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How to Use Personality Assessments to Build a Better Team and Grow Your Company

Personality tests are increasingly popular in the business world because they can foster stronger, more efficient and more productive teams that can boost your bottom line — if they’re used strategically and appropriately.

Whether it’s DiSC, which measures a candidate's primary traits based on four personality types, the nearly ubiquitous Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or the increasingly popular Emergenetics Profile, these personality assessments can offer valuable insights into employees, leaders and teams.

Each of these tests provides insights into behaviors and thinking styles, but their real power is in starting a more informed discussion about how people work and interact within your organization, says Chelsea Harris of Baton Rouge-based leadership development firm Success Labs. “It goes beyond just taking a test and everybody finding out their type,” Harris says. “It’s really an activity where you talk and share and learn.”

Here are three ways to leverage the insights from personality tests into a more efficient and productive organization that truly maximizes its talent.

Focus on Better Communication

Harris suggests you start the personality assessment process by talking through the common personality types identified in whatever test you’ve chosen. This can happen before a single employee takes an assessment.

She says the first thing that usually happens in this process is that team members start developing a better understanding of common tendencies associated with different personality types (extrovert vs. introvert, for example) and can start sharing their preferences and natural ways of doing things in the workplace.

Harris says this inevitably leads to “aha” moments among the participants. “People on the team suddenly say, ‘Aha, that’s why that person responds to me that way’ or ‘I could be more effective if I stopped to ask them about their family and their weekend before I jump into work.’ ”

Perhaps an employee has a big-picture-focused supervisor who never seems to have time to review a detailed plan or proposal. “The problem is you’re getting too much in the details and that’s not how they communicate,” Harris says. A little insight into their personality type could help these two people meet in the middle, communicate more effectively and create a better outcome that ultimately helps the company.

Harris likens the dynamic to a targeted digital ad placement, which is often modified based on the desired audience. The same should go for communication and collaboration styles when dealing with different personality types in the workplace. “When we are adjusting what we’re saying, how it’s delivered, and the content is relevant, we can be more efficient and effective,” she says.

Avoid Boxing People In

Although you can certainly use personality assessments as a tool to foster a discussion that leads to more understanding, managers and other team members should avoid boxing people in based on an exaggerated stereotype of their personality.

For example, Harris says it might be helpful to be aware if you have someone who isn’t the most detailed-oriented person handling a complex project with tons of moving parts. While it’s healthy to coach this individual through that potential challenge, problems can arise when a manager ends up taking it too far and mentally places the employee into a personality stereotype.

“We end up projecting and saying, ‘This is who you are and you’re naturally going to make mistakes,’ when that’s not necessarily the case,” Harris says.

Create a Better Structure

For larger organizations, Harris suggests going beyond individual assessments and leveraging the personality concepts within smaller groups to create “team types.”

These can help each team and others who interact with them to understand their collective strengths and weaknesses — and ultimately allow both sides to contribute in a more meaningful way. For example, a particular group could demonstrate resistance to change. A collective assessment could help them identify this trait and take steps to mitigate it.

Whatever test you choose, Harris says an important step in the overall assessment process is moving beyond the raw test data to develop real actions or policies in response. A third-party facilitator can help if your company leadership isn’t comfortable with the process. “If you’re going to use a tool, either you yourself or a facilitator needs to help you connect the dots and help you see how you can leverage this information,” she says.

Stephen Loy