The first thing you learn when running a business is JUST how hard it is to find good people. This is true whether you’re running Lockheed Martin or a little mom n’ pop car wash. All wars are talent wars.
One tool that has gained recent popularity is to streamline the process by hiring a professional personality test service. You’ve likely seen these. It’s like having your horoscope read, but at work.
Companies, using their own proprietary methods, will measure the personality of your employee candidates to see if they’re compatible with a) the nature of the job and b) the culture of your organization.
The Myers-Briggs test is the most famous of all the tests. And it’s a big business. According to the New York Times, $2 billion dollars to be exact. There are dozens, hundreds, maybe thousands of firms and consultants out there with their own unique personality test angles, all chasing the HR dollar.
And who can blame them? It’s a growing industry, and the people problem is a tough nut to crack.
But we detect two elephants in the room.
- It seems strange that you can figure out something as complex as a person just by ticking boxes on an online survey.
- The fact that each of these firms all have their own unique proprietary answers to the problem, shows there’s no answer to be had. Just models. Some better than others.
As they say, “all models are wrong, but some are useful.”
It seems that what these tests really do is help people with their identities. I am officially an INTJ-A/INTJ-T, which then allows people to set out a new way of being seen and heard. It is one more way to communicate to coworkers that we are unique and should be treated in a corresponding way.
As a counterpoint to the personality assessment craze, Dr. Benjamin Hardy, wrote in his book, “Personality Isn’t Permanent,” that our personalities are not innate and fixed and that how we perceive ourselves determines our future. In other words, we have the ability to reinvent ourselves, and with that, our personalities.
Helping people be more collaborative is essential for high performance, so a personality test might help do that. At the same time, transformation (the ability to grow, develop, and change) must also be part of a high-performance mindset. We wonder if these personality tests hold people back from believing that they can change, thus limiting personal transformation.
Angela Davis (1944-) is an activist, author, and scholar who’s dedicated her life to fighting for justice and equality. One of her most significant contributions has been her critical analysis of systemic oppression and her call to address it at its roots. Davis has highlighted the interconnectedness of different forms of oppression, including racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia, and has advocated for a more holistic approach to social justice. Her work has challenged us to think harder about the structures that shape our society and continue to ask why.