Utilizing Attitude Tests, Behavioral Interviewing & Personality Type Assessments to Positively Impact Corporate Culture

Welcome to Week 6 of the SOS Leadership Blog Series:
Creating a Positive Organizational Culture
Each Friday for the next 2 weeks, we’ll be blogging about engaging employees, boosting morale, and creating a dynamic culture. We have an awesome lineup of guest bloggers, some of the best and brightest HR folks around! Come back each Friday to hear their words of wisdom. If you need to be reminded, followSOS Leadership on Twitter and like us on Facebook, and we’ll let you know when the blogs are posted! Happy Friday!!!

Today’s blog post, entitled Using Attitude Tests, Behavioral Interviewing, & Personality Assessments to Positively Impact Corporate Culture is by Angie Cartwright of Potentiality Coaching.

Corporate culture influences the way individuals think and act, how they work, and what is acceptable and not acceptable within the company environment. Organizational culture is bigger than any one individual, and it impacts everyone within the organization.

Based upon various readings, it seems there are several components that influence the culture of an organization, including beliefs, attitudes, values, vision, size of the organization, processes, leadership style, management style, power structure (central or decentralized), rewards systems, stories, symbols, and rituals.

Attracting and retaining employees who are a best-fit and are aligned with the company’s culture is paramount. We have all read and calculated various numbers concerning turnover costs. The fact remains, turnover is very costly. I believe improving the outcome of a company’s hiring process positively reduces turnover expenses by selecting the right applicants for the job and alignment to the company culture.

For example, consider information sharing and knowledge management as an element under corporate values. If a company culture is one of hoarding and information is shared on a need-to-know basis only, instead of transparently and openly, there is quite a difference and consideration when choosing a candidate. Another example is the difference between a culture where empowerment and accountability is key, versus a polar opposite culture where decisions are made from the top-down.

There appears to be an ever growing trend of using pre-hire assessments during the hiring process. There is a significant difference between job-focused and company culture-focused assessments. In my opinion, having a combination of the two is ideal.

Job-focused assessments measure habits and preferences and predict job performance, whereas culture-focused assessments predict an applicant’s predisposition independent of the job. If you only utilize a job-focused assessment and learn that the applicant is a great fit for a sales job and job performance is predicted to be high, you only get a piece of the puzzle with which to make a hiring decision.

Let’s say the company culture is one which is very competitive and the decision making is not of empowerment but top-down. In this case, if the applicant has different values (empowerment and autonomy) than the company’s culture, which is very rules based, then he/she may not be a best-fit overall and thus possible retention issues and performance concerns could appear on the horizon.

Behavioral interviewing is another great technique which can improve the outcomes of best-fit with job and culture. As a Human Recourses professional and consultant, I am extremely passionate about behavioral interviewing. It is also a great tool to assess for cultural fit. The technique does, however, require training to ensure that the recruiters and managers have key questions directly suited to the job competencies and culture. We have all heard that adage, “The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.”

For example, if commitment to growth and mutual collaboration are cultural values, as well as learning, and you were trying to assess for sales coaching as a skill, then a great behavioral interview question might be, “Describe a time when, as a sales manager, you helped your sales team be responsible for their own development and sales improvements to enhance the individual, team and organizational performance.” Long sample, but you get the idea.

Another important tool in creating and sustaining a positive organizational culture is personality assessments. It is not just a great tool for selection but a fantastic team building tool! I am curious about how many employers utilize personality assessments – I saw a recent estimate which indicated 40+% of employers are currently utilizing personality assessments, and it appears this number is growing.

Just a few weeks back at a reception, several young professionals sat across from me in discussion about their firm’s utilization of personality assessments. They revealed they used personality type in their signature lines, and displayed their type on their hard hats and name badges. When I asked about their organization’s intention behind rolling out team personality workshops, a few shared their belief that it was to foster openness and trust and increase awareness of strengths, while others felt it was for insight to individual and team preferences and to reduce conflict. As a practitioner of MBTI®, I reinforced the value I feel personality assessments bring to individuals, teams and organizations.

