Only Human: What is this WorkTraits I Keep Hearing About?
Guest Blog by Betsey Nash, SPHR
When I sold copiers—1980, I think—I hated carting the thing around for demos, mostly because it was one of the rainiest seasons in memory. But I sure learned a lot about people and selling. I quickly saw how much selling was like managing employees, which I had done in the title insurance industry. Not that you can match a job with an employee’s needs like you match a product with the customer’s needs, but in the way you design your speech and approach so that you are speaking the employee’s or prospective customer’s language. During training, a regional manager ran me through the DiSC® personal profile system, my first experience with a temperament profile assessment.
When I co-taught the Management for Adults series through Cal Poly’s Extended Ed program in 1983, I included a version where you are placed somewhere in a quadrant of Amiable, Analytical, Expressive, and Driver. It was one of the most popular and useful parts of the class.
Some of the first behavior assessment tools came after World War I, when researchers wanted to find out why some soldiers suffered from shellshock and others didn’t. As far back as 450 BC, Hippocrates had us identified in quadrants. So did Carl Jung, Eric Fromm, Kiersey Bates, and more. Turns out that we humans come in four behavioral types (well, blends of the four), and that identifying the characteristics that define us enables us to understand ourselves and others: what motivates us, how we think and communicate.
Fast-forward to 2000-something, and I am being certified to train the Real Colors® system, more comprehensive and memorable than any I’d learned before, so that I can empower managers and employees to work better together. I have used it dozens of times to raise co-workers’ (and spouses’) awareness of different thinking and behavior styles, greatly improve communication, and build better teams.
Then, in 2006 I met Dr. Mark Vickers. He told me about the behavioral profile assessment he was developing that would be the most user-friendly system yet. He called it WorkTraits, and as we talked through lunch I got more and more excited. It would be simple to use, he said, without any psycho-lingo, using easy to remember terms, and, better yet, the explanatory materials could be immediately applied to the workplace. Simple sounded good. The best-known behavioral assessment to date was Myers-Briggs, with its 16 Type indicators!
In addition to being user-friendly, WorkTraits deals with the behavioral styles, which don’t change much over time, and our values and convictions, which do. Unlike many of the previous frameworks for understanding behavior, WorkTraits explains that about 50% of our personality comes from behavioral traits, another 20% or so comes from those values and convictions, and the rest is influenced by our age, experience, gender, education, etc. And it provides strategies for interacting with the whole person.
Once you and your team take the 50 question WorkTraits assessment you can run a Compatibility Report that describes how to maximize compatibility with your co-workers, and offers very specific strategies for overcoming conflict with them. You can read the profile of your top performer and know what it takes to succeed that position, and test for that before you hire someone. Find a “Tracker” for the detail-heavy positions and an “Encourager” for your customer service jobs. You can have your top candidates take the assessment to see how they’ll fit with the existing team.
Much has changed since the days we were glad to find a “warm body” to fill our open positions. We have way too many candidates these days, and the WorkTraits assessment is the best tool out there to help us find the right ones.
Betsey Nash, SPHR, has more than 25 years of experience in HR and management. She is affiliated with WorkTraits, except that she has recommended it for her clients and employers. Betsey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*This article was originally featured in SLO City News, published by Tolosa Press