Brian's Blogs

Psychometric Tests

It has often been said that life would be much easier if everyone came with their own instruction manual. Just imagine if we could ‘read’ people’s moods and feelings by looking up their characteristics in a file, allowing us to know instinctively how to interact with them to get the best out of them. Wouldn’t it make the management of employees so much easier?

Well, unfortunately, life is not like that; but on the other hand there are a number of psychometric tests which have been developed by psychologists to help people understand what motivates others in their work, their leisure time and in their interpersonal relationships with others.

One of the most famous of these tests is known as the ‘Myers-Briggs Type Indicator’ (MBTI), named after its creators Isabel Myers and Katherine Briggs. Their aim was to create a tool to indicate, validate and put to practical use the work of the famous Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung in the 1920s, who strove to understand individual differences between people.

The essence of the theory is that much seemingly-random variation in people’s behaviour is actually quite orderly and is caused by basic differences in the way individuals prefer to use their perception and judgment.

The MBTI categorises people into 16 basic types which are based on four scales:

Etraversion or Introversion: Do you prefer to focus on the outer world or on your own inner world? Sensing or Intuition:
Do you prefer to focus on the basic information you take in or do you prefer to interpret and add meaning?
Thinking or Feeling: When making decisions, do you prefer to first look at logic and consistency or first look at the people and special circumstances?
Judging or Perceiving: In dealing with the outside world, do you prefer to get things decided or do you prefer to stay open to new information and options?

Another test, which looks at what motivates people to behave in the way they do is called the ‘Strength Deployment Inventory’ (SDI). It was developed by a clinical professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California. Unlike other personality assessments, the SDI seeks to answer why individuals act in the way that they do by looking at behaviour patterns both at times when things are going well, as well as at times of conflict.

The theory is based on the premise that we all behave in certain ways to get results we want, or to confirm our sense of self worth. Our notivation to act in certain ways comes from our wish to feel good about ourselves and to feel valued by others. And our motivational value system is consistent throughout our life, underpinning all our behaviours.

The SDI – which is being demonstrated by the Saudi training company SDT  at the HR Summit in Dubai in September 2005 – plots people’s motivators on a triangular chart using three colours – blue, red and green – to indicate whether someone is altruistic, assertive, analytical, flexible, or some combination of these types. By referring to the chart for an entire department, for instance, everyone can see at a glance how best to interact with someone else from the same department in order to achieve common goals and to get the best out of them.

Some of the best known psychometric tests have been developed by a company called SHL; and the Saudi company SDT has Arabised many of these tests for use in the Middle East. They range from those assessing personality,  abilities, motivation, interests, competencies, and performance.

One of the most famous of these is known as the ‘OPQ’ – or Occupational Personality Questionnaire. This is a questionnaire for use in the selection and development of people at work. It provides valuable information on people’s preferred behaviours according to 32 relevant characteristics.

Its uses are widespread, ranging from the initial selection of employees, determining their training needs and individual management development, offering them career counselling, determining succession planning, organising team building and development and designing organisational change.

So, it seems certain that the days of taking on new employees is no longer a hit-and-miss affair where the employer has to make a valued judgement based on what the potential recruit says at his interview. Now there are real scientifically established tests that can judge the actual value of the workforce, as well as offering management scientifically proven tools to develop and get the best out of their people.

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