Personality Tests and Their Role in the Workplace
In today’s workplace, personality tests have become more prevalent than ever. According to Psychology Today, approximately 80% of Fortune 500 companies use personality tests to assess their employees for the purposes of coaching, development, and team building. As a result, the personality test industry now exceeds $3 billion. But what are personality tests? And do they belong in the workplace?
What are personality tests?
Personality tests evaluate people based on underlying factors in their natural disposition. There are two different types of personality tests:
- Type-based personality tests
- Continuous personality tests
Type-Based Personality Tests
Type-based personality tests group respondents into different categories. Examples include the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) (a.k.a. 16 Personality Factor) and DISC assessment. These are typological assessments that classify people as types, often accompanied by labels, colors, or characters. Typological assessments are fun, but they are not always valid or reliable. There are a variety of personality traits that can be used to describe people, and people can fall anywhere along the spectrum of each trait. As such, some critics have argued that type-based personality tests offer an oversimplified approach to measuring personality. For example, Dr. Adam Grant, Wharton’s top-rated professor for 7 years straight, questions the validity, reliability, and comprehensiveness of the MBTI and likens it to “a physical exam that ignores your torso and one of your arms.” His biggest issue with the MBTI is that “four letters don’t do justice to anyone’s identity.”
Continuous Personality Tests
In general, continuous assessments tend to be more descriptive than typological assessments. Rather than labelling people as one type or another, these assessments provide a measure of how an individual scores across a variety of traits. Many continuous personality assessments, including the Leadership Skills Profile – Revised (LSP-R), are based on the Five Factor or HEXACO models of personality. Because these personality tests don’t group candidates into discrete categories, they often provide a much more holistic measure of personality (and talent).
For more information on the differences between type-based and continuous personality tests, check out our post on Which Type of Personality Test Is Right For Me?
Why Use Personality Assessments?
A strong personality assessment can be valuable for organizations and their employees. Benefits of using personality assessments in the workplace include:
- Increased employee engagement
- Increased job satisfaction
- Stronger internal talent pool
- Decreased turnover
- Improved company culture
How to Use Personality Tests in the Workplace
Organizations can use personality tests for a variety of purposes, including:
- Screening job applicants
- Identifying employees’ strengths
- Pin-pointing development opportunities
- Guiding coaching conversations
- Assigning roles
- Identify high potentials/emerging talent
- Nominating candidates (i.e., for succession or promotion)
- Structuring development programs
When using personality tests in the workplace, it is important to differentiate between tests used for selection and tests used for development. The standards for selection-based assessments are usually different than the standards for development-based assessments. Although it’s important to always choose tools that are valid and reliable, it’s important to remember that just because a test is valid for one application, does not mean it is valid for another. When using personality tests in the workplace, always ensure that you are using the test in the manner recommended by the test publisher. For example, continuous measures of personality can often be validated for use in selection, while many type-based measures are not endorsed for this use. Always check with a qualified professional or test publisher before choosing a test.
Which Personality Test Should I Use?
If you’re looking for a valid and reliable personality test, take a look at the Leadership Skills Profile – Revised (LSP-R). The LSP-R is a personality-based assessment of leadership skills that can be used to guide leadership development efforts. The test scores individuals on 50 leadership competencies including cognitive, personal, interpersonal, and senior leadership skills. Unlike typological assessments, the LSP-R does not group people into buckets or categories. Instead, everyone receives a Focus Report which includes a summary of scores and analysis of results, as well as templates and activities for creating a personalized development plan.
Looking for More?
If you want to learn more about personality tests, what they are, how they’re used, and why some are better than others, check out SIGMA’s personality test Q&A. If you have questions about the LSP-R, your Focus Report, or you’d like to speak with a consultant, contact us below. We’re always happy to chat!
Erica Sutherland, Ph.D.
SENIOR CONSULTANT & EXECUTIVE COACH
Erica completed her Ph.D. in Industrial-Organizational psychology at Western University. She is a Senior Consultant at SIGMA, where she delivers consulting services and Succession Planning solutions to clients. As a member of SIGMA’s executive coaching team, Erica works one-on-one with leaders to develop talent. She also brings her expertise in measurement and psychometrics to the R&D team, assisting with the development and validation of SIGMA’s many assessments.
Brittney Anderson, Ph.D.
LEADERSHIP CONSULTANT & EXECUTIVE COACH
Brittney is a member of our coaching and consulting team. She brings her expertise in evidence-based practice to provide companies with leadership solutions that meet their needs. Primarily, Brittney helps her clients prepare for their future with succession planning and comprehensive leadership development programs. As an executive coach, she helps leaders hone their skills using a process-based approach to development.
Glen oversees SIGMA’s sales and marketing activities. As a skilled presenter and trainer, he has designed and delivered engaging and entertaining workshops and webinars to help leaders and HR professionals enhance their understanding of how our products and services can be used to realize potential within their organizations.
 Dattner, B. (June 13, 2008). The use and misuse of personality tests for coaching and development. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/credit-and-blame-work/200806/the-use-and-misuse-personality-tests-coaching-and-development#:~:text=Around%2080%20percent%20of%20the,reliability%20or%20validity%20than%20horoscopes.
 Patel, M. (August 2, 2021). Do Personality Tests Belong in the Workplace? Lattice. Retrieved from https://lattice.com/library/do-personality-tests-belong-in-the-workplace#:~:text=According%20to%20Psychology%20Today%2C%20approximately,testing%20industry%20exceeds%20%243%20billion.
 Grant, A. (September 18, 2022). Goodbye to the MBTI, the Fad That Won’t Die. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/give-and-take/201309/goodbye-mbti-the-fad-won-t-die.