Personality assessments in the workplace often get a bad rap. They are commonly associated with recruitment and heavily criticised as a trite way of predicting future job performance. Some condemn them for being invasive and unethical. And others fear it will lead to people being pigeon-holed and confined to roles that fit their personality profile - and not given the opportunity to develop outside of their comfort zone.
It’s true that these things can happen with a workplace personality assessment. But when applied and implemented in a careful, considered and strategic way, a workplace personality assessment can be so much more than the name suggests. It’s not just an ‘assessment’ - it can be a model for organisations to predict and shape behaviour, enhance team working, support personal development, foster leadership skills and help effect change. All of which have significant consequences for the success of an organisation.
Perhaps you’re considering introducing a personality assessment in your company but have some concerns about combatting some of the challenges. Or maybe you already have a workplace personality assessment, but it’s causing more hardship than prosperity.
If either of these situations applies to you, it’s worth taking a look at these three common mistakes that companies make when using a workplace personality assessment, and how to avoid them.
Limiting personality assessments to the recruitment process
Personality assessments aren’t just for getting the right people through the door - in fact, at the hiring stage they should merely be used as a platform for getting to know a candidate’s strengths, weaknesses and character better. The real value comes once they’ve set foot in your organisation.
The insights gained from personality assessments can be leveraged at all stages of the employee life cycle. When a new employee enters the company, understanding how they prefer to learn, work and interact can help when placing them into teams and pairing them with a line manager. This approach helps set them up to be engaged and productive from the outset.
When it comes to coaching and development, personality insights help open up the conversation - both from the employee and managers’ perspective - about an employee’s goals for personal and professional growth.
Understanding employees’ personalities also means we can allocate tasks based on what makes people ‘tick’, driving more engagement and productivity as a consequence. And when going through change, we can use personality insights to help steer and navigate employees smoothly through the transition process.
Treating personality assessments as gospel
Personality assessments are designed to reveal an individual’s natural preferences. But of course, we don’t always adhere to our natural preferences.
For example, a personality assessment might reveal a person’s natural tendency to be disorganised and to leave things to the last minute. But does this mean they can’t adapt their behaviour to be super organised at work to meet the requirements for the role?
Of course not, as we can learn to adapt our behaviours to suit a situation. I bet you know of someone, a friend or family member, who is incredibly successful in their career but utterly disorganised in their personal life - is messy, always late, forgets things…?
The point is, we shouldn’t expect people to always behave in line with what their personality assessment indicates. It's all too easy to put people in boxes based on their personality profile. But we shouldn’t expect that just because someone is naturally disorganised doesn’t mean they will never make a great manager, nor should we assume that someone hard-wired to be laid back won’t ever get anxious or frustrated.
As a consequence, we shouldn’t confine people to roles that match only their natural tendencies; we also need to take into account how they work, react and interact in reality. At a fundamental level, the core role of personality assessments should be to help raise an employees self-awareness, so they can leverage their strengths and adapt their behaviours when required.
When using a personality assessment in the workplace, you're likely to be (or perhaps you already have been) met with an influx of questions, concerns and even scepticism. ‘Will it reveal potentially embarrassing information about me?, ‘Will I be judged on my personality?’, ‘Surely my answers will depend on what mood I’m in - so does it really mean anything?’.
All this means you need a careful strategy in place for communicating the how and why of using personality assessments and for addressing any concerns. With clear communication around the value of personality assessments in helping raise employee’s self-awareness and the subsequent positive impact this will have in helping individuals, teams and the organisation to flourish, you’ll be able to garner interest and support from employees.
Personality assessments can be a valuable and powerful tool for organisations and managers looking to get the most out of their employees. It’s not just a quick win recruitment tool for whittling down the best candidates; it can help harness the potential of your employees throughout their entire journey with your company.
But personality assessments aren’t a black and white measure for predicting exactly how a person will behave or perform. Instead, they should act as a guide for identifying development and coaching opportunities that will help individuals to thrive in your company.
Finally, introducing workplace personality assessments should be approached with caution. It’s crucial that there is an education piece in place to help employees understand how personality assessments will be used, and particularly around what it means for them.