personality tests are structured as self-reporting assessments, asking respondents to decide how much they agree with a statement, or how much they think an adjective describes them.
The answers given in these questionnaires are usually used to categorize people into ‘types’.
Essentially, a workplace personality test is a questionnaire that is used by employers and HR departments to evaluate what their staff members are like, what motivates them, and how they are likely to behave at work.
Why is a workplace personality test important?
Workplace personality tests are a method of gathering data about employees. It can help to inform employers about culture fit, what position an employee would thrive in, and how best to communicate with them to improve team building.
Workplace personality tests can be used to identify skills gaps in teams, and identify the people who are most suited to leadership positions. They can be used to improve employee engagement by evaluating the motivations of staff, and help to build better relationships between employers and employees.
According to Psychology Today, personality tests are used by approximately 80% of Fortune 500 companies to assess employees, and the workplace personality test industry is valued at more than $3 billion.
What are the benefits of workplace personality tests?
The right workplace personality test can have several benefits:
While some companies implement personality testing as part of the recruitment process, personality testing can also be used for the existing team to look for any skills gaps - this can then inform what personality ‘type’ the hiring team should be looking for.
Personality tests used during hiring can ensure that the new starter is employed in a role or doing tasks that motivates and fulfills them.
Personality tests used as part of the team building process tend to provide some interesting insights - and in most cases, employees can find them fun to complete, especially when the results can be eye-opening.
Comparing and contrasting the results of personality testing within a team is a good way to find out strengths and weaknesses, but it is also great for improving teamwork too. The more each employee knows about each other and the way they prefer to communicate, the way they prefer to work, and what makes them happy, the better they will be able to work together - making them a much more productive and cohesive unit.
When the personality tests show that an employee is doing a job that suits them, in a team that understands them, they will be happier at work - and that means less employee turnover, protecting that all-important bottom line.
When looking at employee development, one of the key things that can be learned through personality tests is which employees would be most suitable for a leadership role. They can also identify what leadership style existing managers use.
Combining this with the other data from the personality tests, employers can predict behavior, understand how the employee will react when under pressure, and set up a personalized development plan to help all staff members to reach their potential.
What are the limitations of workplace personality tests?
Not all workplace personality tests are created equal - some are designed to look at a specific facet of personality, and others are not as rigorous in terms of validity and quality.
Other limitations of the personality tests include:
Expensive: the top tests cost money. This might be offset by the increase in productivity, or the reduction in turnover, but that only works if the data is used for development. There are potentially thousands of free tests available online, but they tend to lack scientific validity.
Inaccurate: self-reporting questionnaires risk inaccuracies - people might wilfully answer the questions wrong in the hope of getting the ‘right’ answer (the one that a recruiter is looking for, as an example). They might also lack the motivation to answer correctly because the assessment is boring, or time-consuming.
One-dimensional: most personality tests are focused on one area of personality, and they can often fail to take into account the ‘whole person’ and understand the other facets that make up who a person is.
Tips for implementing workplace personality tests
If you think that using a workplace personality test might be a fit for your business, then there are some things that you can do to ensure that smooth implementation can happen.
Firstly, you need to have a defined result that you want to get from the tests. This will not only help you to choose the right test to use, but will also provide the KPIs that you will use to evaluate whether the investment into the tests is worth it.
Employers and HR teams should also make sure that the employees are fully aware of what the personality test is for - and what benefit they will get from it. This might mean letting them know that it is a part of their personal development plan, or that you are looking for leadership potential.
Once the tests have been completed, make sure that you share the results where needed, especially with the individuals themselves. Personality tests can provide useful insights for the employee that they might even be able to use in their personal lives, and this will be very helpful.
How to choose the right personality test for your organization
There are a few considerations that you should keep in mind when you are looking for the right personality tests to use in the workplace - and this will differ depending on the needs of the business, and why they are being used.
Backed by psychology experts: the best personality tests have been scientifically validated, and backed by research. They might be based on the Big 5 personality types, for example, or based on quality data from other psychology theories.
Provides consistent results: as part of the quality testing of the psychology experts, the tests should provide consistent results even when taken multiple times.
Proven relationships with future behavior: this is similar to the consistency in testing - but that the results of the personality tests point toward future behavior.
Use: are you looking to improve teamwork and communication, or identify leadership potential? Are you searching for the right personality to join an existing team to improve diversity or for culture fit?
The Neuroworx battery of personality tests can be used for many functions, and all are backed by psychologists and extensive data.
The Drives Test asks candidates questions about what motivates them at work. Used in recruitment, it can identify the candidates whose priorities match the business, and can help find the applicants who have the potential to be a top performer.
The HEXACO Test is based on the psychological HEXACO model, focusing on different characteristics that make up a personality. These are Honesty, Emotionality, Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness and Openness to Experience.
The Interests Inventory helps employers to identify what interests their employees, and that can then be matched to the daily activities in the role that they have applied for. Based on the RIASEC model, this looks at vocational interests: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional.
June 27, 2023
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