Business

Personality profiling in talent management

BY ROCHELLE CAMPBELL

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

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PERSONALITY profiling is widely used by accountancy firms when recruiting and developing staff. Whilst some view the process as an invaluable aid in getting the best out of finance professionals, some people in the industry think it's a gimmick.

Personality profiling has been around for many years. The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates defined four 'humours' — air, earth, fire and water — and argued that the interaction between these was what defined human temperament.

But the birth of modern personality profiling didn't occur until the 1920s when Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung identified that people have a natural predisposition to act in a certain manner. This, he said, is based on whether they are extroverted or introverted, whether they rely more heavily on their intuition or on concrete information, and whether they base their decisions on empathy or on facts. Jung's thinking has heavily influenced the development of personality profiling methods over the years. In particular, it underpins the widely used Myers-Briggs Type Indicator — developed by Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers — as well as the Keirsey Temperament Sorter.

Today, personality profiling is used by organisations of all sizes as a way of improving business performance. The rationale behind its use is that employers can help their staff to achieve more if they understand how they like to work and what they base their decisions on. They provide insight when it comes to building teams and developing staff.

Additionally, it helps individuals to better understand both themselves and how they can interact with others to achieve positive results. This applies as much to finance professionals as it does to anyone else.

Profiling can help professionals to understand how they can make short-term adaptations to their style so that they can better relate to other functions. It can also help them to identify and develop personality traits and techniques that they may need to be successful in the future. These may include selling techniques, the ability to build rapport effectively, and adaptive communication skills, which can be vital to both career and business development.

On the surface, personality profiling is an intriguing concept, but is it really worth the investment that businesses make in it? The truth is that, while the returns can be hard to quantify, that doesn't mean that they are non-existent. Profiling works well from an employee engagement point of view.

Like all other investments in business, utilising personality profiling takes with it its own risks. Besides the risk of potentially pouring money down the drain, personality profiling also presents ethical issues if it is not undertaken in the right way.

It is important that assessments and benchmarking done during the hiring process are made relevant to the specific role to ensure the profiling is accurate, and that it is performed by qualified assessors. Personality profiling incorporated in the employee management arena needs also to be done in a way that does not discriminate against certain employees, or restrict their opportunities for growth and development in the firm.

On the whole, however, profiling does appear to bring benefits to finance teams — in the same way as it does to other business functions. They provide heightened self-awareness and heightened awareness of the actions of others. A critic might argue that it is obvious that team members should consider the perspectives of their colleagues. However, the reality is that people are often so busy and focused on their own needs that they forget to consider what their colleagues might be thinking.

Our motto, Out of Many One People, applies not only to us as a nation, but it extends into the workplace. As a result, we have a multiplicity of cultures, personalities, and influences impacting our interactions as a team. Human resource departments across the island are now embracing the concept of personality profiling, and acknowledging its potential to improve team morale and productivity in the office. Great teams are about personalities, not just skills.

By incorporating personality profiling in HR development programmes, companies are now able to equip team leaders and managers with the tools to understand the various individuals working with them, the best ways to motivate them, and the best forms of guiding them in meeting personal and professional goals.

Teamwork is a key skill needed for those working in accounting. In the industry teams can vary in size and complexity, from a team of hundreds of people managed by an engagement partner to two accountants working on a deal for a partner. Equipping managers with an understanding of personality profiling will increase the likelihood of team cohesion and efficiency in projects, regardless of the size of the group.

Accounting teamwork takes on many different guises and encompasses many skills that are essential in today's business environment. Successful finance teams not only get the mix of personalities right, but are able to appreciate the various personalities present in the team and best utilise each individual's strengths for maximum impact.

Personality profiling, when done right, can establish an enhanced working environment where you not only have the right person in the right job, but you have the best utilisation of the human resources available to meet corporate goals.

Rochelle Campbell ACCA, CA is a senior associate at PricewaterhouseCoopers Jamaica and is a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Jamaica.

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