Benefits of Assessments and Profiles at Work

Personality profiles and emotional intelligence assessments are excellent tools when we use them well

The use of assessments and profiles in the workplace has increased significantly, as the quest for data-driven human resources decision-making, has grown in demand. New assessment products have come on the market, allowing us more options for assessing anything from emotional intelligence to risk and defining personality types. Additionally, while the more well known of these were originally created and validated for North American populations, many have since expanded their offerings to other countries, languages and cultures, thereby creating more relevance and purpose for their use.


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What Makes A Profile Different from an Assessment

Personality styles or profiles are designed around the goal of understanding and appreciating what we share and what diversity of ways of being people exhibit. I differentiate personality styles or profiles from assessments because we do not change our personality but we can and often do change the behaviours that are most often measured in workplace assessments. An assessment is a snapshot in time of the behaviours we are exhibiting. Our personality, however, is how we filter and analyse incoming information and how we are likely to react to that information.

The various products on the market range from identifying and grouping preferences (MBTI) and the possible behavioural patterns for each style to products that include psychological needs that must be met, the role of emotions in driving behaviour and our development, self-protective vs. self-actualising behavioural patterns, the four quadrants of the brain and their role in personality. Some of the personality profiles are referred to as ‘brain-based’ meaning that they are derived from an understanding of how our brains react to and process information.

It is helpful to remember that these products are always evolving as more information becomes available but the core research is solid. Another point that can be lost in the quest to better understand others is that our diverse experiences throughout life will affect how we behave both at work and in our personal lives.

The type or style of one’s personality is best understood if we remember that we are capable of changing behaviour to fit a situation rather than assuming that one will exhibit behaviour within a set personality style.

Assessments generally refer to products such as the emotional intelligence quotient, risk assessment and 360 evaluations. 360 evaluations gather information from our peers, direct reports, managers and sometimes, from clients. These are measured against our own self-report information.

The personality styles, emotional intelligence and risk assessment products are self-report instruments meaning that the information comes from our own responses to the questions posed.  For this reason, some organisations will also use 360 reviews to obtain perspectives from a variety of sources such as peers, colleagues, managers, direct reports and potentially, clients.

There are also a variety of products available that combine various types of assessment formats for employers to use in the hiring process which incorporate some of the principles in other products. This article will focus on the most commonly used personality profiles that are similar in nature and the emotional intelligence assessment designed for workplace use.

The Use of Profiles and Assessments in the Workplace

There are both direct and indirect benefits to using the right assessment in the right situation.

Personality styles or profile instruments offer a new level of awareness of why we react to various situations the way we do and how others experience us. This helps in creating more cohesive teams, reducing friction based on a misunderstanding of others’ styles and provides users with methods and tips on how to use this information effectively.

When used for workplace teams, it can also indicate when a team may not have enough diversity to avoid groupthink or to identify sources of friction and how to reduce this.

Assessments such as the emotional intelligence quotient have demonstrated results in various large organisations such as :-

  • large reductions in training costs (as much as $2.5 million in one year);
  • decreased attrition rates;
  • increased retention rates by 92 percent; and
  • increased productivity.

In my work, combining the personality profile with the emotional intelligence quotient reports increases the effectiveness of coaching for results in behavioural and attitude changes as well as developing essential leadership skills.

The most common uses of assessments are:

  • leadership skill development;
  • promotion and selection;
  • executive coaching;
  • team orientation; and
  • succession planning.

Why Knowing Your Personality Style Matters

When discussing personality styles, in my practice, I often differentiate between what we may appear to be like at work and why this may be different when we are not at work. I also separate a person’s personality style from their life experiences because it helps clarify why people with the same personality style may exhibit different behaviours at work.

Understanding our own personality style is helpful because, often, when we find ourselves in conflict or acting contrary to our own best interests, it is because we are acting in ways that feed a basic personal need that we may not be aware of.

This is particularly useful when working with clients who have set goals that require them developing new skills or identifying habits they want to change because it offers insight into how to proceed in a way that will be the most effective for them. They can relate to the process and rationale and commit to taking action.

Starting with the premise that our personality styles are who we are, isolated from any other consideration, we can then begin to see how much behaviour is affected by who we are (personality style) which is, in turn, affected by our experiences in life. How we react to those experiences is formed partly by our personality style and the environment in which those experiences played out.

Understanding our own personality style is helpful because, often, when we find ourselves in conflict or acting contrary to our own best interests, it is because we are acting in ways that feed a basic personal need that we may not be aware of.

