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How to use Workplace Personality Tests to Improve Team Productivity

Workplace personality tests can to improve team productivity. Organisational structure and personality types can influence each other in various ways.

How to use Workplace Personality Tests to Improve Team Productivity

Published on:

26 Jan 2023

At the heart of any productive business are people. From frontline employees and the teams they work in, to the managers and executives that run them, people are the driving force behind your business.

Building strong teams then is vital to reach your overall business goals. Yet research shows many businesses struggle with the “people” element of businesses:

  1. 97% of employees and executives believe a lack of alignment within teams impacts the outcome of tasks and projects.

  2. 39% of employees believe that people in their own organization don’t collaborate enough.

  3. 86% of employees and executives cite lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures.

  4. 99.1% of employees prefer a workplace where people identify and discuss issues truthfully and effectively, but less than 50% say their organisation achieves this.

  5. 33% of employees said a lack of open, honest communication has the most negative impact on employee morale.

  6. 63% of workers want to quit their jobs because poor communication prevented them from doing their job effectively.

For managers, the picture is even bleaker, as nearly 30% of employees believe their manager lacks team building skills and only 40% of employees report feeling satisfied with their relationship with their direct superior. Perhaps even more surprisingly, 69% of managers say they’re uncomfortable communicating with their team.

All these statistics go to show the importance of building productive, engaged teams, with strong leadership driving them. The benefits for businesses who do manage this are significant.

How are organisational structure and personality types related?

Organisational structure and personality types can influence each other in various ways. It’s important to note that while personality types can influence organisational structure and vice versa, the relationship is complex and multifaceted. Various factors, such as industry, organisational goals, and external environment, also play significant roles in shaping both personality dynamics and organisational structure.

Here are a few connections between the two:

Fit between Personality and Organisational Structure: Different organisational structures require different personality traits for optimal performance. For example, a highly hierarchical structure may benefit from individuals who are comfortable following instructions and working within established procedures. In contrast, a flatter, more decentralised structure may require employees with strong initiative, adaptability, and the ability to work independently. Thus, organisations often consider personality traits when designing or aligning their structure to ensure a good fit between the structure and the individuals within it.

Impact on Individual Satisfaction: Organisational structures can influence employee satisfaction and well-being, which, in turn, can be related to personality types. Some individuals may thrive in a highly structured and predictable environment, where clear guidelines and hierarchical order provide a sense of stability. On the other hand, individuals with a preference for autonomy and creativity may feel constrained and dissatisfied in a rigid structure that limits their independence. The fit between personality traits and the organisational structure can significantly impact an individual’s job satisfaction and overall happiness at work.

Communication and Collaboration Styles: Different personality types have distinct communication and collaboration preferences. Organisational structures can either facilitate or hinder these preferences. For example, introverted individuals may prefer a more decentralised or team-based structure that allows for focused, smaller group interactions. In contrast, extroverted individuals might thrive in a structure that encourages open communication, collaboration, and frequent social interactions. By considering personality types, organisations can design structures that promote effective communication and collaboration, leading to better overall performance.

Leadership Styles: Personality types can also influence leadership styles, and leadership is closely linked to organisational structure. Different leadership styles are more effective in certain organisational structures. For instance, a transformational leadership style that focuses on inspiring and motivating employees may be beneficial in a flatter, more flexible structure that encourages innovation and creativity. In contrast, a transactional leadership style, emphasising rewards and punishments, may align better with a hierarchical structure that emphasises adherence to rules and procedures. Organisational structure considerations can take into account the leadership styles that best complement the desired structure and support the organisation’s goals.

Organisational Culture: Personality types within an organisation contribute to its overall culture. The organisational structure can shape and be shaped by this culture. For example, a hierarchical structure may foster a culture of compliance and respect for authority, whereas a decentralised structure may promote a culture of collaboration and individual empowerment. The resulting organisational culture can attract and retain individuals with specific personality traits that align with the prevailing cultural values, reinforcing the structure and influencing its evolution.

