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Personality Testing:The Hidden Sustainability Weapon

By: Sharon Birkman Fink, President and CEO, Birkman International
Posted: May 28, 2009

The past year has proven that no industry is immune from recession. Although the beauty sector has fared better than other consumer products, sales globally are trending flat to down—whether in everyday mass market goods or in high-end luxury ones. And the daily business headlines have shown that even leading companies in a variety of consumer product applications quickly fall prey to financial or market weakness. In such conditions a planned approach can spell the difference between a sustainable organization that withstands the storm and emerges stronger, and one with leadership and performance deficiencies that could prove fatal. Sustainability in any marketing and product-focused organization does not just “happen.” It is built on a solid foundation of performance metrics—each of which relates to the human capital that is the industry’s most important asset. Effective use of accurate personality assessment to identify and nurture human capital strengths can be a company’s hidden sustainability weapon. A look at seven of the most important sustainability metrics shows how testing supports and enhances the positive impact of each.


Building employee productivity takes an affirmative effort to identify and enhance the best fit between personal skills, interests, motivations and personality traits and job responsibilities so that employees can perform to their true productive potential. No beauty brand would attempt to make a product without a thorough understanding of how all the chemical elements interact. Personality testing provides that understanding for the most important productivity factor of all: the human factor. Whereas assessments of skills and abilities measure the “can do,” personality assessments accurately measure the “will do.” The testing focus should be on measuring and understanding the interaction between personality traits and job requirements, including the ability to productively work with or effectively lead others by accepting feedback, advancing teamwork efforts and demonstrating commitment. Testing takes the guesswork out of productivity improvement, and, thus, can be a lasting competitive edge.


Testing identifies whether people work better alone or on a team, whether they prefer a structured or flexible work environment, whether they take initiative or need guidance, whether they think in terms of details or the big picture. By bringing those characteristics into focus, personality testing helps employees understand how to pursue career paths that better integrate their core capabilities into the team. The more an assessment measures, the more useful it is to predict workplace behavior and the greater insight it provides on how best to boost the performance of individuals and the teams of which they’re a part.


The team dynamic is crucial when reconfiguring and reducing a workforce, as consumer products companies increasingly are forced to do, creates an opportunity to assign team members jobs that they are good at and passionate about. Such enthusiasm will create an environment where employees can better handle and embrace the extra work in a smaller team. And, even though fewer people are doing the work, if they’re now performing a function that fits perfectly with their core abilities and passions, higher pay will likely not be a primary motivator. The ability of testing to define an individual’s underlying needs and motivations shows what drives that person’s behavior as a factor in the enthusiasm that is especially essential for sales and marketing performance. This allows each person to assume more personal responsibility for job conduct.


Creativity, enthusiasm and awareness of social trends are highly valued for persons at every level in the beauty industry. Once such employees are developed, they become high value targets for executive recruiters to lure them away to competitor companies. Personality assessment can be used to identify the capabilities of each person within an organization so that those with high potential can be nurtured and targeted for retention. Tests can help the companies that use them fit employees where they will be most comfortable and most likely to succeed. The result is greater job satisfaction, and greater employee retention. Cosmetics companies want to retain the right kind of employees, those with the drive and skills that will enable them to grow into greater responsibilities and make more contributions. Here again, testing provides the crucial insight by offering basic recommendations for how employees can fulfill their motivational needs while best contributing to organizational success.