The good, bad and ugly of psychometric testing in organisations

The use of psychometric tests has increased in the past few decades as organisations work toward getting their recruitment strategies finely tuned.  There has always been a keen recognition of the cost of poor employment practices.  To avoid hiring the wrong people, employment agencies have been using psychometric tests as a common practice in recruitment.  Most of the tests used for this purpose have been focused on personality, attitudes and behaviours and are geared toward finding those candidates who will be most likely to succeed in a particular role.

In the past two decades, organisations have taken to using psychometric tests for reasons other than recruitment.  They have proven to be invaluable tools for team building, self-discovery and improvement, communication skills and the design of corporate structure.   When used well, these tests can help individuals to develop and teams to work more efficiently and effectively.

There are some downsides. . .

One of the common pitfalls of psychometric testing in the corporate environment is the erroneous belief that anyone can administer and debrief them.  To have effective outcomes for individuals or teams, there are a few criteria that should be followed.

First, it is important to choose the right test for the right purpose!  There are thousands of tests out there in the market. Not all of them have construct validity and reliability.  Construct validity shows that a test measures what it says it’s measuring.  Reliability shows that the test results are the same over time.

Second is the importance of a well conducted implementation from beginning to end.  It is important that confidentiality be protected, it is important that a frame of reference (you are at work, you are at home, you are imagining your perfect job role etc.) be given to the participants before taking the test, and it is vital that the results be debriefed fully and executed within a standard code of conduct.

Third, the person conducting the debrief should be able to answer in-depth questions about the test, how it operates, how it was created, what it is designed to do, how the results are calculated, and what to do if you do not agree with the results.  The facilitator also needs to ensure that participants do not “make people wrong” for any of the test results.

Finally, it is common for people to walk away from these tests feeling somewhat “Pidgeon-holed”.  They may come away with a label for themselves.  If not handled well, people may decide to use these labels and their descriptions as an excuse for poor behaviour or personality clashes – instead of using the information to create a plan for working toward growth and resolution.

At Alive & Kicking Solutions, we understand how to use psychometric tests and guide organisations through the process of choosing the right test for the right purpose, and create successful outcomes from expert implementation.

While we administer 3 such psychometric tests, the most common request is for the MBTI – Myer’s Briggs Type Indicator.  Based on the original works of Carl Jung, and later redesigned by Katherine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs-Myers, this test is an easy to use and easy to understand framework.

The MBTI is a wonderful tool to use for any of the following issues:

·       To help people to know themselves more deeply

·       To help team members learn to communicate more effectively

·       To help individuals to appreciate differences and learn tolerance

·       To discovery individual and team working styles

·       To use with teams working on emotional intelligence and resilience

·       To help people identify stressors and create stress reduction methods that suits their personality

·       To help teams identify possible gaps in strength areas

·       To help individuals, leaders and teams spot and potentially avoid conflict before it arises

·       To help leaders to understand and communicate with their team members

·       To assist teams working on culture and culture change

·       To assist in change processes

·       To develop new ways of thinking and critical enquiry regarding human development.

Like any tool, there are also times when the MBTI should not be used.  

These include:

·       When there is one “problem” member of a team – and the tool is used with the entire team to get that person
         to change something without having to overtly and directly speak with that team member.

·       When a team is in duress.

·       When there is severe dysfunction.

·       If individuals are being formally performance managed.

·       If team members are diagnosed with any clinical issues (depression, bi-polar, or being treated for other mental
        and emotional issues).

The best outcomes are when the instrument is administered and debriefed in such a way that participants have a great time in exploring their thinking, their behaviours, their attitudes and their preferences.   These learnings and self-discoveries are then applied to workplace outcomes and actionable items are created.  These actionable items can then be tracked on individual development plans and team goals.

For more information about how you and your teams can gain value and benefit from using the MBTI (or any of our other profiles), please contact us

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