Using personality assessments as part of training can help employees learn more about themselves and improve performance.
What type of personality are you? Do you know what your main character strengths are? How do you react to stressful situations at work? What are the things that motivate or demotivate you in your company? Do you know which of your habits annoy your colleagues?
Assessing personality traits is becoming a more important part of staff development and goes far beyond just categorising whether employees are introverts or extroverts. In-house training and development has typically focused on a “one-size-fits-all” approach, with most employees in an organisation receiving similar types of education focused on improving specific skills, such as selling techniques, and increasing product knowledge.
But across the wider business community, there’s a growing acceptance that looking at the personalities of employees may be a more effective way of motivating a diverse range of people and encouraging them to work together harmoniously.
“Traditional training companies are just training you on skills – such as how to sell better – and that’s fine,” says Paul Carolan, managing director of London-based Archipelo Coaching. “But regardless of the industry and what business they’re in, people are still people.”
There is now more of a focus on helping employees to “understand themselves better” and harness this enhanced self-knowledge to increase productivity and foster effective working relationships.
Archipelo uses the Tilt 365 personality assessments system in its coaching programmes. The Tilt process involves asking participants to fill in an eight-minute online questionnaire. Tilt then analyses these responses to assign one of four character types to each employee – cross pollinator; change catalyst; quiet genius; and master mind (see box, below) – as well as producing a detailed 20-page report on each participant, looking at 48 different virtues or “positive” human traits.
“The aim is to help people understand themselves better,” explains Carolan. “Personality is kind of fixed, it’s who you are – you can’t change your personality. Tilt is about looking at your character strengths, working on them and finding ways to flex your behaviour.”
He adds that the profiling can also help people understand colleagues better, which can be particularly useful for managers: “If you try to manage everyone the same way, you’re not going to be that effective because everyone’s different.”
Personality assessments aren’t new – the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator dates back to the 1940s and creates 16 different personality “types” based on four categories: whether somebody classes themselves as an introvert or extrovert; sensing or intuitive; thinking or feeling; and judging or perceiving.
So how can these assessments be of practical use to businesses and create tangible, beneficial results? And do employees sometimes push back against having to undergo these assessments?
Carolan says people are always interested in learning about their own personalities, which overcomes any potential misgivings they might have. “Everybody has an interest in learning about themselves,” he adds. “People don’t feel there’s an agenda.”
Tilt’s personality assessments also highlight “overused” and “underdeveloped” traits in people. For example, having excessive confidence can become an “overused” trait when it starts to be seen as arrogance, while having “underdeveloped” compassion can come across as insensitivity.
“If a sales person is really confident and bold, we find they are often not good at details. They may be big on ideas, but may not have properly listened to the customer,” adds Carolan.
“Then you might have people who are a bit more considered and good at getting into all the detail, but are not so good at being bold and confident.”
Archipelo works with companies by using employees’ Tilt profiles to design workshops and other training programmes to help staff improve in certain areas identified in assessments.
“It’s not easy to measure the effect on people’s character but we can understand what the business challenge is, and then design a programme,” explains Carolan.
“We do role plays where people talk back to themselves to identify annoying traits, such as finishing other people’s sentences. Once you know about these things, you can do something about it.”
How companies choose to use personality profiles for staff development varies hugely but one consistent factor is trust. “Without trust, you are not going to have a highly effective team for any length of time,” says Carolan.