Clones, Diversity, Innovation, and Personality



Scott_IMG_9325_FBPeople sometimes ask whether using personality assessment for selection will create an organization full of clones, decrease diversity, and narrow the range of innovative thought available to solve company problems. Their concern is that if they hire people with similar personality characteristics, they will create a culture of groupthink. Some assessment providers have fostered this view by (a) suggesting that personality assessment can enable you to clone your best workers’ personalities by hiring more like them, and (b) arguing that would be a good thing. Neither is true.

Because no two people have identical personalities, it is not possible to create a workforce of personality clones, regardless of the assessment used. We can’t clone personalities; even identical twins, who share 100% of their DNA don’t have identical personalities. The concern about personality assessment creating a workforce of clones is simply misguided.

When selection is done right, the core focus is on understanding and predicting future performance on job requirements, not on the personalities of existing workers. Any professionally developed selection process starts with conducting a job analysis, which is a systematic process for identifying the core requirements of the job. Although job analysis can help understand and specify the characteristics required for successful performance, its focus is on job requirements, not on duplicating the personalities of current employees.

Although research shows that personality predicts many different work and life outcomes, not all personality characteristics predict all outcomes. Effectively using personality assessment for hiring is based on identifying core job requirements and then identifying the subset of personality characteristics that predict performance on those requirements.

Personality consists of many facets, and the key is understanding which facets predict which performance outcomes. Hogan’s research archive contains thousands of data points that demonstrate the links between requirements of different jobs and the personality characteristics that predict success in each of them. Because different jobs require different personality characteristics, using personality assessment promotes personality diversity across the organization.

Let’s assume we have a job that requires positive customer relations, following systematic procedures, and resilience in the face of heavy workloads. Job analysis would help us scientifically identify and show evidence that those three requirements are more important than others.

Now let’s assume that we use a personality assessment to measure characteristics related to positive customer relations, following systematic procedures, and resilience and that we create an algorithm to combine measures of those characteristics into a final score to use for hiring decisions. We’re basing those decisions on personality characteristics we know will lead to better performance and, equally as important, we are ignoring lots of other personality characteristics that we could measure, but that we know aren’t important for success in this particular job. If we do that well, we would hire candidates who are interpersonally skilled, rule-following, and resilient but who also could be outgoing or quiet, visionary or tactical, leaderlike or comfortable following others, and/or decisive or cautious, to name a few possibilities. Although those candidates might resemble other successful people in the job on certain personality characteristics, they also would bring a diverse set of characteristics.

Using personality assessment for selection will not create clones. In fact, using personality assessment makes it more likely that you will have employees who are similar in ways that matter for job performance but who are diverse in many other characteristics and behaviors. In addition, because personality doesn’t systematically measure differences in race, gender, age, and other demographic characteristics, you can confidently use personality to hire the best employees while also hiring a diverse workforce that will bring differing personalities, perspectives, life experiences, demographics, and ideas to your company.