Personality Testing Case Study

Business owner turns to personality testing to reduce turnover

Following your gut can get you in to trouble.

That’s the lesson Mark Shelton, co­-owner of Strategic Print Solutions of Hiawatha, a managed print services company, learned recently when it comes to hiring.

Tired of the hire-train-turnover cycle, Shelton wanted change.

“It’s expensive, it really is,” he said of the constant turnover.

“I knew that if we wanted to morph our organization to one headed for greatness, we needed to bring more science into the art of the hiring process, ”Shelton said.

That’s when he called business consultant Rena Striegel with Empowered Business Strate­gies of Cedar Rapids, who suggested personal­ity testing to determine whether a candidate is the right fit for the position and the company’s culture.

“They had a real need for a specific level of sales person in an industry where there is a lot of turnover ,”Striegel said. “I challenged them to find sales people who would fit in to the culture of their organization. You can hire the greatest salesperson, but if they don’t fit into the company, you’ll find they won’t stay.”

First, Striegel tested Strategic Print Solu­tions’ management team using the Winslow Assessment. The personality test—created by the Winslow Research Institute (—tests24traits, such as coachability, self-confidence and assertive­ness. Next, Striegel developed profiles of other positions, including salesperson, by having all 21 of its employees take the test.

While the company’s management team eas­ily agreed to take the test, it took some persuad­ing for other employees.

“We told them it would help us understand how they are wired and how they could best grow and prosper in their career paths and it would help us make sure we have them in the right position,” Shelton said.

Turns out some people weren’t in positions that best suited them and some adjustments were made, he said.

“We feel we have the right people in the right seats and the bus is heading in the right direction,” Shelton said.

The result?

“Our turnover is way down,” Shelton said.

But trusting the science wasn’t as easy as Shelton thought. After spending time and effort to test and develop a personality profile of the sales person position, he was tempted to hire someone after a good interview without having the person take the test.

Striegel urged him to wait and make sure that what they saw is what they would get. Turns out the person Shelton wanted to hire didn’t score well and didn’t take rejection well, which didn’t fit what they were looking for at all.

“It was a great exercise on hiring on the likability factor,” Striegel said. “People want to hire people who they like, but people who sell are pretty good at selling themselves. They come across as likable and so you assume they can do the job.”

Shelton said he’s a believer now.

“The profile was a lot more insightful than the interview process,” he said. “We’ve avoided a number of hiring decisions that would have been costly and could have been disastrous.”

Striegel said the likability factor still plays a role in the hiring process, but it shouldn’t be the main consideration.

“You still get to hire who you like, but you want to make sure that the people you do hire can do the job so you can continuing liking them for a really long time,” she said.

Striegel offering the following tips when hiring:

  • Be clear about what the position is. Strate­gic Print Solutions, for example, wanted a self motivator who would sell solutions rather than products.
  • Look for a person with the skills and personality who will work in the most effective manner. This is where personality profiling can help.

Striegel said that people try to influence the computerized test, butt he test detects incon­sistent answers and will invalidate the results and require the candidate to take the test again. About a third of people who take the test an­swer inaccurately, she said.

Striegel said the profiling she did for Strategic Print Solutions benefitted job candidates because she sat down with candidates and went over the personality profiles of the management team so the candidate would know who they would be working for.

“It allows you not to guess what kind of an organization you are walking into so candidates can make good decisions, too,” Striegel said

Shelton said the cost was worth it because it saves him money in the long run.

“To hire the wrong person and put them through the training program and then put them out in the market and find out it’s not the right fit is not productive. By the time you catch it and stop the bleeding in our industry, the wasted cost could be as much as $30,000 to$40,000,” he said. He said “hiring Striegel to conduct the personality testing and review the results was a small fraction” of that. It’s been a very powerful tool, Shelton