From helping you hire a well-rounded staff to aiding in solving communication woes, personality tests deserve a place in a small business owner’s toolbox.
Amanda Gamble took a temporary job a few years ago with her father’s company, Door & Gate USA in Claymont, Delaware. The job quickly grew stressful as she witnessed frequent miscommunication, arguments and errors. She tried to serve as a mediator between conflicting employees.
“It was incredibly frustrating because everyone was great at what they did,” says Gamble, who now runs Right Start Enterprises, an entrepreneurial consulting company in Odessa, Delaware. “But together, it was like internal combustion waiting to happen.”
The company’s assistant, who was working part-time while starting her own company, told Gamble that she was being certified as an administrator of the Path Elements Profile, a personality test designed to improve communication within a group. Figuring the company had nothing to lose, Gamble asked the team members to take the test, which classifies each person as one of the four elements: fire, wind, earth or water.
“We saw nearly instantaneous results,” she says. Gamble suddenly understood why her father, a high-energy, demanding fire personality, had a difficult time working with a close colleague, a water personality who had become withdrawn and burned out. After taking the Path Elements Profile, “they were more aware of the words they chose, which made their communication more productive,” she says.
“We also realized that moving that individual into another role within the company might be more ideal for him because of his personality type,” she says. “But it was a role in which he had no experience, so we took the risk in training him. Within weeks, he was flourishing and overall just a happier employee. His personality brought a certain balance to the existing team that made them better and more efficient both internally and externally.”
Gamble was so impressed by the experience that today, she recommends personality tests to her small business clients, both for hiring and for solving specific problems. “I suggest hiring for personality type and work ethic over skill,” she says, noting that awareness of personality types can help a business owner create a well-rounded team. “While skills are important, a team that is unbalanced in personality types can be more detrimental than one with a lack of skills. Skills can be taught. Personalities, ultimately can’t be changed.”
However, Rebecca Lacy, president of Pinnacle Management Group Inc. in Farmington, Missouri, cautions business owners against developing a bias toward people who share their personality type. “People have a tendency to hire in their own image,” she says. “You can get a bunch of people who don’t bring different schools of thought to the table.”
Clients often call Lacy, a coach and consultant who administers numerous personality tests, to help them solve communication issues like the ones Gamble faced. How can you tell if your business could benefit from personality tests? Watch for employees not cooperating, withdrawing or being subversive, especially if you have at least five to 10 on your staff—a number that means less interaction but more points of conflict.
Personality tests can also help your employees do their jobs better, Lacy says, because the concepts and personality types are often easy to recognize even in people who haven’t taken the same test. For example, if a new employee is heading out on a sales call to a client he or she hasn’t met, “talk about the customer’s personality and how to prepare a presentation that fits their style,” Lacy says.