Stronger teams offer are more productive teams

Research shows extremely connected teams are 21% more profitable. This is likely due to the simple fact that happy employees are more productive employees. Working in great teams with better communication, rapport, decision making and understanding is all part of this.

For example, 37% of employees say working in a great team is their primary reason for staying at a company. In fact, some 54% of employees say a strong sense of community including great coworkers kept them at a company longer than was in their best interest.

So building great teams and having strong leadership for those teams directly impacts your business’s bottom line. You’ll have more productive, engaged and profitable employees, who will stick around longer, reducing employee churn and recruitment costs.

What are workplace personality tests and how can they help build more productive teams?

There is no one way to build a great team, but workplace personality tests are a great place to start, whether this is at the point of recruitment or long after your teams have been hired.

Workplace personality tests are a kind of assessment employers can use to help better understand new candidates as well as current employees. Many (although not all!) have roots in psychology. Much like many psychological assessments, workplace personality tests give an insight into key characteristics, behaviours and people’s intrinsic motivations that drive them to behave the way they do.

The information obtained from workplace personality tests can then be used to better understand the behaviours within teams, as well as the behaviours possessed by leaders across businesses, to better communicate, motivate and engage.

Different types of workplace personality tests

There are many different types of workplace personality tests on offer and they’re not all made equal. Some have no research or founding in psychology, while others provide little actionable insight. All this said, we’ll look at the most common workplace personality tests including:

  1. Keirsey Temperament Sorter

  2. Disc Personality Test

  3. The Myers Briggs Type Indicator

  4. The Caliper Profile

  5. The SHL Occupational Personality Questionnaire

  6. Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory

Keirsey Temperament Sorter

This workplace personality test is based on Ancient Greek philosopher Hippocrates’ theory. He stated that all human’s personas are made up of four temperaments:

  1. Artisan

  2. Guardian

  3. Idealist

  4. Rational

This test is very similar to the Myers Briggs test, in that these four temperaments are scaled and then categorised into 16 different groups. However, one of the key differences is that the MBT focuses on how people feel and think, while Kerisey focuses more on behaviour. It’s been used widely, perhaps most notably by the US Air Force.

DISC Personality Test

The Disc Personality Test was created by William Moulton Marston in 1928, and later adapted by Walter Clark in 1940. It’s made up of 28 questions which measure four key areas:

  1. Dominance

  2. Influence

  3. Steadiness

  4. Conscientiousness

Candidates are categorised into distinct personality types, based on their characteristics in these four areas.

Those with D personality profiles tend to be confident and forceful and prioritise taking action and challenging themselves. Those with I personality profiles tend to be excellent communicators and influencers and prioritise relationships. Those with S personality profiles tend to be supportive and patient and prioritise teamwork. Finally, those with C personality profiles tend to be analytical thinkers and methodical workers.

Disc workplace personality testing is particularly useful for assessing management and other leaders and is in widespread use for businesses around the world. Part of this is also down to its accessibility. Unlike many tests, it doesn’t take hours to complete and still provides an excellent insight into the behaviours that cause people to act the way they do.

The Myers Briggs Type Indicator

One of the most well-known personality tests, the Myers Briggs test was developed in the 1940s by mother and daughter Katherine Cook Briggs and Isabell Briggs Myers.

