Question: Use of Myers Briggs and other personality assessments in workplace

I was wondering if you have any insights on how our team can leverage personality assessments in selecting candidates or assigning teams in a large client service department.

So far we have used MBTI in training the managers about their own personalities and what to be aware of in their subordinates.

9 Expert Insights

My colleagues have raised both pros and cons of MBTI as well as other assessments already so I'll go in a different direction. It's been my observation that people get hired or placed on a project for the skills and experience and get 'fired' for their behavior and attitude.

What occurs to me then is that the true question of a team's effectiveness is not only are roles and responsibilities matched well (no one performs optimally doing something they can do but don't like to do all that much), but also how well personal values are matched. This is quite distinct from preferences and style of communication. this would encompass values such as diligence, thoroughness, respect, honesty, personal responsibility, desire to be used well for what one is good at, etc.

Values matching helps a team that is on surface divergent in terms of style/ preference/skills/ age/ gender and experience mesh well on any project. After that is apparent then tools lIke MBTI can be useful.  (sidebar, I'm in agreement with Ruth that labels born from assessments become hideouts or shortcuts for understanding fraught with both defensiveness and assumptions potentially but I have seen them used well)

An example is this. If all people on the team have a values match for respect for individual differences and diversity then whether or not members are labelled INTJ or ENFP is much less relevant. They'll use the awareness well because the underpinning of respect for that difference is already there. Too often the MBTI is used in an attempt to train that respect into a group vs. leveraging respect via clarity.

So whatever 'values mapping' process you have will go a long ways toward helping people collaborate effectively.

I can share with you my perspective.  I retired from the USAF after 25 years.  In each of the service schools I attended at all rank/leadership levels, we focused a part on MBTI.  It helped us to understand how personality and behavior approach can impact a mission or a project, in addition to the day to day operations involving working with people to get work done. Most effective at getting work done through peers, a real skill.

In addition to the manager/worker understanding of relationships, we used MBTI, as I said, to structure multi-dimensional teams that included the kind of personality driven thinking that we needed  for success.  MBTI is an indicator, less so than a predictor, of behavior, but I found it consistent and effective as a part of a total planning effort for projects and mission.

With regard to team formation, I prefer to first identify team members based on their expertise, performance and ability to produce the results in an effective manner - then use assessment results to build understanding among the members.  Assessments are an incredibly valuable data point - but, please beware of using the results as the sole determinant in bringing someone into the team.

I do like using the MBTI for team building and team understanding.  Many other assessments are equally as helpful.  Human Synergistics' Group Styles Inventory is a great way to identify team behavioral patterns.  I also like using the Simmons Personal Survey to help individuals understand their behaviors as they relate to emotional intelligence and building effective relationships.

Depending upon your need, many valid and reliable assessments are available to help teams understand each other and grow stronger together.  Please let me know if you have additional questions about the above-mentioned assessments or others.

Good advice from Bill Kaplan and Susan Bowen. I have used MBTI and frankly I think it has marginal usefulness. As Bill points out,  It can be an indicator of reactions and behavior but it is definitely not a predictor. In my opinion, the best predictor of behavior is past experience. And the best way to determine if someone is right for the team is to talk to them, ask good questions, look at their past behaviors, talk to others who have worked with them, and then make a decision.

My objections to  MBTI and tests like them, is that people tend to be pigeon-holed and have a difficult time being seen as  individuals who change and grow, and it tends to refer to them in letters. This is not a good thing for developing good communication skills. It's hard enough to try to communicate well and confidently.  Being referred to as a sum total of Ns,Fs,Ps, and Js, constricts good communication, it doesn't enhance it.  

If you would like to talk about this further, please just give me a call.

At various points in my career, I could have aligned with any of the answers above--all good insights.

What I'd maybe add: it depends significantly on how they're used, and the intention.

For example, years ago, I would have gone into a rant about the Enneagram.  No where near the validation of other tests, low predictive accuracy for the instrument, more problem than strength oriented as applied, etc.  

I now find myself studying the Enneagram with a coach whose focus is transformation building on our shadows.  For him, it's the best instrument to support this kind of growth because it reveals where people came from (and are often blind to)...and the additional work with "experiments" and panels to discern type is a critical part of the journey.

If you are looking to hire candidate for a specific job there is a process called "job benchmarking" that I have found to be tremendously effective for my clients.

There are primarily two steps to a job benchmarking process:
1- A trained facilitator will take a select group of people who really understand the requirements of the job through the process of identifying "key accountabilities" and traits most important for that job
2- A set of validated assessments will be administered to your candidates in order to compare them to your ideal.

If you hire for the same type position frequently it can be an excellent way to get really clear on what criteria are most important for that job. The assessments can then shed light on your candidates by comparing them to your ideal in a way that an interviewing process may not be able to do. I would be happy to share more information about the assessments if you are interested.

Assessments in a vacuum never tell the whole story but can be an extremely valuable part of the hiring and team assignment process.

We prefer the CPI 260 as a personality assessment 1) with high validity and reliability statistics, 2) designed specifically for the workplace (vs. personal) setting, 3) designed for evaluating the normal (vs. abnormal) range of personalities. The other instruments in the battery we typically use for 1) selection or promotion evaluations and 2) at the beginning of executive coaching engagements include FIRO-B, Watson-Glaser, Thomas-Kilmann and PPM Power.

The MBTI is solid and perhaps is the most widely used of the general personality instruments - however, the research I've seen at least could be more reassuring in producing high levels of validity and reliability.

Too many people try to use MBTI in situations it was not designed for. It reminds me of the phrase "When you have nothing but a hammer, everything looks like a nail."  It is important to first identify the objectives and outcomes you desire, and THEN choose the assessment tool to measure the information that fits the situation and your budget.

MBTI is a self-analysis tool, and therefore only as good/reliable as your self-awareness.  There are LOTS of better tools that are not as dated, have stronger validity and reliability and can be used for multiple purposes.  To choose a tool with a single use (i.e. MBTI is not recommended in hiring, even by MBTI) doesn't provide the best ROI of an assessment tool.

There are better tools that will help you with "job fit" for hiring ( benchmarking, customer service values that match your company's values and manager/team fit), and then continue to work to help you better on-board new employees, build a stronger team and provide managers with information to coach and manage for better performance and results.

I support Jennifer in her comments on this subject.
Use of assessments for team formation can help frame what people bring to the situation and help avoid certain issues about talents people bring to the situation, and are quite helpful in assuring that diverse skills and views are represented before the team is finalized.

Skillful use and deployment of assessment information of assessment results by those who form and manage the team(s) is often overlooked. Often, it is helpful to have a non-team member facilitate team meetings and assure effective use of any assessment information and prevent misuse.