Psychometric Profiling – Does it work?

One of the things I’ve observed throughout my career is how much things like personality, communication skills and behaviours contribute towards success – either at an individual or team level. Unfortunately these intangible so called ‘soft skills’ are notoriously difficult to measure or capture. Wouldn’t it be great if we could? Business activities such as recruitment, personal and team development would surely be enhanced as a result. It just so happens psychometric personality profiling claims to help with all of the above through the psychological measurement of people. But do these profiles work or are they just voodoo gimmicks and if they do work what basic lessons do we need to be mindful off?

I have used and been on the receiving end of a number of Psychometrics - Clifton Skills Finders, Myers Briggs and DISC. Most of my experience of using psychometrics as a practitioner however has been through ‘DISC’ (which stands for Dominance, Influencer, Steadiness and Compliance). For those that don’t know, DISC was developed by 20th century psychologist William Marston and grounded in the theories of psychologist Carl Jung.

Whilst I’m still constantly amazed at the accuracy of DISC profiles, it is important to note that in no shape or form do they capture the entirety of a person. The same goes for Myers Briggs. We are all, a product of nurture and nature which shapes our own values, idiosyncrasies and ambitions. What something like DISC does, is to give an indicator as to the types of personality and behavioural traits people exhibit. In work situations this knowledge can be very valuable.
Whilst psychometrics don’t measure abilities it is true that certain personality types lend themselves to some jobs more than others. For example it is entirely likely that most telesales roles will require some extrovert characteristics. So whilst a certain profile type is not a guarantee of competence it can help indicate broad suitability to roles or indicate fit into teams. Indeed it is for this reason that many companies use psychometrics to enhance recruitment processes such as interviews. Used in this way they can help to assess fit and help to shape recruitment questions.

Being a tool, psychometrics are only as good as the people using them or receiving them! I remember a former employer of mine where the CEO and one of the Directors both scored a high ’D’ (Dominance) which is often a trait attributed to strong leadership (though not necessarily good leadership). The two of them consequently branded it around and all of a sudden it became a badge of honour to be a high D. Unfortunately rather than drive good behaviours in the organisation, their profiles seemed to be an excuse for driving bad ones. “It’s the way I am” seemed to be the attitude. True to a point but the logic in using psychometrics for development purposes should be to plug inherent weaknesses or at least be aware of how behaviour can positively and negatively impact situations and others. Ironically the most respected and trusted director and manager in that company was a high S (Steadiness).

For those willing to learn the lessons, giving people a chance to think about their own inherent strengths and limitations is not only good for personal development but can work very well within a team situation. By profiling each person and sharing those results with colleagues, DISC can allow people to communicate more effectively through an improved understanding of self and one another. Certainly I have used it for this purpose and seen great results.

In conclusion psychometrics can indeed enhance recruitment decisions, help with team and personal development. Just remember they are only a tool and like any other tool it’s all about how they are used!