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Using Personality Tests for Retention

Using Personality Tests for Retention

Who are you? And why are you here? These existential questions could keep you busy for a lifetime. But if you narrow your focus to the workplace, you can arrive at some clarity of purpose and personnel in this lifetime.

How? By using personality assessments to better understand your employees, your teams, and yourself, HR pros can address some of the deepest issues impacting retention. Here’s what you need to know about personality tests beyond recruitment.


What are Personality Assessments?

The term personality assessment can refer to a field of psychology that—according to the American Psychological Association—“involves the administration, scoring, and interpretation of empirically supported measures of personality traits and styles.” It can also refer to the tests used in the field.

Although we’ll primarily refer to personality assessments in the context of tests, it’s important to emphasize how rigorous the field of psychological study and practice is. Although they wear many hats, most HR pros are not trained psychologists—nor should they be. But they need to appreciate what these tests can measure, what they cannot, and how to interpret the results.

Many recruiters use personality tests like the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator and the DiSC assessment in their hiring process to get a snapshot of the candidate, to make a quick judgment of their character, or to predict their future performance. But what if the test was not designed to measure all of those things? 

For example, the Myers & Briggs Foundation claims—while the assessment may help people understand themselves and how they interact with others—“It is not ethical to use the MBTI instrument for hiring or for deciding job assignments.”

In other words, any testing used by recruiters to make such important decisions should be both reliable and valid, yielding consistent and accurate results in order for recruiters to administer and interpret them in a way that is both effective, part of a holistic process, and nondiscriminatory. A personality assessment should not become the deciding factor in hiring.

Even though the hiring process is the only time many managers use personality assessments, their use is much better suited to improving team dynamics, conflict resolution, and performance management. That is, they’re excellent retention tools!


How Personality Assessments Improve Retention

Essentially, retention is about understanding your employees and respectfully engaging with them based on that understanding. 

With that goal in mind, personality assessments are an efficient and effective way to help you better understand your employees. For example, certain tests can tell you what workplace environment a particular employee might thrive in—if they work well under pressure, how well they work on a team, and so on.

In this way, personality assessments can help managers better coach their employees. But keep in mind that personality assessments should not be used at will to jump to conclusions that only confirm a particular manager’s unconscious biases. Rather, HR should select “empirically supported measures of personality traits and styles”—per the APA’s definition—and train managers on how to interpret the results and responsibly act on them. 

Managers should refer to personality test results reports before reorganizing responsibilities on the team or before having a difficult conversation with a direct report. That’s why—if the assessment tool does not provide a results report—you should probably avoid using that test.

Personality assessments are helpful not only for 1:1 coaching, but also for personalizing training, rewards, and perks. HR can tailor their benefits offerings to better fit the needs of their particular workforce, which is key to retention. After all, if you offer benefits and training that your staff doesn’t need or want, it’s a waste of your organization’s resources and can even alienate workers, who may feel unseen and unheard.

One more consideration: using personality tests as part of a holistic hiring process can actually be a great retention tool, too, since hiring managers can use them to make better decisions about who would be a better fit for the team and for the organization.

Now, let’s take a look at how you can use a few of the most popular personality assessments for retention.


How to Use 3 Popular Personality Assessments for Retention

To give you a better idea of how personality assessments can improve retention, let’s cover a few of the most popular tests used by employers.

Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator

One of the most popular and recognizable personality assessments in the world, the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) highlights the way you perceive the world and the way you make decisions. The test identifies 16 distinct personality types based on a combination of four dichotomies:

        1. Extraversion or Introversion 

        2. Sensing or Intuition

        3. Thinking or Feeling 

        4. Judging or Perceiving

Taking the MBTI encourages employees to self-reflect—or at least, to self-identify. Managers can use this information to better personalize how they motivate employees.

For example, an Introversion-Sensing-Thinking Judging—or ISTJ—type may respond more positively to clear, logical reasons for why they need to accomplish a particular task whereas an Extraversion-Intuition-Feeling-Perceiving—or ENFP—type may be more motivated by encouraging words and an understanding of how their actions will affect others.

Hogan Assessments

Known for its reliability, Hogan Assessments are designed to “measure reputation, not identity”—which some critics argue is a problem with the MBTI. In other words, Hogan Assessments are based on the idea that our perception of ourselves—identity—can be flawed, but how others perceive us based on our observable behaviors—reputation—is a better indicator of how we’ll work in a given role or environment. 

Hogan breaks down a person’s reputation into four categories: 

        1. Bright side

        2. Dark side 

        3. Inside

        4. Cognitive

One way managers can use Hogan Assessments results is to adapt their approach to a particular employee based on the worker’s so-called bright and dark sides. 

For example, an employee’s personality emphasizes certain qualities when they feel in control of a situation—their bright side—and other qualities when they feel stressed—their dark side. If a manager needs to have a difficult conversation with an employee, they can approach it in a more constructive way by knowing the employee’s dark side qualities before going into it.

DiSC Assessment

The DiSC assessment is popular because it’s easy to use and its results are easy to apply. DiSC stands for the four main personality profiles measured by the assessment:

        1. Dominance

        2. influence

        3. Steadiness

        4. Conscientiousness 

A critical component of how to use the DiSC is emphasizing a manager’s self-awareness of their own profile. Managers should know their own style in order to better coach and relate to others’ styles.

For example—according to the DiSCProfiles blog—a D-style manager may tend to be “direct, firm, and strong-willed,” which could lead to “burnout, hiding mistakes, and mistrust of the organization” from their direct reports. These managers need to understand “the value of empathy in leadership” to improve engagement, productivity, and retention.

When employees feel understood and valued, they are more likely to stay. And personality assessments can provide the insight that HR pros and managers need to improve retention. But that knowledge only becomes powerful when it’s put into practice.


Additional Resources

You can stay informed, educated, and up-to-date with important HR topics using BerniePortal’s comprehensive resources:

  • BerniePortal Blog—a one-stop-shop for HR industry news
  • HR Glossary—featuring the most common HR terms, acronyms, and compliance
  • HR Guides—essential pillars, covering an extensive list of comprehensive HR topics
  • BernieU—free online HR courses, approved for SHRM and HRCI recertification credit
  • HR Party of One—our popular YouTube series and podcast, covering emerging HR trends and enduring HR topics

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