adult, beard, concentratedLoyalty. Creativity. Engagement. Drive.

The buzzwords populating the wish lists of every management team and Human Resources department in corporate America speak to the growing list of must-haves every successful company seeks to foster employee engagement. Whether hiring new employees to the workforce, or looking to maximize the effectiveness of a current team, CEOs, managing directors, and recruiters are emphasizing personality over skill level in their work force. Hiring the right team of diversified personalities, suggests the current philosophy, is a more direct route to victory than focusing only on one unified area of expertise. In a well-regarded 2013 article by the Virgin Group’s Richard Branson, the renowned CEO explains, “Most skills can be learned, but it is difficult to train people on their personality. If you can find people who are fun, friendly, caring, and love helping others, you are onto a winner.”

A 2014 survey lead by Hyper Island confirms that Branson isn’t alone in his theory. Soliciting responses from more than 500 company leaders, managers, recruiters, and employees, in three separate industries, the International Learning Institute reported unexpected results. Seventy eight percent of those surveyed stated that personality trumped all other assets a potential new hire could offer—including a candidate’s skill set.

When a business legend like Richard Branson shares a philosophy, corporations are likely to listen up. How, then, does one decipher personality in a prospective hire? And how does a manager gather a team of complementary personalities to ensure the best possible output?

Personality testing is now a $500-million-a-year business and, according to Hogan Assessment Systems, Inc., that figure is increasing by up to 15 percent annually. While legislation has barred the use of such testing in the initial stages of the corporate interview process, many companies are implementing the exams after a conditional offer of employment has been presented.

A wide range of personality tests are available today, but for the those new to the practice, here are a few of the most popular.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

The undisputed front-runner for assessing personality, the MBTI is based on Carl Jung’s personality theories, and highlights an individual’s decision-making process as well as how he or she sees the world. In essence, the Myers-Briggs model segments personality into four opposing characteristics. Each one dictates an individual’s natural tendencies toward Extroversion or Introversion, Intuition or Sensing, Thinking or Feeling, and Judging or Perceiving. The questions posed by the inventory ultimately reveal one of 16 distinct personality types. Most often, organizations utilize MBTI results to pair employees with jobs that showcase their strengths, to improve communication among teammates, and to aid in conflict resolution.

IPIP-NEO Personality Test

Five categories are measured with The International Personality Item Pool test (or IPIP-NEO) as well as 30 sub-categories. Potential employees can be identified (very broadly) under an umbrella of the following traits: Extroversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism, and Openness to Change.

A further breaking down of each trait within the spectrum allows for more specific measurements of friendliness, trust, altruism, cooperation, sensitivity, and readiness to challenge authority. The IPIP-NEO has proven most useful in companies employing a multicultural workforce and has gained popularity as a result of globalization and the emergence of a robust international customer base.  

The DiSC Analysis

Arguably the most comprehensive of the personality assessment tools, the DiSC is most commonly used after an employee has been hired and integrated into a team. The DiSC model provides a guideline for gauging an individual’s working style. Typically, the test of choice for large corporations, this type of personality test proves to be especially useful for team building and interoffice communication. DiSC is an acronym for the four basic behavioral styles that each of us tend to favor: Dominance, Influence, Conscientiousness, and Steadiness. Within each of these broad stroke titles are three sub-divided categories which identify differentiating characteristic including enthusiasm, collaboration, accuracy, and stability. A persuasive argument can be made for the current claim that any successful workplace must maintain a stable balance of each of the 12 possible types in order to function most effectively.

Today, employee engagement is considered one of the factors most relevant to a company’s success. In fact, according to researchers at Gallup, a business lacking substantial worker engagement can expect to see 21 percent lower productivity, 22 percent lower profitability, and a sobering 45 percent higher employee turnover rate. Workplace personality tests afford management and HR teams a chance to place employees in positions that honor and reward their personal natures and build harmonic relationships within teams. Both outcomes greatly bolster engagement and, in the end, overall corporate success.   

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