I am interested in current trends among companies utilizing personality assessments to enhance and sustain culture. Knowing an individual’s preferences helps with not only individual insight, but job alignment and job best-fit as well as cultural fit. Type provides everything from fostering exchange of views to discovering individual and team strengths and preferences, as well as improving communications and reducing conflict. Leadership, problem solving, and conflict resolution are important elements in creating a positive team culture.

I agree with the many experts who assert that utilizing various attitude tests, behavioral interviewing, and personality assessments can save candidates as well as companies time and money. I personally believe these tools can be very valuable in creating a positive organizational culture.

What are your thoughts about attitude tests, behavioral interviewing, and utilization of personality type? Do you see these as ingredients to positively shaping and sustaining a positive organizational culture? Or do you have an alternative view or experience you would like to share? I look forward to your comments.

About Angie Cartwright
Angie Cartwright is the owner of Potentiality Coaching & Consulting. She has been a practicing HR professional for over 10 years, including both international and domestic experience. She has worked in multiple industries including retail, health, non-profit, real-estate, and telecoms. Angie has consulted with retail, non-profit, and the government. She has a Masters in Human Resource Management and a Bachelors of Science in Marketing. To learn more about Angie, visit www.potentialitycoaching.com or LinkedIn.

9 thoughts on “Utilizing Attitude Tests, Behavioral Interviewing & Personality Type Assessments to Positively Impact Corporate Culture

  1. I have to agree that hiring is one of the most critical aspects of supporting and maintaining corporate culture. At Whole Foods, we rely on panel interviews for all candidates for new positions, even if the candidate is a current Team Member. If the panel doesn’t perceive a “fit” between the person and the culture, it has a significant impact on whether or not an offer is extended.

  2. Thanks John for your comment. WFM is known to really seek best fit to drive and sustain your culture. That is why it remains one of FORTUNE® magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” for over the last decade.

    I must share, I left just today a satisfied and delighted customer from a visit at WFM. I inquired about a product I was interested in, due the shelf display was empty. The friendly and very helpful team member offered to help me. I had no doubt in my mind when I inquired and shared my disappointment on the possibility of the product being out, that she was going to run and check stock and actually return with a courtesy update. Indeed she did, and it turned out WFM had one last one in stock! Simple happiness!

    Thanks again for sharing, keep up the great work and fab culture….Angie

  3. It comes down to that old maxim – People dont really want to be treated the way you would like to be treated; they want to be treated the way they like to be treated. so organisation that help people replaces old habits with new ones are far more successful at having these new habits make the organisation and individual more successful. – Nym Lotay. http://www.sikhsinthecity.org

  4. Nym,
    Thanks for your post.
    I agree that a cookie cut approach to people is not effective.
    While reading your blog, one thing which came to my mind immediately was employee motivation and techniques to drive and sustain organizational culture.

  5. Angie, I like your suggestion about questions designed to get information about a fit into company culture. It’s been my experience that interviewers are sometimes making such assessments without knowing it, and when they cannot later explain why an applicant didn’t get a job, the applicant can easily allege that it was due to an illegal reason such as his or her protected class. With notes on business culture and personality questions and answers in hand, the interviewer stands a better chance of explaining her decision if necessary. Still, I would caution that such questions must truly focus on biz culture, and should not have even a slight hint of any illegal animus.

  6. Nicolle,
    Thank you for your post.
    Oh yes, the perils of subjective hiring! I have read various court cases where use of subjective hiring criteria comes back to haunt not just companies and hiring managers, but HR Business Partners. There is risk for too many unconscious stereotypes that can unfortunately impact applicant selection. One really must consider how they acquire information aligned with decision making. This draws a fine line between decisions associated on subjective personality traits vs. objective indicators of candidates’ job-related skills and abilities.