Understanding the personality styles of others is helpful because it removes the misunderstandings that often happen when trying to work with others who process information and behave outwardly different than we do. Rather than seeing the other person’s behaviour as problematic, we learn to understand why they may do things the way they do. This paves the way for deeper collaboration and better team product. Team product is the output that a work team or project team is responsible for as that team’s contribution to achieving the overall goals for the organisation. In reality, this can take many forms, such as a new product design, a customer service level, the quantity and quality of manufactured items or the financial targets set for a reporting period.

Personality styles do not tell us about skills and capabilities; they do suggest what types of skills and abilities we may enjoy developing the most and what type of work may most appeal to us.

Identifying personality styles helps in the selection for promotion and for project teams. While team cohesion is a positive in the workplace, we also want to avoid groupthink and to encourage new ways of looking at processes or problem solving. We do this by ensuring our teams and leaders have a good balance of different personality styles to draw from, providing cross-departmental training or job shadowing, or using people that are external to the team that have a different perspective to vet ideas with.

Avoid the Misuse of Personality Style Information

Personality styles are a way of understanding others and ourselves; personality styles are not a label used to define who a person is or to limit us in how we see our own abilities and the abilities of others.

Personality styles do not tell us about skills and capabilities; they do suggest what types of skills and abilities we may enjoy developing the most and what type of work may most appeal to us. When we enjoy what we do, and can stay interested long enough to learn and strengthen skills related to that work, we do well.

Within any given personality style, there is a range of how well an individual fits into that specific profile. For example, when we look at the descriptions for people who prefer extroversion or introversion, an individual may fall anywhere from the mid-point designated for that preference to the outer measurement for that preference.

Personality styles also do not define all our behaviours; we cannot assume, for example, that a person with a preference for introversion will not be drawn to or skilled at roles that require a lot of people interaction. Indeed, many people with a preference for introversion are highly skilled at roles that require a great deal of interpersonal interaction. They have learned how to manage their preference for introversion so that the work they enjoy using their excellent skills at, stays enjoyable.

I too often observe the information from personality profiles being used inappropriately and contrary to the use of the profiles as designated by the organisation that created the product. For example, a manager comments that an employee spends too much time socialising with co-workers or customers and assumes that it is something that cannot be changed because it ‘fits’ their personality profile.

This is a common misunderstanding and one that needs to be cleared up if we want the use of the profiles to be effective. While the happily socialising employee may be acting according to their personality profile, they can also learn to change the frequency of the socialising by changing their behaviour. A coach will help them find ways to both get the need for socialising met while remaining productive and meeting the requirements of their job. It is a behavioural change that is needed.

Another common scenario is when people with a preference for introversion are described as cold or unfriendly by their direct reports and co-workers and an assumption is made that it is ‘just how they are’.  A coach will help the person in this situation find ways to meet the needs of their preference for introversion and to learn how to improve their interactions with others at work. This type of change is manageable and we want to avoid labeling someone and making assumptions about what they can and cannot do based on a personality profile. The profile helps the coach find ways to help the employee create change that fits both their personality needs and the needs of the workplace.

The reason this type of misunderstanding seems to occur so often is because the appropriate time and resources are often not provided when the profiles are completed. A proper debriefing and coaching by a certified practitioner are required to avoid this type of misuse. Not doing so can end up creating problems that didn’t exist before or make existing problems more challenging.

Emotional Intelligence Is a Key Leadership Skill

This is a set of emotional and social skills that influences the way we perceive and express ourselves, develop and maintain social relationships, cope with challenges and use emotional intelligence information in an effective and meaningful way.

In my work, I often hear from clients that they believe that very specific behaviours have led to lowered productivity, less collaboration, less inclination to help others and higher than expected turnover. In almost every case, the description of the behaviours indicates a need to look at how well emotional intelligence skills are being used in the workplace.

Emotional Intelligence assessments are effective when a new or aspiring leader in the organisation is seeking to add to an already impressive skill set that will enhance their leadership. The work of Daniel Goleman et al, over time, offers some clear indicators that emotional intelligence skills are a leader’s best tool.

Globalisation and the migration of workers across the world create a need for developing emotional intelligence skills because the more agile a leader becomes at understanding how they are perceived and how to better understand how and why employees may react differently to any given situation, the more likely they will effectively manage employees.

Emotional Intelligence assessments are sometimes used with struggling key senior employees although how successful this is in retention is less clear. The executive coach will assess the situation carefully before recommending a path forward. In a situation like this, it is helpful to work with a coach who has experience working with leaders as an internal advisor or coach as well as experience as an external advisor or coach as they bring a greater understanding of organisational needs to the assessment.

