How relevant are personality tests?

By Shanna Bennell on October 03, 2016

HR analytics and DISC vs. Myers-Briggs

A recent article in Entrepreneur discussed the value and merits of personality tests as they apply to HR analytics and hiring decisions. The author laments the ubiquity of the tests, not so much for their prevalence, but for his perception of their inefficacy.

“... Just because they are there, doesn’t mean you should to [sic] use them. They are often used as a crutch to help make decisions, instead of using true leadership by hiring managers. And, often times, the practice does not result in actionable changes within an organization...It is materially more important to hire a person that has the best skillsets for the job, so they can come out of the gate running and help us achieve our business goals, than it is to have a specific personality type. ” said George Deeb of Entrepreneur

 

He attacks the validity of the Myers-Briggs, implying that he can find aspects of himself in all of the personality styles. He  continues by saying that personality tests would be beneficial tools if they had the ability to predict and modify behavior (what he calls “actionable changes”). That is where DISC comes in.

 

Deeb has many defensible points. A personality assessment that isn’t reliable, validated, or capable of predicting or modifying behavior isn’t a useful tool for hiring or HR purposes. But here is where DISC has the potential to differ from other popular personality tests like the Myers-Briggs.

 

Certainly, as Deeb says, any hiring manager who makes a hiring decision by relying exclusively on personality assessments rather than skills and experience is making a mistake. But what do you do when more than one candidate has similar qualifications? This is where personality assessments like DISC can help a hiring manager make an informed choice regarding who will be the best fit. They can make an inference based off of the person’s predictable behaviors using DISC.

 

DISC theory calculates and quantifies behavior and personality by acknowledging the fact that every person has a little bit of each personality within them. This theory assesses the degree to which all the traits manifests themselves within the person. DISC is based off of behavioral analysis, which makes it uniquely suited for hiring purposes.  Deeb is concerned that “trying to label employees in pre-defined buckets is a nice goal, but it isn’t really all that practical, as people behave differently in different scenarios and can live across categories.” DISC takes environment into account, and PeopleKeys’ DISC assessments are designed to be taken with a specific environment in mind. So while you may be more of a C style personality in the office, your S side may come out when you are at home. The PeopleKeys DISC assessment is intended to be taken keeping just one scenario and environment in mind.

 

But what about reliability and the ability to modify behavior? DISC theory has been tested and revealed as highly valid and reliable. This isn’t true of Myers-Briggs, which gave  50% of respondents different results the second time they took it. DISC is over 90% reliable.

 

So how can HR analytics such as DISC be used to modify behavior? Simple. When a personality assessment has proven to be reliable and valid, this system can create a framework and language for spawning interpersonal growth and self improvement. A system as simple to utilize and understand as DISC can foster empathy and improve communication within an organization.  Its principles are based off of behavioral analysis- observable phenomena. You don’t have to read your bosses DISC test to know that she has a C style personality because she shows you this through her meticulous, detail oriented, slow paced, and perfectionist behavior. Once you know this, you can empathize when she asks you for more details and expects a higher quality of work. Her behavior becomes predictable, and you can modify your own behavior to meet her expectations, because you can anticipate what they are. And she can modify hers to improve communication with you, as well. It creates a dialogue around what would otherwise be amorphous interpersonal problems. You can now just say “sorry, my C side is going to need a few more details.”

 

While Entrepreneur’s Deeb has many valid arguments, his critique of Myers-Briggs is clearly not applicable to DISC.

About the Author: Shanna Bennell

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