News flash: I’m working in a profession that complements my natural strengths, which is good news since I’ve been at this 33 years.
Based on the results of an online behavioral, or personality, test I recently took, literacy and social service are more than wants, but needs, for me.
According to The Birkman Method, I’m predominantly blue, followed by equal parts green and yellow, and a dab of red. That is to say, I’m more people-oriented than task-oriented, and feel most comfortable working in a blue environment that emphasizes planning, innovating and creating. I have a green, or planning, style, and am competitive, assertive, flexible and enthusiastic about new things, while my interests are more yellow, or task-oriented. I like to schedule things, deal with systems, and do detailed work with measured performance and results.
I’m open and frank, but can balance that with insight into others’ feelings. I have a natural friendliness toward others, but need time alone or with one or two others.
I feel most comfortable when people around me show me appreciation, are interested in feelings as well as logic, and give me time to make complex decisions. But when people don’t deal with me according to my needs, I can withdraw, become pessimistic or overly sensitive to criticism. I like to work from a plan, but I like it to be my plan or I may become frustrated.
My other shortcomings include underestimating the importance of group dynamics and the tendency to externalize difficulty, or overlooking my role in things. I’m deferential, though strong-minded, with authority figures. But people who have difficulty handling authority can make me impatient and uncomfortable.
When explaining my results, Donna Miller, an executive coach and principal of Executive Resource Center in Edmond, was quick to point out that there are no right or wrong answers. Rather, the test, she said, provides a foundation to team building. For supervisors and managers, the information is valuable when dealing with individual problems and conflict resolution, Miller said.
The executives and teams with whom she works use the Birkman to understand that being productive depends on having certain basic needs met, she said. “When I explain it, people will laugh and say ‘Now, I get it,’” she said.
Developed in the 1940s, the Birkman Method assessment consists of 10 scales describing interests, or occupational preferences. Test takers are instructed to assume they have the skills for all jobs and rate their interest among groups of four, such as a game warden, accountant, teacher or broadcaster. In addition, there are 11 scales describing usual or effective behaviors and 11 scales describing needs, or interpersonal and environmental expectations, while a corresponding set of values describes stress behaviors.
Miller said the Birkman is based on business research, and is deeper and richer than other popular workplace assessments, including the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the DISC assessment.
“Workers may put on one face,” she said, “but if there’s something else under the surface, and needs aren’t met, this assessment lets you understand why things go south.”
Along with team building, personality tests are used for hiring by some employers. Proponents say online assessments can tell instantaneously what takes you six months or more to learn about an individual. Preventing bad hires and promoting good ones can enhance customer service, eliminate bogus workers’ compensation claims and reduce employee turnover and absenteeism by 50 percent and higher, they say.
In a January interview with The Oklahoman, Robert Hogan, president of Hogan Assessment Systems in Tulsa and a pioneer in the field, said the best way to choose managers is to ask the people who’ve worked for them in the past about their integrity, judgment, confidence and vision. The next best, he said, is to use the 50-minute, automatic online assessments his firm sells, though only about 25 percent of companies nationwide use such tests.
“Instead, hirers are taken in by the cult of personality, or those who look good and do good in interviews,” Hogan said.
Whatever hiring processes they use, employers should make sure they are a true measure of skill and characteristics related to the job, said Nathan Whatley, a labor and employment attorney with McAfee & Taft law firm in Oklahoma City.
To avoid privacy lawsuits, companies should keep test results confidential and avoid any questions about personal issues such as religion or sex, Whatley said. Employers also should make sure their tests don’t discriminate against protected groups.
“Ask yourself if you’ve hired any women or minorities since you started using the test,” Whatley said. “And have the people you’ve hired since you started testing stayed with you and are more productive?”