As an Executive Coach to leaders at major firms for over twenty years I am often asked to recommend an Assessment Instrument to identify employee competencies, behaviors, personality traits and characteristics that will hinder or support on-the-job performance. To best describe how I make my selections, I have outlined here the three preliminary steps I employ as well as providing a list of the popular assessment tools. And the notes of a colleague well respected for his knowledge of assessment theory and instruments.

Before I begin to compare the available tools, I must develop a thorough understanding of the corporate culture, Mission, Vision and work environment. The selection of an instrument to reveal specific behaviors or traits must be compatible with the existing organization norms, as well as the expectations of those responsible for administering and monitoring the application of information acquired as a result of an effective assessment.

Step 1: Learn the Organization’s History of Assessment

Assessments have been used in major firms for many years, it is important to gather a history of which instruments have been used and which are currently offered and monitored. In a decentralized company it is not uncommon to find that all of the popular available instruments are in use, each at a different location and with unique expectations for the information provided. Although you may be focusing on only one division, it is important to remember that employees move between departments and divisions, sharing their experiences as well as impression of the value of assessments they have taken.

I recommend that you prepare a time-line of the assessments used with the employees you will work with and obtain feedback from both HR as well as the employees as to the perceived effectiveness and appropriateness of the tools, noting any identified strengths or weaknesses to the instrument and the way it was administered.

Step 2. Evaluate the Organization’s Current Culture

The working environment has a major influence on performance and productivity. You must select an instrument that has an approach and gathers information that will be useful in the existing corporate culture. Some of the questions I pose to the corporate leaders include:

  1. What do you hope to achieve as a result of this Assessment implementation?
  2. How do you value and employ the data gathered from Assessment tools?
  3. How often do you administer Assessment tools and what level of employee is involved?
  4. Do you share trends and general findings from Assessments with specific groups of employees?

Consider the corporate culture:

  • Does the culture seem formal or informal?
  • Is there considerable importance on receiving approval from upper management before taking action?
  • How do employees evaluate risk?
  • Is it is flat organization with concern that newly trained employees will not have opportunities for upward advancement?

The last question listed, when left unanswered, is one that often stops corporations from moving ahead with plans to conduct assessments, training and employee development programs. A review of programs in organizations perceived as offering little opportunity for upward advancement will prove that this is an unwarranted concern but one that must be addressed. When the concern is revealed, it is a simple matter to provide real examples of how employee development inspires innovation and develops confidence to take on greater responsibility for horizontal and skill development, resulting in greater personal satisfaction and increased job productivity.

Further, addressing the concern about application is as important as acknowledging the formality or informality of relationships, displayed power of hierarchy, and internal decision-making. These factors provide clues as to what type of instrument will be most easily accepted and administered. For example, generally speaking, True Colors or DiSC could be seen as providing more visual materials and may be more easily accepted by some groups, while Hogan and MBTI present the data in a manner that higher level groups may find more acceptable.

Step 3. Confirm that results will support Corporate Goals

A September 2011 survey by healthcare executives identified a trend to employ assessments that will help meet their strategic goals and grow their talent management initiatives: cutting costs, improving employee satisfaction, boosting retention and enhancing training and development.[1]

For example, if you are seeking an instrument to support hiring or promotion, the Hogan Potential and DiSC would be the best choices from today’s most popular assessments listed later in this document, while the Hogan Challenge is effective to improve performance by recognizing and overcoming derailers.

The following is a check list of questions developed by PI Worldwide from feedback gathered during a Healthcare conference at which the survey was discussed:

  1. What is the assessment designed to measure and accomplish, and how will that benefit the organization?
  2. Does the assessment come with an accompanying job analysis tool that allows for the thorough identification of a job’s requirements?
  3. Is the assessment free of bias with respect to the respondent’s age, gender or ethnic group?
  4. Is the assessment reliable? That is, are people’s scores on it consistent and repeatable over time?
  5. Is the assessment valid? That is, does it effectively predict important workplace behaviors that drive metrics such as sales, customer satisfaction and turnover?
  6. Is documentation supporting questions 3, 4 and 5 available in the form of a technical manual or equivalent document?
  7. Is research on questions 3, 4 and 5 ongoing?
  8. What are the key “implementation issues” such as cost, time it takes to complete the assessment, data security, scalability across the organization (note that some personality assessments are only appropriate to be used with specific jobs or at certain hierarchical levels), ongoing support from the vendor (especially the degree to which the vendor understands your business challenges), and degree of client self-sufficiency/knowledge transfer?