How To Use Emotional Intelligence Assessments

When choosing an emotional intelligence assessment, for use in your workplace, look for one  that has been specifically designed and validated for the workplace because the skills measured for (core competencies) are identified as commonly beneficial in organisations.

For example, an emotional intelligence assessment that includes stress management, decision making, self-expression, self-perception and interpersonal as composite scores that then break down into multiple subscales supporting those composite scores offers insight into the employee responding that offers directly applicable information to the work that they do.

You should also look for the data on the norms related to the responding population, as well as the reliability and validity information from the provider to ensure there is enough data to support the marketing claims. Good questions to ask include :

Good questions to ask include :

  • how long has the product been used in the market?;
  • how many users have completed the assessment?; and
  • has the provider updated the product as new information becomes available?

There are several products available that mimic the concepts of more established products but do not offer the same level of validity, reliability and support. It may be tempting to choose one of those because they are less expensive up-front but in the long run, they will not provide the impact you want.

There are also providers that have online offerings to complete some of the more established products without the debriefing and coaching that create sustainable skill development –  it is best to avoid those. In addition to the potential for misunderstanding what the information in the reports mean, the person who receives the report may not be able to relate the information directly with their workplace performance.

Conducting proper debriefing and providing one to one coaching increases the value of using assessments and personality profiles substantially. It also increases the chances that the coach (or trainer) is using the products as intended and following the ethical guidelines set out for them in the training process.

The long-term benefits of using emotional intelligence assessments are significant for individuals and the organisations they work for. While short-term coaching is effective in many ways, sustainable change means you want to seek providers offering packages that employ a continuous learning approach.

When choosing an executive leadership coach, look for an approach that focuses on work applicable but not overly structured methods. Avoid the ‘one size fits all’ approach as each individual going through the process will thrive when the process fits with who they are and highlights their strengths.

There isn’t any magic in using tools like emotional intelligence assessments or personality styles profiles. They are simply tools that, when used as intended, can make a significant difference in productivity and workplace culture.

Combining the personality profile, the emotional intelligence assessment and one-to-one coaching will offer the strongest chance that the required change to behaviour and necessary skill development will occur and be sustainable. The coach works with the employee to learn how to apply the information from the profiles and assessments for immediate change and how to use it going forward as they progress through their career.

The coach can use examples of situations from the employee’s current role to create problem-solving scenarios that the employee then addresses on the job. This offers immediate solutions and creates a level of confidence for the employee as they try new approaches. The information in the personality profile and emotional intelligence reports are available for reference to the employee ongoing and include tips for application of the relevant information.

Proactive Leadership Development, Intervene, Or Move On?

Using emotional intelligence assessments with struggling managers or key senior employees may be a solution to a problem but it requires careful analysis to ensure that the desired outcome can be achieved.

There isn’t any magic in using tools like emotional intelligence assessments or personality styles profiles. They are simply tools that, when used as intended, can make a significant difference in productivity and workplace culture.

Deciding to use this type of tool in your organisation works better if you first look at it from an overall cultural perspective. If your leadership does not support an organisational culture that understands the business benefits of using assessments and profiles, you will end up with an uneven level of leadership which then creates a lack of cohesiveness.

When one or more members of a leadership team (or emerging leaders) have added or further developed new skills focussing on understanding others and emotionally intelligent leadership and others on the team have not, it will become apparent to employees that the leadership they are being managed with is different than that of co-workers on other teams. This creates a sense that the leadership team is not acting as a team, creates communication problems and may lower employee engagement levels.

Executive Leadership coaches have their own niche focus for leadership skill development. Executive Coaches who use personality profiles and emotional intelligence assessments generally focus on skills that are beneficial to managing and leading others. They will link the information in the reports, from the profiles and assessments, to the goals set for the client and set expectations for actions to be taken on the job. This is also an effective way to prepare emerging leaders for future roles in the organisation.

Using These Assessments On The Job

When an employee has received their personality style profile and emotional intelligence assessment reports and debriefing, they have information that can potentially help them increase the level of performance on the job. In some cases, it also helps them seek and find a healthier balance in their lives. I often hear from clients that they use what they learn from their personality profiles and emotional intelligence reports and the coaching time as a way to understand and resolve challenges in their personal lives.

It is possible to see positive change, in a relatively short period of time, during a coaching program that uses these tools. In order to sustain these changes, however, it is important to use the reports and coaching materials long-term.

This requires a commitment to continually work towards firstly, understanding how the information they have helps them and secondly, to taking actions, addressing challenges and trying new ways of working going forward. Without this commitment, the information becomes yet another tool that does not have the impact it is designed to have.


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