InSights - What you didn't know you didn't know

Has 50 Years Of The “Personality Test” Monopoly Compromised Productivity?

Have we taken a ride on the reading railroad…without passing go…or collecting our $200?

Tests and assessments based on personality, interest, type and styles have long been the controversial basis for many human resource decisions.  Over 50 years of using tools based on these theories for employee selection, development and alignment have only contributed to an enduring increase in employee turnover Footnote 1. This means the tests are leading us to hire the wrong people, put them in the wrong jobs, or not helping us keep the right people in the jobs. Personality tests frequently lead to the following results:

1. Hiring people who don’t succeed.

2. Promoting the best salespeople into management or another sales position where they subsequently fail. Similarly, re-assigning executives from a role they are performing adequately in because we are incorrectly told they have the “right personality”  for a second role, but who then consequently fail.

3. Because we have moved good performers into roles for which they are poorly suited based on erroneous personality test results, they consequently leave the organization, increasing rather than lessening turnover.

4. Because personality tests are so easy to fake they have led to the distrust of assessment techniques in general, including the predictive analytic technologies that are effective. The fatal flaws exposed.

The scientific evidence demonstrates that assessment effectiveness is in the details. Broad, generalized theories (like personality, Five Factor models, and others) are too crude for the precise measurement needed to evaluate the critical work competencies and fail over time because their scores represent the average behavior across a wide range of situations and contexts as a whole, not how one specifically acts in employment situations or toward specific goals. 2

Personnel decisions are not concerned with the general behavior of individuals in all facets of their lives at home, with family, or in social situations (which these tests were designed to measure), but how individuals will perform in a very specific and narrow range of work situations, which the personality assessments cannot measure.  Total Quality Management (TQM), Six Sigma and other modern quality control practices have elevated every other business function except Employee selection and placement, particularly as it applies to sales force and management decisions.  Benchmarking, Top Grading, and classifying salespeople and managers into “Types” are the subprime approach to employment decisions. Although these practices may look like a silver bullet at first, their effects are often smaller than a placebo,and create problems that will surface at a later date. While they often seem intuitive, feel right, and are invariably easily explained, they usually consume critical resources, and divert us from less exciting but statistically and scientifically proven approaches that are often not simple, intuitive, and contrary to our emotional inclinations. Strategies that make an organization successful in the long run are rarely quick and easy, and by definition, are not the most popular.

Good science is the path to success.  When Predictive Analytics replaces personality theory, turnover is reduced by 30% or more.  Identifying the sources of failure, and applying those standards to selection, increases productivity by over 35%.3.  Independent research has documented that empirically-keyed predictive technology increases sales productivity by more than $60,000 per B2B salesperson hired.  Read more: Download The Trouble with Personality Tests White Paper by clicking on the Whitepapers Tab and then General Business Tab on Chally’s website.

1 Owen, L. “History of Labor Turnover in the U.S.”: EH.Net Encyclopedia, edited by Robert Whaples. April 29, 2004.  Fleeson, W., “Toward a Structure- and Process-integrated view of personality: Traits as density distributions of states. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2001, Vol. 80, No. (6), pp. 1011-1027.