Picture a tire store. You have one guy working alone in the back stacking tires who always seems to be on his phone. Or he’s walking around the shop distracting other employees. He never seems to get anything done and is seen as a drain on your business.
Then one day you ask him to man the counter. It’s an emergency, and you are simply trying to get through the day with minimal damage. But you find that your loafer really excels. He’s great with the customers and has never been more productive.
You may think your employee has changed. In reality, the job has changed to one that better fits his personality.
“People tend to enjoy work more when tasks are aligned to their personality, and they tend to excel at the things aligned to their personality,” says Dr. Joe Ungemah, vice president and head of leadership practice at CEB, an international assessment provider and consulting firm.
“Personality is someone’s preferred way of working or their typical way of working,” he shares. “In that sense, it’s not a reflection of what they’re doing now but what they naturally gravitate toward.”
Imagine if you could get the best work out of all your employees or diffuse tension between employees. Understanding your employees’ personalities can help your dealership function more effectively, more efficiently and more profitably.
Tire dealers can take advantage of modern personality testing systems in their hiring practices to find the best fit for open positions. Or they can use personality testing to help develop current employees, move them to positions where they’d be happier, motivate them, and improve communication.
Personality testing has been around for years. Some of the better-known developmental tests are the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and DiSC personality test, but there are hundreds of other proprietary personality tests in the marketplace.
“People are just very different and personality tests are all about capturing, in a systematic way, the ways that they’re different,” says Dr. Robert Hogan, president of Hogan Assessments Systems, a Tulsa, Okla.-based testing firm that works with Fortune 500 companies.
Personality Testing in Hiring
Professional opinions differ when it comes to using personality testing in pre-hire situations.
Myers-Briggs states on its website that the test should not be used in hiring practices. Likewise, experts also warn that DiSC should only be used as a developmental tool after the hire is made. Other proprietary tests, however, are intended for use in pre-hiring situations.
Still, experts don’t always see eye-to-eye on whether or not personality testing should be used in the process of hiring. Experts do agree that if a business uses personality testing to hire, it should use that tool in conjunction with other assessment tools.
“Personality testing is one tool in the toolbox. When you look at assessments in general, personality (testing) is a component and tool people use that often sits alongside other assessments,” Ungemah says.
When personality testing is used in conjunction with other assessment tools, such as cognitive ability tests or business simulation, you can get up to 40% predictability of whether someone is going to thrive in a workplace, he notes.
“When we look at personality, it allows us to understand if an individual is fit for the job,” he shares. “Personality testing also allows us to understand whether they’re going to be engaged and satisfied in the long term. We all do things that are outside our natural personality. When the burden of doing those tasks is so great we may become disengaged or dissatisfied with our job because we’re doing things way outside our preferences for extended periods of time.”
Dr. Kristin Tull, president of Pradco, a Cleveland-based talent assessment and management services company, agrees that personality tests alone should not be used to make hiring decisions. The assessments should just be one small part of a hiring process, she says.
Tull suggests, though, that behavioral tests can often be a better predictor of success than personality tests.
“(Behavior assessments) are definitely a better thing to do because you can coach and improve behaviors, where personality you can’t really change,” she says. “If you’ve ever really been around kids, personalities are evident at one and two years old. In a toddler, you can’t change that personality, but you can teach them different behaviors, different manners and different skills.”
It’s like what many coaches say about athletes: You can’t teach speed, but you can coach the athlete on how to use it.
So why would a business use personality tests and other pre-hire assessments?
“When you hire someone, it’s a huge deal. It’s difficult to move people out. There is not only a real cost but opportunity cost,” Tull says. “Most companies see assessments as a worthwhile investment to better know and understand who you’re hiring and who you’re promoting.”
“A bad hire costs you tons and tons of money. Not only can they alienate co-workers and clients, but they’re really hard to get rid of,” agrees Hogan. “Using a valid assessment tool before you hire someone is like taking on an insurance policy. The cost associated with bad hires is just staggering.”