This personality test is made up of 93 questions and categorises people into one of 16 different personality types, each with their own unique strengths and weaknesses. It’s made

up of four different scales which are:

  1. Extraversion (E) – Introversion (I)

  2. Sensing (S) – Intuition (N)

  3. Thinking (T) – Feeling (F)

  4. Judging (J) – Perceiving (P)

These scales are then used to dictate the different personality types including:

  1. ISTJ – The Inspector

  2. ISTP – The Crafter

  3. ISFJ – The Protector

  4. ISFP – The Artist

  5. INFJ – The Advocate

  6. INFP – The Mediator

  7. INTJ – The Architect

  8. INTP – The Thinker

  9. ESTP – The Persuader

  10. ESTJ – The Director

  11. ESFP – The Performer

  12. ESFJ – The Caregiver

  13. ENFP – The Champion

  14. ENFJ – The Giver

  15. ENTP – The Debater

  16. ENTJ – The Commander

Many fortune 500 companies use this workplace personality test in their recruitment processes, despite this personality test being fairly controversial within the psychological field.

The Caliper Profile

This workplace personality test was invented around 50 years ago by an Australian talent management company. Since then, it’s been used by more than 65,000 businesses worldwide to assess more than 4.5 million candidates.

The test has psychological roots, it’s based on the work of psychologists Raymond Cattell and Frank Warburton. The assessment is made up of 180 multiple choice questions, as well as some puzzle and problem solving tasks for certain roles. Once completed, the Caliper test then assesses four main aspects of an employee or candidates personality, including:

  1. Leadership skills

  2. Interpersonal skills

  3. Problem solving and decision making

  4. Personal organisation

This information can then all be used to see whether a candidate is a good fit for a wider team.

The SHL Occupational Personality Questionnaire

This workplace personality test is made up of 104 that assess 32 different characteristics. These characteristics are then assessed to give employers an indication as to whether candidates possess the right characteristics for the desired role. They can also be used to identify performance issues and opportunities for current employees, as well as to identify leadership potential in existing employees.

The simplicity of this test works in its favour in recruitment in particular. It allows employees to get an overview of candidate characteristics and easily compare many at once to see who might be the best fit.

Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory

This whopper of a personality test includes 567 true or false questions. It was invented back in 1939 to analyse different personalities.

This workplace personality test isn’t common by any means, but many organisations with high-risk and stress positions, like the military, use this test. That’s because due to its roots in the mental health profession it can be useful to assess the psychological stability of potential candidates.

Emotional Intelligence and Leadership

Emotional quotient (also known as emotional intelligence) or EQ is a person’s ability to understand, use and manage their emotions in positive ways to effectively communicate, show empathy, relieve stress, overcome challenges and defuse conflict.

Why is EQ Important in Leadership?

Emotionally intelligent leaders are self-aware, can effectively self-regulate and self-motivate most especially when the going gets tough. EQ leaders are able to engage with others and see staff and employees as people and not just as producers of outcomes. They come from a solid self-foundation, possess personal integrity and can inspire and motivate other people to do their best.

The Top 5 Characteristics of EQ in leaders

1. Self-awareness

The characteristic in leaders that show they know how they feel and recognize how their emotions can affect the people who surround them. A self-aware leader acknowledges their ego and knows their strengths and weaknesses. Their aim is to make sure that their ego and personal traits work for the benefit of the workforce and organization.

2. Self-regulation

A leadership attribute that gives leaders a firm grasp and control of their emotions. A self-regulated leader stays firm, fair and calm. Other people that surround this type of leader stay reassured and motivated to take positive action because their leader does not lash out, does not compromise their work ethic and is accountable for their actions. This creates a general sense of improved wellbeing in the workplace.

3. Motivation

A leadership characteristic that comes from knowing what needs to be done and why these things must be done. A motivated leader has high work standards for themselves and can work on their goals consistently. They also understand what motivates their workers and colleagues and can incentivize these so they can also give their best in their work.

4. Empathy

An empathic leader can put themselves in another person’s shoes (so to speak) and can see things from their perspective. This ability can help develop people, challenge stereotypes and unfair assumptions. In difficult situations, it can help deliver critical feedback in a tactful manner as well as to be a good listener. All these lead to building a positive work atmosphere with a loyal and respectful team.

