26/07/2010

By Claire West

One of the web’s foremost source of psychological tests, is putting workers under a microscope. The recent study using their Work Style Assessment, a personality test that evaluates 45 major traits and skills, reveals interesting tidbits about the type of characteristics that help employees reach the top – or, on the contrary, totally flop.

John Twoface graduated from one of the top universities in the country, and produced shining letters of reference from several of his professors. He doesn’t have much work experience, but he looks like a kid who will go places. You discover, six months into the job, that he’s fiercely competitive with his colleagues. He steals other people’s ideas, but then makes them better. He gets the job done, but the means isn’t always justified. Something tells you that he used to be a shark in a previous life. He does have nice teeth though.

Steve Steady doesn’t have a college degree, but has a great deal of work experience and skills in several areas. No, not the best teeth. Six months into the job, he has become an unsung hero and leader in his department, but he is quite humble about both achievements, almost indifferent. He stays late when projects are culminating on a tight deadline, and talks little but listens well. Steve refuses to ask for help from others (even though he often helps colleagues without batting an eye), and it’s not uncommon for him to come in on weekends to finish up tasks he didn’t get to during the week. He was probably some type of work horse or ox in a previous life.

The point is, some traits can be an asset in certain positions, but not in all cases. So what should HR managers be looking for? After all, very few people walk around with a red S and blue tights under their work clothes.

With nearly a thousand test-takers to date, PsychTests Work Style Assessment attempted to answer one question: “What type of employee are you?” What they uncovered were several traits that seemed to separate the best from the rest. Test-takers who had been consistently rated as excellent performers at work were shown to be, among other things, industrious, open to improvement, open to change, and willing to conform to rules. They were also more resilient, level-headed, and possessed better social skills than their less impressive counterparts.

“Top performers outscored satisfactory performers on nearly every trait we assessed, often by at least 8 points,” says Dr. Jerabek, president of the company. “We didn’t have a large enough sample of those who were rated as “poor” performers, but we imagine that the gap would be even wider.” And which traits stood out the most? “Well, characteristics like conscientiousness are almost a no-brainer – research has linked it time and time again to success – but interestingly, some of the unsung traits, like calculated risk-taking, creativity, dynamism, initiative, street smarts, and analytical thinking were also factors that defined top performers.”

PsychTests statistics also showed interesting gender differences. While men and women were generally on par for most traits, women were shown to possess better social skills, a slightly higher level of integrity, and were more compliant. Men were more innovative, and possessed better analytical reasoning skills. They were also slightly more forceful, and more likely to have a bit of an authoritarian streak.

“To say that there are ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ traits to possess is missing the point of a test like this,” explains Dr. Jerabek. “A company involved in high-pressure sales, for example, might prefer someone a little more assertive with a dominant streak, but this type of profile probably wouldn’t work for an employee in a daycare or non-profit organization. Of course, there are certain basic traits that you would want every employee to possess, like conscientiousness, but the goal of our Work Style test is to assess a number of traits that are likely to play a role in someone’s performance. Managers can then decide which traits would be an asset to their company, and which would be considered a liability, and establish benchmarks for each position. We are happy to guide them through the process.”

Employers interested in using the Work Style Assessment or other pre-employment tests can visit http://psychtests.com/solutions/hr_testing

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