If a dealer decides to use a personality test or a similar assessment in the hiring process, they also need to go over the results with the employee once they are on board.
“Once a person gets hired, someone in HR or a manager can go over the test in an ‘onboarding’ conversation. It will help them know where they’re strong and where there are some potential red flags,” Tull says. And she suggests having an action plan for improvement in areas where employees scored low.
Using personality testing for employee development can be extremely useful. “When we use it from a selection perspective, we want to know if a person’s personality – their natural preferences – are fit for the job. When you look at testing for development purposes, it’s more about how can we actually use those preferences that will help that person through their career,” Ungemah says.
One huge benefit is such testing helps a dealer better understand their employees, knowledge that can put them in the right job and help keep them motivated and moving forward.
“The benefit of knowing a person’s personality is you know better what to expect,” Tull says. “If you know how someone operates and what their most salient personality traits are, you can better assign them to tasks and projects.”
If you understand what truly drives employees, “you can tailor a motivational process to them,” Hogan shares. “For example, some people absolutely thrive on feedback and like their work recognized, and other people don’t care. If you go around giving attaboys to people who don’t care, you’re just wasting your time. Conversely, if the person scores really high on a need for recognition and you don’t give them attaboys, they’re going to get really upset.”
Personal and professional development can also be extremely motivating for employees, so the simple act of performing a personality test and giving feedback can be motivational, Ungemah notes.
“There is something really good about focusing on someone’s development,” he shares. “And being able to show what they bring to the workplace and discussing how you want to help them develop, that is really crucial for any type of development program.”
Another major benefit is an increased self-awareness in employees. This can contribute to more efficient employees, as well as better internal and external communication.
“Once I have that self-awareness, I can learn to manage myself effectively. Because that’s really the only person I have more control over,” says Tom Ault, director of technical training for ERC, a Northeast Ohio human resources support organization.
If personality tests are shared, which Ault encourages doing, employees can also work better together. “Research suggests the more I can speak someone else’s language the better the interaction. The more open the communication, the more effective we can work together. A whole litany of positives comes out of that.”
Tull agrees that self-awareness and knowledge of other’s personality traits can contribute to teamwork. “Awareness is a huge plus for teamwork. If you understand where people are coming from there is a lot less conflict,” she says. “If I better know myself, I can better modify what I do to relate to other people.”
How It Can Work
While there are many tests and systems designed to profile one’s personality, the two leading testing systems – Myers-Briggs Personality Type Test and DiSC Personal Profile System – are the most used and referenced tools available.
Without getting into too much psychological theory and history, here is the short explanation of these two systems.
The mother-daughter team of Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers, who studied the human behavior work of Carl Jung and sought a way to turn his theories into workable, practical use, developed Myers-Briggs. Their serious work started during World War II, but it wasn’t until 1962 that the first Myers-Briggs Type Indicator questionnaire was put to use.
In short, Myers-Briggs establishes 16 Personality Types. The assessment assumes that people naturally select personality preferences. The testing does not indicate real or potential effectiveness in career, school or personal life, but rather shows how any individual sees the world.
DiSC is a personal assessment tool, with a focus on improving work productivity, teamwork and communication. Producers claim it is “non-judgmental and helps people discuss their behavioral differences.”
DiSC profiles help “increase your self-knowledge: how you respond to conflict, what motivates you, what causes you stress and how you solve problems; facilitate better teamwork and minimize team conflict; develop stronger sales skills by identifying and responding to customer styles; manage more effectively by understanding the dispositions and priorities of employees and team members: and become more self-knowledgeable, well-rounded and effective leaders.”
There are Limitations
Although personality tests offer valuable information, experts agree that it’s best to not become over reliant or over emphasize the results.
“People can act in different ways with different groups. An employee can behave one way with their peers and another way with their boss and an entirely different way with customers. Putting too much weight on personality test results can be problematic,” Tull says.
“If a person gets a certain reputation or is buttonholed with a certain personality type, others can over rely on it. And it can be over-emphasized in their own development.”
