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Agile working and personality tests

Ever since the dawn of the Teleworking Era, people have been looking for the ideal tool to match personality with flexible working. In the 1980's, when working remotely with technology started to expand, there were small studies attempting to use existing tools like Myers-Briggs (MBTI) to analyse home workers. None of these could come to any useful conclusion.

There have been other attempts at developing new instruments and Wisework is currently following up an interesting new development. But anyone looking for the 'silver bullet' is likely to be disappointed. Lazy managers would love to have a test they can give to their staff which churns out a simple solution to their problems. Life isn't like that.

For a start, how do you define a successful agile worker. Is it someone with the least stress, happiest life and best 'work-life balance'? Is it the person with the most creative ideas or the highest output per hour? If you are going to match personality type with success, you need to know what you are looking for.

The use of psychometric tests in any work situation comes with words of caution. Trying to fill a team with people with similar personalities is likely to fail, and it does nothing for diversity. Using tests as part of a development process can be helpful. They give people some common language to discuss differences and understand how they interact. 

It's interesting to see the article in the latest edition of Flexible Boss magazine entitled "Personality testing for flexible work: useful tool or total ‘tosh’?". So after 30 years of flexible working the jury is still out! Although this probably reflects the differing opinion about these tests generally not just for agile workers.

Using tests to help managers and employees talk about how they work together can be a good thing. As part of a well managed process for implementing smart working practices, there is a place for questionnaires about practical issues as well as personality. But managers who rely on tests to understand their employees are not doing their job. To use tests to give definitive answers is 'tosh'. To use them as a catalyst for improving working relationships has some promise.