February 20, 2014
Creating the most productive working space to help get the best from your people is an ongoing battle. What suits some doesn’t suit others. So if there was some way of assessing up front how people like to work and the environment that would make them their most productive, engaged and committed – before you rearrange the furniture, fittings and layout – would you leap at the chance of finding out? One approach could be personality profiling. If you could climb inside the minds of your current and future employees and assess how they best like to work, their personality and how this then drives them to be more productive in certain working environments than others – who wouldn’t want to have a delve around? Or are we in danger of pandering to personality stereotypes?
There are many different personality profiling tools on the market at the moment, and in the main they are used as a tool to aid the recruitment process, but they could be used for so much more. Personality profiling doesn’t look at skills, ability or intelligence but instead concentrates on behaviours and an individual’s personality in a given situation, so it’s possibly a great way to assess how someone will react within a particular working environment.
The field of personality profiling or testing is pretty wide. For example, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator looks at 8 different personality preferences that an individual uses at different times. This is one way of assessing how a person approaches issues or tasks in various ways. This test can provide a focus on preferred work environments and their preferences at work.
There are however, many others. PeopleMaps for example looks at many different facets of the personality which can easily relate back into the working environment.
However, is personality profiling just another way of putting people into theoretical boxes so that we can reassure ourselves that we are treating them in the right way? Who’s to say that a normally extrovert person would love open plan working all the time or not need to have any quiet time to reflect and formulate more ideas/leads/relationships; and conversely, that an introvert person would want to be kept away in a separate office with no exposure to the wider office environment?
These two very stereotypical views support my view that it can be dangerous to use the results of a personality profiling test in isolation.
Personality profiling is just one tool that can be used to consider how we all like to work, but this of course changes at different times in our lives, careers and the work that we are doing. But it is a tool that we can at least consider using to make our working environment work for us and not be just a box that we work in with either too much or too little interaction with others.
Ultimately our success comes from our people and if we can identify ways to allow our people to be more engaged, productive and committed then this has to be of benefit.
Suzanne McMinn is Head of HR at Workplace Law and a Chartered Member of the CIPD, with over 17 years’ experience in HR. She has devised and delivered training on a variety of HR issues to senior and junior managers in a variety of business environments and is also a Course Tutor for Workplace Law’s accredited CIPD certificate level courses.