Maya Mistry from TalentLens UK looks at how to overcome objections to using personality assessments in the workplace.
There are thousands of personality questionnaires out there and whilst it’s a crowded market, their usage continues to grow at around 10% per year.
As well as the many benefits of the tools, it is inevitable that like other methods of selection and development, there are limitations. As psychologists, we do not ignore these limitations, but in fact find ways to reduce and control them.
In order to help organisations realise the benefits of using personality tools, which include helping managers understand employees, creating development conversations and helping employees learn more about their preferences, it is important to understand and control the tools' limitations.
Personality questionnaires come in different formats. Some have a scale format, where you choose how much a statement is like you – usually on a scale from 1 – 10 with 1 indicating least like you and 10 indicating very much like you.
There is a higher chance of someone faking their responses on these types of questionnaires so it very important for them to be avoided in a selection context. They are much more suitable in developmental settings. It is vital to make sure that candidates are told to answer as truthfully as possible to limit the impact.
Some questionnaires, like SOSIE Traits & Values, have a forced choice format where candidates have to choose an answer over others - this format limits candidates to answer in a way they wish to be perceived and is ideal in both selection and developmental contexts.
To avoid this, a qualified test user in the chosen tool should explore the profile with the candidate. We recommend exploring the profile and explaining the implications of the tool and the nature of a self report - i.e. a reflection of a candidate’s own responses to the questions.
Having a feedback session with the candidate/employee should allow for reflection and discussion and they should leave feeling positive.
According to the British Psychological Society (BPS), it is best practice to hold a feedback session in order to avoid negative feelings from candidates and to ensure ethical delivery of the personality questionnaire.
There are many online assessments which are free and easy to access. A fair, reliable and valid tool takes from 2- 4 years to develop as there is a rigorous procedure to ensure that it is accurate and fit for purpose.
A lot of time and effort is invested into a good personality tool and if you find one that is freely available, then it is unlikely that there will be research studies conducted to make sure it suitable.
It is always best to research the questionnaire you have chosen and to select a test provider from the BPS Approved Directory of Test Publishers and Test Distributors.
You need to be clear that you are using the correct tool for your purpose. You need to question if a personality tool is needed for your purpose and if so then which one is best.
For example, there is no use using a team exercise tool to develop an individual. It would also be pointless to ask an individual to complete a personality questionnaire and not provide development plans or meetings afterwards. This last observation is less concerned with the tool itself and more about the rigour with which organisations implement their developmental strategy.
It is advised to choose elements or scales of the tool that have the most relevance to the competencies required of candidate / employee.
If there are certain traits or patterns that deviate from the average bands on their profile, it will be worth planning some questions and discussion points around them. We recommend allocating around an hour for each feedback / goal setting session.
The BPS Accredited Test User in Personality training course in the instrument allows you to practice delivery and the related considerations when preparing feedback.
When feeding back to participants, it is vital to plan how this is going to be conducted. As mentioned above, it is advisable to meet face to face.
The self-report nature of the questionnaire should be explained to candidates - the results are what they have reported about themselves. If they disagree, you can explore why by asking appropriate questions without interrogating the candidate.
To maximise effectiveness, the feedback session should be a two way discussion. The responses are never absolute - this should be clearly explained and if you sense that someone feels uncomfortable answering certain questions then you should move on.
If the correct BPS best practice guidelines are followed then you will ensure an ethical feedback session with beneficial outcomes for both parties.
It is clear that avoiding the ‘limitations’ is possible and this involves the delivery of the questionnaires and feedback discussion of the profile report.
Having the correct qualification is absolutely vital and attending a BPS accredited Test User course will equip you with the skills and knowledge you need to effectively deliver feedback sessions with confidence.
Read a previous post about why unqualified users of psychometrics risk making bad hires.
Try our personality traits and values tool, SOSIE, for free. Please also inquire about trialling our tools within your team.
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