In yesterday’s Advisor, guest columnist Cynthia J. Sax discussed personality assessments and how they can be used to help human resources. Today, Sax explains how these assessments can be helpful not just for hiring but also for employee development.
What Else Is a Preemployment Personality Assessment Good For?
If a personality assessment does nothing more than help you hire the right employees, it has paid back the money you spent a hundred times over. Hiring and then terminating the wrong person wastes thousands of dollars in training and benefits, and now you have to repeat the exhausting search process.
But a good personality assessment can do so much more. By uncovering a person’s strengths, limitations, and motivations, you can customize your onboarding and development efforts as well as ramp up productivity and avoid the pitfalls that would otherwise be unseen.
For example, imagine you hire someone to perform administrative work. The new employee quickly proves to be conscientious and smart, but the personality assessment reveals she lacks self-assurance as a decision maker. Instead of wondering why she is asking so many questions and taking so much time to get up to speed, you would now be armed with the knowledge to create a 30-day action plan that focuses on encouraging independent judgment.
Furthermore, when you have personality data across an entire team, you can (with the help of expert consultation) see how the personalities mesh and where potential conflicts lie. When people understand one another and become aware of the underlying motivations behind one another’s on-the-job behaviors, they are able to work together more openly and effectively. You can assign work based on people’s strengths as well; improving productivity, job satisfaction and, ultimately, retention.
Personality assessments also support succession-planning efforts. Imagine that one or more of your senior leaders plans on retiring or leaves for another organization. With personality data available on your next level of leadership—or on promising rank-and-file employees for that matter—a trained consultant can both help you identify your high-potential candidates (who may have hidden leadership qualities) and guide you in grooming those individuals to take on senior positions.
These are just a few of the ways personality assessments can support your talent-management strategy.
What Else Do You Need to Know About Personality Assessments?
There are a few important ideas to know before selecting and using a preemployment tool. First of all, a good personality test, while scientifically valid, is not a medical or clinical instrument and should never be used to extrapolate that which it was not meant to measure. In other words, it measures job-behavior potential and is meant to be used solely in a business context.
Second, a good personality assessment should be Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)- and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant. That is, the results and recommendations it provides must not discriminate in the areas of race, gender, and age, and it needs to accommodate people with disabilities in terms of completing the questionnaire. Most established assessment companies are aware of and account for these regulations, but don’t be afraid to ask your contact.
Most importantly, preemployment assessments are intended to serve as a guide and to assist you in making a hiring decision, not make it for you entirely. Your experience and insight are irreplaceable. Think of a preemployment assessment as yet another tool in the HR professional’s toolkit—a tool designed to save you time and money and to provide you with valuable information that pays for itself time and again.
Sax is senior vice president of consulting services at Caliper, a global employee assessment and organizational effectiveness firm.