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Testing for Team Building

February 1, 2014

By: Jennifer Lucas

The great poet John Donne famously wrote that “No man is an island.” Donne’s observation was a comment on humanity's inherent interdependence, and it’s hard to argue with his worldview. People need other people. That’s a fact.

And this fact is very apparent in the workplace, where absolutely nothing can be accomplished without team effort. Yet, employers often don’t think to develop programs or activities that effectively teach people how to work together.

Perhaps it’s believed that we all naturally know how to work with others toward a common goal. However, this is simply untrue. Personal agendas, politics, personality clashes, power struggles—all of these pervasive workplace challenges can get in the way of people cooperating, even when they have the incentive to do so. Considering this truth, it makes a lot of sense for employers to support team-building initiatives. Employees learn to understand and appreciate each other's strengths and weaknesses while receiving specific tips and tools for working together toward a common company goal.

The basis of any effective team-building initiative is a behavioral assessment that provides insight into the participant’s communication style, pace, and conflict resolution style.

These assessments are invaluable in aiding employees to learn about themselves and their coworkers (including subordinates). Armed with this information, a skilled facilitator can lead your team to greater productivity levels while increasing enthusiasm and job satisfaction and decreasing conflict.

Can team-building exercises without personality assessments still provide value?

Sure, but the data that assessments provide is immeasurably useful in increasing self-awareness and awareness of others. For example, if I learn that my subordinate prefers to work long periods without interruption, rather than flitting from project to project, I can take special care whenever I need to approach her while’s she’s clearly concentrating on something intently. And, should she ever respond to my interruption with a little fluster, I don’t need to take it personally or as a sign that she’s unwilling to shift gears.

What are the other benefits of personality assessments?

Certain personality assessments are designed to measure group traits as thoroughly as others measure individual traits. These tests can scope out agreements and friction between and among group members and reveal group strengths and weaknesses. For example, the Omnia Team Dynamics Report helps leaders create strategies for developing team members specific to your business challenges.

The benefits of high group emotional intelligence have been well documented. The degree of group emotional intelligence—which is distinct from the individual group members' emotional intelligence levels—will determine how well the group functions. How will decisions be made? Will every member be able to participate, or will certain group members “take over?” How will group norms be established, and will group members hold each other accountable for maintaining them?  Group assessments can provide answers to these questions.

Considerations for using assessments to build better teams:

  • Seek expert help—Don’t try this alone. Partner with a reliable testing service and/or hire a qualified consultant to guide you through the process.
  • Create a safe environment—Let employees know the purpose of the testing and promote the professional and personal benefits.
  • Stay positive—Team-building initiatives, or indeed, training in general, tends to get a bad rap, mostly because so much of it is so ineffective. But that doesn’t mean training can’t be effective. Stay focused on why you’ve headed down this path, and let your team know that you're investing in them because you believe in them.

There’s a reason personality testing is so popular. Testing reveals things people didn’t know about themselves or perhaps did know but couldn’t articulate, and most of us appreciate the revelation. Discovering these revelations about yourself at the same time your coworkers are learning things about themselves builds camaraderie, and the entire process creates a sense of mutual purpose. Also, testing for team building provides employees with a common language that improves communication.

These are but a few of the excellent reasons to incorporate personality assessments into your team building endeavors.

Jennifer Lucas

Jennifer originally joined The Omnia Group in 2005 as an analyst. After a brief stint away to work in project management and to start a family, her fascination with behavioral assessments pulled her back. She returned in 2011 as a member of the in-house analyst/project team. She writes and edits Custom Profiles, Targets, special projects, and articles. She enjoys being able to provide guidance to build effective, productive teams and help find strong matches for both clients and candidates.

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