Personality assessments for business: which one is right for you?

So you want to use a personality assessment in your organization. Assessment-shopping can feel a little like goldilocks and the three bears; some focus too much on the individual, some are too broad, and some don't serve your needs at all. So which one is just right for you?

To start, it's important to determine the purpose of your personality assessment. Generally, personality assessments have three business applications: pre-hire/job description compatibility, team building, and leadership development. Among these three, pre-hire assessments are one category (we'll call them "practical assessments"), while both team building and leadership development assessments fall into another (we refer to them as "relational assessments").

There are dozens of practical assessments on the market, each of which aim to inform an employer if a candidate is the right fit for a position, or where a current employee may struggle in their role based on their personality traits. Some of the most popular include the Caliper Employee Assessment, the SHL Occupational Personality Questionnaire, the Hogan Personality Assessment, and Holland Occupational Themes. These assessments have some major practical benefits, but can also fall into a murky ethical area: is it discrimination to not hire someone based on their personality test results? There is a lot of research on this topic, but for this and other reasons, we are focusing on relational assessments.

Relational assessments hone in on how personality impacts social and personal success. These are used primarily for team building and leadership development, and are highly effective in developing various layers of emotional intelligence. This in turn can help create a healthy office culture and highly effective communication skills, making an organization more successful in addition to improving employee engagement.

Ok, cutting to the chase: we researched some of the most popular personality assessments in the "relational" category and put together the pros/cons of each. Ready for find the right assessment for you?

  1. Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI): Arguably the most well known personality assessment, the MBTI breaks down a person's combined traits into one of sixteen personality types. These sixteen types are different combinations of four pairs of opposing qualities: introversion/extroversion, sensing/intuition, thinking/feeling, judging/perceiving. Each of the sixteen types is examined in-depth, giving the user detailed information on their perception of the world, general interests, values, and needs.

Pros: very thorough review of each personality type, plenty of material for healthy introspection

Cons: complex model, too much information to easily memorize, difficult to apply to others/a large group

Best for: personal understanding and growth, gaining a deep understanding of an individual's complete personality

2. DISC Behavior Inventory: The DISC assessment analyzes typical behavioral responses to common social situations, which are identified through the DISC acronym: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness. These four characteristics can be combined for a total of twelve behavioral styles, all of which tie directly to work performance. This tool gives easy-to-understand insight into how a particular individual may react to a difficult challenge or would manage relationships with their team, and areas for growth and improvement.

Pros: relatively simple model, easy to use and apply

Cons: minimal personal insight, acronyms can become muddled  

Best for: team building, determining leadership styles

3. Strengthsfinder: Also referred to as the CliftonStrengths assessment (after its creator Don Clifton), the Strengthsfinder assessment was developed by Gallup for use in business. Its focus is on determining each individual's core strengths from a list of thirty-four total. Gallup's research has shown that employees are 12.5% more productive when they focus on their strengths, rather than getting caught up fixing their weaknesses. In taking the assessment, individuals are given the five strengths they received the highest scores in, each with a detailed growth analysis.

Pros: great for leadership positions, positive focus leaves teams with higher morale

Cons: primarily individual-focused, the lengthy list of strengths can be overwhelming and difficult to remember

Best for: leadership development, determining job descriptions

4. Identity Mapping: Often remembered as the color assessment, Identity Mapping is a relationship-building tool that groups personality into four ways of thinking, each of which is represented by a color. Every person has all four ways, but in their own unique order. This grouping of "ways" is called an Identity Map. The goal of Identity Mapping is to give tools to easily identify others' Identity Maps, to help alleviate common tensions and miscommunication. As a result of simplifying personality into four general categories, teams are easily able to apply their knowledge to social interactions rather than solely for introspection and personal growth, leading to healthy group dynamics and office culture.   

Pros: easy to understand, simple to apply, has actionable tools for relationship growth, best for developing emotional intelligence

Cons: does not give in-depth individual results

Best for: increasing EQ, team building, leadership development

Using any of these assessments is bound to create a wave of more positive behavior in the workplace, which is something we are proponents. Assessment shopping can be a bear, but hopefully now you can find one that is just right. 

About the Author

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Taylor McDonald is a social scientist with a BA degree in Psychology and a MSc degree in Psychological and Psychiatric Anthropology. She is interested in how culture affects communication and how cultural awareness impacts success, and is passionate about emotional intelligence development.

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