    I have coached and advised various hiring panels and decisions, and I always inform the importance of being able to produce a factual basis for an assessment and decision. It is costly to have to defend a hiring decision and yet so many people treat it so casually.

    This brings me to the significance and correlation of record retention. Recently, I was in a potential client’s office a few weeks back when I noticed they were interviewing. It caught my attention when I noticed a leader swiftly excuse the candidate and then proceed to discard the pre-employment documents into the trash. I walked over and exclaimed the risk of the action to the leader who just looked upon me and challenged my advising him to retain the paperwork. This stirred in my gut, so I gently pulled the leader aside and advised on the potential risks of what I witnessed. As a courtesy, I further followed up via email with some URLs on record retention law. Too often, firms who do not have an HR team and leaders and managers who are interviewing are not familiar with various laws, and a simple act of throwing out resumes and selection criteria evaluation document is a serious strike against anyone who has to defend a selection decision in court.

    Nicolle, do you still see in Austin, Texas companies whose hiring practices unfortunately are aligned either unconscious or with a conscious incompetence around questions which do leave risk because of slight hints of illegal animus?

  7. This comment was shared by Colin Wolfe:

    Angie’s assessment on the importance of information sharing and promoting a culture of teamwork are spot on. While working in the Acquisitions and Divestitures group, it is paramount to the success of our deals that participants are transparent and working for the good of the corporation and not for themselves. A key piece of information purposely held back and offered too far into the due diligence phase has the potential to swing a deal by hundreds of millions of dollars.

    Thanks Angie for your insight!

  8. Angie, thanks so much for this article—it was a great read. In today’s business reality, those businesses that cannot rapidly adapt (aka “have agility”) will become irrelevant with a rapidity heretofore not experienced. This should not come as surprise to anyone, but it’s somewhat shocking to see people still acquire talent with heavy focus on detailed and specific job skills versus valuing a candidate’s capacity to learn and adapt within a wide variety of roles. In investment terms, they’re looking at buying a commodity, when they should be looking at acquiring a future.

    In my role as hiring manager of software developers, I have almost exclusively put the responsibility on the team to hire their new team members. I encourage them to cover the basic skills assessments, but to give greater weight to whether or not they would fit in our culture. Now that we have a highly performing, effective team (and worked hard to get here), they are highly incentivized to bring on only people who will be a fit. They know how painful it will be to bring on the wrong person who is neither capable of continuous learning nor agility. The tool they use is, in fact behavioral interviewing, although they probably wouldn’t call it that. Developers can only take so many of what they consider “business buzzwords”. I just encourage them to get to know the candidate by talking in depth about situations they have encountered that are similar. After that, they work to solve a problem together. It’s great to see how well this works!

    While I do not formally use a personality type test in interview, I am acutely aware of many of the aspects of the types, and use them to effectively work with people such as developers and business executives who tend to express themselves and act very differently. They are often puzzled by the behavior of those not aligned with their type, which results in less than optimal results.

    My food for thought out of this article is to expose more people to personality types—I am certain that it would help break down even more barriers inter- and intra-team, especially in growth mode. I will be giving this some serious consideration.

    Matt Roberts

  9. Colin, thanks for your comment. You mention acquisitions. With many M&As, I have read the majority fail due to cultural mismatches. Generally when companies pursue an M&A, they do so by assessing if its corporate organization would get strengthened, fill gaps, and develop new opportunities. I imagine also that interviews occur with some of the “star” performers as part of the due diligence assessment?

    It seems that HR professionals often times are not part of an M&A team, and other disciplines are seen as “essential” to making the deals work. Or if HR professionals are part of a team, often times it is to cover off the necessaries around transactional activities and not early on in more of a strategic fashion.

    Are you able to shed any light on failure factors which you have heard or experienced specifically around cultural fit?

    Do you by chance do any recruiting for your organization or have you observed the recruiting process? If so, are you in favor of behavioral interviewing? What is your opinion regarding utilizing personality tests to build and sustain teams and enhance culture after an M&A?

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