The following are some of the currently popular personality assessment tools:


DiSC® is a personal assessment tool used to improve work productivity, teamwork, and communication. DiSC is non-judgmental and helps people discuss their behavioral differences. The test instrument and the profile results are designed so that it’s easy to understand and recall your behavioral style and insights. The writing is engaging and the visuals are memorable. Facilitation resources are available to guide and reinforce learning. DiSC assessments are extensively researched and time-tested. The DiSC is the most widely used assessment tool today; the new Everything DiSC has expanded its application and met with high success.

I recommend DiSC for groups that do not want a significant amount of reading or details to confirm results and for teams that are seeking greater affiliation and collaboration.

Hogan Assessments

All Hogan reports suggest a person’s natural advantages, or “edges,” and their potential problem areas, or “risks” in a job or business setting. For example, you will find that the Values Assessment addresses content similar to the MBTI and can be used with Management Teams; the Potential and Challenge Assessments are used for more detailed coaching cases.

VALUES ASSESSMENT – Core Values and Motivators for Leadership Roles

POTENTIAL ASSESSMENT – Strength and Competencies for Leadership

CHALLENGE ASSESSMENT – Derailers and Personality-Based Performance Risks

The Hogan Instruments were introduced in 1980 as the first measure of normal personality designed specifically for business applications and are based on tests scientifically designed for the workplace and rigorously validated with populations of working adults.

I recommend all three Hogan Assessments for high-level executives; the Value Assessment only for mid-managers and newly formed teams, the Potential for promotions and new hires, and the Challenge for performance issues.

Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

The purpose of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) personality inventory is to make the theory of psychological types described by C. G. Jung understandable and useful in people’s lives. The essence of the theory is that much seemingly random variation in the behavior is actually quite orderly and consistent, being due to basic differences in the ways individuals prefer to use their perception and judgment. The MBTI instrument sorts for preferences and does not measure trait, ability, or character. The MBTI was originally developed in the 1940’s by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers, who thought that an understanding of personality preferences would help women who were entering the workforce for the first time to identify the sort of war-time jobs which would suit them best. By the early 1960’s, the initial questionnaire had become refined into the MBTI Step I and the newly revised MBTI Step II which provides multi-dimensional insight for the user. I recommend MBTI for individuals seeking a psychological self-analysis to gain a better understanding of how they react/respond in teams and pressure situations

Strengthfinders 2.0 by Tom Rath

The StrengthsFinders assessment is contained in a small and excellent book available for easy purchase by the individual. Tests are taken and analyzed on-line: participants receive a customized report that lists your top five talent themes, along with action items for development and suggestions about how you can use your talents to achieve academic, career, and personal success. StrengthsQuest and StrengthFinders is part of Gallup’s Education Practice and further supported by the book NOW, DISCOVER YOUR STRENGTHS by Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton.

I recommend STRENGTHFINDERS for individuals seeking greater personal insight and to improve their ability to select the best words and descriptors to present themselves to others. It is a wonderful accompaniment to the MBTI and Hogan Assessments, adding more personal information.


There are several self-scored assessments available through Tracom, each packaged in a descriptive workbook.

Most popular is the SocialStyle: Improving Managerial Effectiveness with Versatility, an application of Social Style. Versatility concepts and techniques help you more effectively do such things and delegate, give corrective feedback, increase the personal productivity of your direct reports as well as coach and mentor them to help them grow in their capabilities and increase their value to the organization.

I recommend the SocialStyles workbooks and self-tests when it is possible to conduct a workshop to develop a team understanding of specific effective communication tools that can be immediately applied.

