Getting it Right With Psychometrics

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By Patrick Psaila and Joanne Mamo

The Covid-19 pandemic has shifted many organisations into a state of continuous and accelerated organisational change, prompting leaders to ask critical questions about finding, engaging and retaining good employees during a period of time that is now being referred to as The Great Resignation.

This term emerged from a recent study by Microsoft that showed that over 40% of the global workforce is considering changing jobs during 2021.

The study showed that the pandemic has brought to the forefront the already growing trend for workers to want better quality of life and to seek employers that regard them as more than a means to maximise profits. They are also looking for jobs that they enjoy and that contribute to their sense of purpose.

Research also indicates that the main cause of high rates of hiring is due to poor retention and that the cost of recruitment could reach up to 200% of the salary of the employee being replaced.

In responding to this powerful trend, organisational leaders can draw insight and support from personality psychometrics, which when used ethically and professionally, can play a critical role in informing recruitment processes as well as developing, engaging and retaining employees.

Defining Personality Psychometrics

Before delving into the applications of personality psychometrics, we must first explore the meaning of personality. Gordon Allport, one of the founders of personality psychology, defined personality as a collection of relatively stable traits which influence thoughts, feelings and behaviours. Personality psychometrics involves the objective and scientific assessment of personality traits and the identification and prediction of behavioural competencies, preferences and tendencies at work and beyond.

Qualified psychometric professionals can support organisations in the accurate selection, administration and interpretation of psychometric assessments which best suit the required organisational goals (for example talent acquisition, development, engagement or retention). Through collaborative interpretation with the test taker, they develop an accurate representation of employees’ personalities which stimulate productive discussions regarding their behaviours at work. Without professional interpretation, psychometric tools run the risk of becoming a means of labelling and categorising individuals, potentially leading to unfair judgements and conclusions.

Implications for Recruitment and Selection

Personality traits are not only predictive of work performance. They can also detect potential dysfunctional behaviours, organisational citizenship, leadership disposition, teamworking ability and a positive response to training. Through discussions with business leaders, professionals can develop a comprehensive understanding of the personality, behavioural and competency requirements for being successful within a particular role.

Personality psychometrics may be applied at different stages of the recruitment cycle. At earlier stages, they may allow for the identification of characteristics which may go unnoticed in typical interview settings, as well as enabling organisations to effectively shortlist candidates by identifying behavioural tendencies which indicate good organisational fit. Insight, produced by personality psychometrics, furthermore allows for the development of better teams through the selection of diverse personalities to create synergy and improve problem solving. At more advanced selection stages, personality psychometrics can guide decision-makers in choosing between similar potential candidates by seeking specific personality tendencies which would serve to support an organisation’s needs and aspirations.

Implications for Team Dynamics

Personality psychometric can also be used to understand the relational dynamics of a team or department, enabling members to understand each other more and adapt to each other’s interpersonal styles and relational needs. For example, knowledge of team members’ personality types can shed light on their preferences towards their approach to dealing with conflict, allowing for a better understanding of the source and resolution of team conflict and improvement of team dynamics.

The assessment of the personalities of various team members may also reveal that the majority prefer to be in charge, are socially confident and are outspoken, therefore being more likely to dominate discussions, disagree with one another and leave out less expressive colleagues. Leaders can then address this issue and ensure a better balance of power and influence in their teams.

Equally, knowledge of employees’ personalities enables the development of improved management styles. For example, an employee who tends to adhere to instructions and deadlines may prefer to have reporting lines which involve clear direction and communication. With this information, their manager can provide the necessary guidance and direction, while gradually coaching the employee towards increased autonomy and independence.

Implications for Engagement and Retention

Insight into behavioural competencies, preferences and tendencies can help leaders develop targeted, relevant and effective personal and professional development plans with their employees (for example, the selection of relevant training programmes). This ensures that they acquire the necessary skills to be effective in their roles and to reach their maximum potential. Personality psychometric profiles may also be used for coaching and talent development sessions to initiate in-depth, honest conversations about what motivates, hinders and enhances performance and wellbeing. By ensuring that employees’ needs, interests and goals are given importance, organisations will better succeed in keeping their employees engaged and committed.

In conclusion, within dynamic, unpredictable and continuously changing work realities, leaders cannot afford to make the wrong choices when selecting and managing their employees. They also cannot afford to lose precious talent because of lack of motivation and engagement. The proper utilisation of personality psychometrics can facilitate precise recruitment, effective development plans and targeted engagement and retention programmes. With the help of qualified professionals, leaders can save valuable time and money by choosing the right people. They can also decrease rates of attrition by creating workplace cultures and environments that employees are proud to belong to.

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