5. Social Skills

The art of communication with an emotional connection. Leaders with good social skills can deliver bad news and celebrate good news in a way that makes people feel that improvement can be done by taking action on such opportunities. Having social skills can make leaders resolve conflicts in a calm, peaceful and diplomatic manner. This skill allows leaders to demonstrate that they respect the other person’s needs, hopes and fears.

Emotional intelligence or EQ is vital for effective leadership. The main leadership skills associated with emotional intelligence are empathy, social skills, self-awareness, and self-regulation, as well as a wide variety of skills associated with these traits. Leaders who possess these skills are more capable of understanding other people’s unique behaviours and motivations, as well as their own.

The global emotional intelligence test isn’t a workplace personality test per say, but it is a very helpful tool for businesses to assess current leadership, as well as identify staff who could make great leaders in the future.

This test was developed by science journalist Daniel Goleman. It is a particularly useful tool in assessing leadership as it examines the array of skills and characteristics necessary to perform well as a leader.

The test measures four main areas:

  1. Self-awareness

  2. Self-management

  3. Social awareness

  4. Relationship management

Self-awareness is at the heart of emotional intelligence and is made up of three key competencies; emotional self-awareness, accurate self-assessment and self-confidence. These three characteristics enable employees to be able to understand the impact their emotions have on their behaviour, as well as identify their own strengths and weaknesses.

Self-management refers to five competences; self-control, transparency, adaptability, achievement orientation and initiative.

Much like the above, excellent leaders possess a strong mix of these qualities to enable them to communicate with and manage teams.

Social awareness refers to the ability to empathise, but it also examines a candidates organisational awareness and service orientation. The latter are both vital leadership skills in being able to understand both business and customer needs.

Finally, relationship management has seven competencies; visionary leadership, developing others, influence, change catalyst, conflict management, building bonds and teamwork and collaboration. Much like all of the above, those who possess skills and characteristics in all these areas possess a high level of emotional intelligence and make excellent leaders.

The test scores candidates on a scale of one to 10 in each of these four areas. Employers can use it to assess new candidates and current employees for leadership roles to see whether they would make effective leaders. It can also be used to identify areas for current leadership to improve in.

Proponents of EI testing argue that it gives a more realistic assessment of leadership skills than skill or IQ testing.

What are the productivity benefits of workplace personality tests?

Workplace personality tests aren’t popular for no reason. Hundreds of thousands of organisations across the world, including Fortune 500 companies, use them for one simple reason — to build better teams and identify stronger leaders.

Once a test is completed, it shouldn’t just be read once and discarded. These tests can reveal the intrinsic motivators that every person has. This information can then be used to better understand how to communicate with each other, as well as resolve conflicts.

Employees who have undergone workplace personality testing have a heightened sense of self awareness. They can better understand what motivates them and use this information to tackle problems differently.

Workplace personality tests can also be used to better understand each other. For example, if a whole team undergoes a DISC workplace personality test, it’s highly unlikely everyone on the team would come out as a D profile. Far more likely, the team will be built up of a healthy mix of different DISC profiles. Teams can use this information to better understand each other and divvy out tasks to those most suited to them.

They can also use this information to understand colleagues whose behaviour may not previously have made sense to them, as they have different intrinsic motivators. This can make conflict more productive. Using a mix of self awareness and awareness of others, they can better resolve conflicts in the workplace and create productive solutions that work for everyone.

Similarly, managers can use the information obtained from workplace personality testing to lead teams better. They can understand exactly what motivates each team member and better assign enjoyable tasks to employees based on this knowledge. For training, it can also help leaders identify different ways to train to maximise engagement and outcome.

Overall, all these various workplace personality test benefits have a direct impact on the bottom line, which we talked about above. You have happier, more engaged teams who can communicate better and work more productively together.

For recruitment processes in particular, workplace personality tests can speed up the entire process, reducing candidates to a smaller pool who you already know have the desired characteristics and behaviours for your company culture and the job role itself. Another unique benefit for recruitment is that workplace personality tests can reduce bias. Employers can make fairer decisions using the information provided from assessments to pick the best candidate for the role, as opposed to basing it on gut feeling or personal preference.