True Colors

True Colors™ is a model for understanding yourself and others based on your personality temperament. The colors of Orange, Green, Blue and Gold are used to differentiate the four central personality styles that each of us has a combination of these True Colors that make up our personality spectrum, usually with one of the styles being the most dominant. The number one reason employees are dissatisfied or leave their jobs is workplace relationship struggles, especially with their direct supervisor or team leader – followed by a lack of communication, trust, appreciation and fair treatment.

I recommend TrueColors for individuals and groups that are seeking a quick understanding of why and how we react in different situations, particularly with repeat conflict situations.

I hope these notes and comments are useful to help you select the best tool for your personal or team development. Please contact me directly to discuss your assessment options.

For further information or to order your assessment, send a note to

Also, you might enjoy reading the following…quoted directly from the

Notes of Dr. Paul Connolly, PERFORMANCE PROGRAMS. Please contact Dr. Connolly directly with questions:

Performance Programs Inc. is a 20 year old human resources consulting firm of industrial psychologists specializing in assessments. According to our research, there are five criteria that a quality personality test must meet:

  • Comprehensive: Does the test measure intelligence, motivation, learned skills, natural abilities included in personality, and organizational culture?
  • Systematic: Are the characteristics listed under the ‘comprehensive’ heading above described in a neutral, informational way? Also, can the motivation and learned skills assessments be repeated at reasonable intervals to identify changes?
  • Fast: Can the test results be analyzed and understood in a reasonable and practical time parameter? 360 feedback, in which everyone from every angle of interaction evaluates and gives feedback to the subject,can take years to become accurate. Organizational surveys can also be time consuming and costly. Also, the sooner the participants are able to understand and retain their analysis, the better.
  • Confidential: Are the results confidential? Although letting co-workers know the results of tests for teambuilding purposes can be productive, the participants need to have the ability to keep their test scores and conclusions confidential. The accuracy and integrity of the scores remain higher and the ultimate results turn out better.
  • Conducive to Improving Group Processes: Individuals need to be able to understand themselves better in order to improve their team-working abilities with their associates. Does the test give insight that is helpful to interpersonal communications?

The most well-known tests associated with the label ‘personality tests’ are not necessarily the best tests to take to understand oneself better for career growth purposes. According to James Hazen, Ph.D. of Applied Behavioral Insights, the most popular personality tests and their purposes are quite varied. Here is a summary:

  • The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) is used to measure abnormal or deviant behavior and is known as being best used in court settings as a clinical instrument.
  • The California Psychological Inventory (CPI) measures personality traits including sociability and dominance. It is noted as having more subjective interpretation and needing a psychologist to interpret the results.
  • The Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Conscientiousness Test (DISC) measures style of personality and self-image, and is known to be useful for teambuilding, and assessing and addressing cultural fit and chemistry.
  • Profiles XT measures cognitive skills and job success potential and has been found useful for hiring, comparing jobs and succession planning.
  • The Myers-Briggs test measures personality type and how an individual processes information, and is best used to understand how one communicates. It is actually not recommended for hiring.

Why Personality Test Use is Increasing

Despite the controversy surrounding some of these personality tests, there has been a dramatic increase in the use of personality tests over the past ten years or so. The single most frequently given reason for increases in testing is the need to have a selection process which can withstand legal challenges. Increased test use can therefore be seen in part as a defensive strategy, adopted in response to regulation and legislation. Another factor is the ease with which these tests can now be delivered online. This approach has distinct advantages over paper-and-pencil tests:

  • There is no need to print and distribute printed material. This has dramatically lowered the cost of test administration.
  • Results can be processed immediately with no human input. The test administration software can produce very detailed and impressive looking reports. See Example.
  • There has been a growing acceptance of personality testing among the general public. Many people quite happily complete online personality profiles in their own time outside of the recruitment process.

There are now more suppliers producing a greater variety of tests. This has driven costs down even further and increased the choice of tests available to recruiting organizations.

Best wishes for continued success, LM

[1] Assessment.aspx