By Ken Krivacic, OD, MBA
Great staff is key to profitability. Personality assessments are a great tool to help you identify job candidates who will best serve your patients and work well with other staff members.
Hiring well is a key to a highly productive staff. Hiring poorly can be very costly and damaging. When interviewing potential new employees, a lot comes down to guesswork. You can read their resume and speak with their past employers, but at the end of the day, you often don’t have a sense of the new employee’s personality until they work in your office for at least a few weeks. Personality assessments can give you a preview of what to expect if you hire the individuals you are considering. Personality assessments–which are relatively inexpensive and well within the $30 to $50 per use range–can reduce the number of re-hires that are needed when new employees don’t work out. The assessment gives you an added tool to help you make the best possible hiring decisions. We use theDISC assessment to help determine the best fit for the job description and then to help with compatibilityteamwork. Here are the details on how my practice uses this tool.
Choose a Personality Assessment System
DISC is a behavior assessment tool based on the DISC theory of psychologist William Marston. Marston’s theory centers around four different personality traits: Dominance, Inducement, Submission and Compliance. This theory was then developed into a personality assessment tool (personality profile test) by industrial psychologist Walter Vernon Clarke. The version used today was developed from the original assessment by John Geier, who simplified the test for better, more concise results. We use it because it is easy to administer and interpret. It was about three years ago that we began to use this to help in interviewing applicants for jobs and to better understand our employees.
How Does It Work?
The test consists of approximately 50 written questions that gauge a person’s response to specific situations. It is multiple choice and the individual will usually choose answer A, B, C or D to keep it simple. In most cases it takes approximately 20 minutes to answer all questions. Test takers are encouraged to answer by gut feel and not mull over questions too long. They are informed that there is no right or wrong answers. We generally use this when we have applicants applying for a job. This helps us decide if the applicant’s personality matches the needs of the open job. For instance, if you were hiring an optician who will need to sell products, generally you would like someone who is outgoing and eager to help people. If the personality profile indicates a more reserved individual who enjoys detail work, it’s possible the personality and the job would not be a good match.
The assessments classify four aspects of behavior by testing a person’s preferences in word associations. DISC is an acronym for:
Dominance – relating to control, power and assertiveness
(Note: Sometimes the word Drive is used in place of Dominance)
• Inducement – relating to social situations and communication
(Note: Sometimes the word Influence is used in place of Inducement)
• Submission – relating to patience, persistence and thoughtfulness
(Note: Sometimes the word Steadiness is used in place of Submission)
• Compliance – relating to structure and organization
(Note: Sometimes the words Caution or Conscientiousness are used in place of Compliance)
These four dimensions can be grouped in a grid with “D” and “I” sharing the top row and representing extroverted aspects of the personality, and “C” and “S” below representing introverted aspects. “D” and “C” then share the left column and represent task-focused aspects, and “I” and “S” share the right column and represent social aspects. In this matrix, the vertical dimension represents a factor of “Assertive” or “Passive,” while the horizontal dimension represents “Open” vs. “Guarded.”
Drive: People who score high in the intensity of the “D” styles factor are active in dealing with problems and challenges, while low “D” scores are people who want to do more research before committing to a decision. High “D” people are described as demanding, forceful, egocentric, strong willed, driving, determined, ambitious, aggressive and pioneering. Low D scores describe those who are conservative, low keyed, cooperative, calculating, undemanding, cautious, mild, agreeable, modest and peaceful.
Influence: People with high “I” scores influence others through talking and activity and tend to be emotional. They are described as convincing, magnetic, political, enthusiastic, persuasive, warm, demonstrative, trusting and optimistic. Those with low “I” scores influence more by data and facts, and not with feelings. They are described as reflective, factual, calculating, skeptical, logical, suspicious, matter of fact, pessimistic and critical.
Steadiness: People with high “S” styles scores want a steady pace, security and do not like sudden change. High “S” individuals are calm, relaxed, patient, possessive, predictable, deliberate, stable, consistent and tend to be unemotional and poker faced. Low “S” intensity scores are those who like change and variety. People with low “S” scores are described as restless, demonstrative, impatient, eager or even impulsive.
Compliance: People with high “C” styles adhere to rules, regulations and structure. They like to do quality work and do it right the first time. High “C” people are careful, cautious, exacting, neat, systematic, diplomatic, accurate and tactful. Those with low “C” scores challenge the rules and want independence and are described as self-willed, stubborn, opinionated, unsystematic, arbitrary and unconcerned with details.
How Costly Is Personality Assessment?
The test can either be performed in office on paper or there is an online version. Cost varies from approximately $35 to $50 per test. A less expensive alternative is a book entitled “Personality Plus” by Florence Littauer. Her wording for the dimensions is different but it is based on the DISC assessment system and the book contains a 40-question assessment that can be copied and administered.
Administer Assessment to All Job Applicants
We administer the personality test to all job applicants that we invite in for an interview. They can either fill out the test when they come in for the interview, or we can e-mail them a copy and have them bring in the completed test at the time of the interview. Scoring the test is fairly simple and takes approximately five to 10 minutes.
We have also given the test to all staff members at a staff retreat. We used this as an exercise to help all of us understand each other, particularly in the way we approach work. Some people may be more analyzers and want more information before approaching a project, while others are more spontaneous and want to just dive into a project. I believe it helps to understand the people you work with better and makes for a more harmonious work environment.
Use Assessment as Guide, Not Last Word
The results help us match the position to the job applicant. Be careful not to place all your decision-making on the results of the test. It is merely a tool and I would not base my decision solely on the personality test.
A personality assessment is just another piece of the puzzle to look at in deciding whether or not to hire. It should be added to the other qualities of an applicant such as experience, knowledge, appearance, etc.
Assessment Can Aid in Management of Individual Employees
The personality test helps us understand how to manage employees. Everyone is different and unique and the test helps us understand that. It sheds light onto the fact that you cannot manage all individuals in the same manner or you as a manager will become frustrated and the employee will become frustrated as well.
Prepare Employees to Take Assessment
We usually explain to employees and applicants that the test is designed to help us understand you a little better. In the case of the applicant, we want to know as much about them during the interview process so that we can make the best hiring decision possible. This not only helps us, but also the applicant because both sides have a vested interest in the hiring process leading to employment that will be long lasting. The worst thing would be that the hire does not work out and both sides are looking for a new position in a short period of time.
Implement Personality Assessments: Action Plan
Take the test yourself. Understanding your own personality will help you dealwith others.
Use the test in a staff meeting. Help every staff member to understand their co-workers, including you.
Remember do not base any management or hiring decision solely on the results of the assessment. It’s one tool to be combined with other hiring pre-screening methods such as the interview.