The benefits of workplace personality testing for leadership

We hinted at this in the introduction already, but many businesses aren’t getting leadership quite right. They promote based on technical skills alone, as opposed to the behaviours and characteristics necessary for employees to make good leaders.

This matters, because as the old trope goes, people quit their boss, not their job.

Research actually backs this one up, as around 57% of workers quit due to their direct supervisor. Moreover, managers account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement, which as we know has a huge impact on business productivity.

This goes to show how important leadership skills are for managers. If they possess a high level of emotional intelligence, there is a high chance they will make more effective leaders and lead more productive teams. Workplace personality testing can give employers these insights ahead of internal promotions to ensure they’re promoting the right people to the right areas, as opposed to focusing on technical skill and length of service alone, as neither of these are indicative of a strong leader.

What are the criticisms of workplace personality tests?

The workplace personality test market is crowded. There are many organisations offering a huge variety of workplace personality tests. Many have great merit, others not so much.

Many are making larger claims than they should be. A workplace personality test result cannot predict all behaviour.

It can certainly indicate, but it is by no means a guarantee.

As well as this, some write personality testing as a whole off as pseudoscience. This is often due to the lack of analysis and research behind some tests, but is well worth noting many other tests have been studied at length and found to have been reliable.

One of the main criticisms surrounding workplace personality testing is whether the insight gained is actually useful. Much of this comes down to businesses simply using a workplace personality test and not then applying what they learn from that insight.

How to use workplace personality tests to help your business

There is little benefit, beyond entertainment, to taking a workplace personality test, if that test is then plonked in a drawer and forgotten about.

For workplace personality tests to be beneficial to your business, you need to use the insights gained and take logical actions built on those insights. There are no end of ways to do this, but we’ll cover some common practical uses of workplace personality tests for businesses.

Workplace Personality Tests for Hiring and Internal Promotion

You can use workplace personality tests to gain more insight into the right people to hire for your business, as well as promote the best internal candidates to the best roles to suit them.

How often have you brought in a new employee with all the skills they needed, only to have a team to have endless trouble working with them?

This comes down to human nature and the behaviours that drive us. Hiring for behaviours and characteristics makes far more sense than hiring for skill, because skill can be taught far more easily than a new behaviour. Workplace personality testing can be used to assess candidate behaviours and speed up the hiring and onboarding process.

Tailor Communication to Each Personality Type

Some employees are perfectly happy to sit back and follow someone else’s lead, while others would much rather work autonomously and only communicate when they need assistance.

Understanding your own personality type, as well as others, means you can tailor communications with every team member, across a business. Your team will get the type of communication they desire and feel more valued and respected as a result of it.

Design More Productive Teams

Let’s take DISC personality profiles as the example here and say one of your customer service teams is made up of a mix of I and S personality profiles. They all get on incredibly well as they value relationships in the workplace and are very people focused, but they love to chat all day. You could use the information obtained from this to identify that you need a D personality in that team to give more direction and focus.

Our point is, you can use workplace personality tests to construct better teams with a mix of personality types that compliment each other to increase productivity and performance.

Aid Employee Development

Employees want long term opportunities for learning and development opportunities from the company they work for.

You can use workplace personality tests to further your employees development. Once they understand their own personality assessment, they can identify areas of both strength and weaknesses to improve on, in turn, improving their performance and opening up new opportunities for promotion across the business.

Better Motivate and Engage Employees

Different personality types are motivated by different factors. You can use workplace personality tests to tailor feedback and goals to different employees.

For example, those with a C personality profile in DISC personality testing pride themselves on quality and accuracy, so you can tailor performance goals with this in mind. Meanwhile those with an I personality profile prioritise relationships, so regular one to one feedback will help motivate these employees more than annual performance appraisals ever could.

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