The tests are not infallible, experts say. “When we do a workshop with Myers Briggs, we tell people that regardless of what the test tells you, you still decide the results because you know yourself better than anybody,” Ault shares. “Maybe you just tested bad, didn’t think about it, or had a bad day or whatever. Never say the test is absolute because there are too many variables.”
Experts also note that just because a person tests a certain way it doesn’t mean they don’t possess any other valuable traits or can’t be successful in other areas.
“No matter what your personality type, people can still be successful at a particular job if they know what it takes to be successful. They can figure it out and find a way to do it,” shares Ault.
Ault says there’s a common misperception that extroverts would make better salespeople than introverts. An introvert could be just as successful, it just depends on how that person uses their personality in a particular role.
Ungemah agrees that a person’s personality does not limit their ability. “If you looked at my personality profile, I’m not a person that particularly enjoys planning and organizing, but I’m a fairly organized person. I do things outside my natural personality because we all do that at the end of the day. Personality testing gives information around what you enjoy doing or gravitate toward,” he shares, “but it doesn’t define what you are capable of doing.”
While personality is fairly consistent throughout a person’s life, personality test results can vary based on when a person takes it.
“If things change dramatically, either I take a new job or it’s 10 years from now, we can assume that my personality test results may not be valid anymore,” Ungemah notes. “Personality is fairly resistant to change over somebody’s life, but there are elements of a personality that can and will change.”
There are several best practices dealers should follow in order to get the most out of using personality testing.
First, it’s imperative that you properly train employees to administer tests or hire an outside firm to properly administer a test. Testing results should only be shared by qualified personnel.
“One single word can mean different things to different people. Not having qualified people interpret results is a big red flag,” Tull shares.
It’s also very important that businesses invest the proper amount of time for employee follow up. “It’s important to not just learn about personality but be able to apply the learning back on the job,” Ault says.
Ault suggests making the testing part of the culture with managers talking about personality and helping people perform better in their jobs using what was learned.
Ungemah agrees that allowing proper time for the assessments is important.
“It’s also important to have a third-party coach or manager have a conversation with the employee about the results,” he shares. “The tool and information doesn’t really drive you to action. It requires that conversation to really identify the action that makes the most sense for that individual.”
The experts agree, too, that personality testing should be voluntary for employees. “When they are completing the tools, we’re asking them to have an honest opinion of themselves and for them to take an objective viewpoint about what they actually enjoy,” Ungemah says. “In order to get that participation, they need to understand that they’re going to get something out of it, and they have the opportunity to pull themselves out.”
Most people will be open to share once they see the value for themselves, Ault notes.
Finding a Test/Provider
Before a business jumps into personality testing, it should have a clear idea of what it wants to achieve. “Are you looking for individual development or are you looking to improve the overall store atmosphere? You would use different tools depending on those two needs,” Ungemah advises.
It is also critical that businesses find tests that are valid and meet legal standards (see sidebar). Businesses should also avoid personality testing designed for clinical uses.
“There’s an awful lot of unqualified, indefensible tests available on the market,” Hogan warns. “The assessment business is like pharmaceuticals in the 19th century, it’s unregulated and a lot of people are selling snake oil.”
Tire dealers should look for data supporting the testing, as well as inquire what a company is doing to check the validity of a test and stay on top of laws. And they should also check with local networking groups and area Chambers of Commerce for recommendations about assessment companies or consultants.
The U.S. Department of Labor offers a checklist for evaluating a test in its “Testing and Assessment: A Guide to Good Practices for Workforce Investment Professionals.” The checklist includes considerations such as test reliability, fairness and validity for its intended purpose, training requirements and more.
Having good, effective employees is not a mystery, but making sure the right people are in the right place – and getting the right long-term support – for their growth and success can seem impossible. The key is best understanding the nature and tendencies of new employees, as well as the capacity of existing team members.
Personality testing can be a useful way to uncover true gems.