Technically People
Technically People

Episode · 4 months ago

Employee Personality: Understand it for Hiring, Retention and More


Who among us hasn’t been fooled by a shiny resume? A candidate might feel like a sure thing on paper or in an interview. But when that new hire doesn’t work out, managers are nonplussed: What did we miss? 

According to today’s Technically People guest, Shanan Fennema, Executive Advisor at Culture Index, what you missed is personality.  

Culture Index is an assessment (not a “test,” it’s important to note) that measures employees’ and candidates’ work-related traits. It’s designed to help companies make successful hiring decisions and improve retention and team performance. 

In a candidate selection scenario, companies using the tool consider a candidate’s traits against a benchmark of traits that are likely to yield success. Shanan emphasizes this is not about a candidates’ “passing” or “failing,” and the assessment doesn’t trump experience and expertise. Rather, it’s one more tool in your arsenal for making smart selection decisions.  

Employees who take the assessment answer questions not just about their personality but about the extent to which they feel they need to modify who they are at work. If an employee feels they need to change dramatically, they could be stressed or dissatisfied. Knowing this, a manager can triage before an employee is compelled to leave. 

Culture Index also helps team members understand each other. What makes each person on the team tick? Why do they do what they do? When team members “get” each other in that way, even the most dramatically different personalities can work exceptionally well together. 

In fact, teams thrive when personalities are diverse, and some of the best collaborations emerge between people who might be considered opposites.  

“The beauty is that yin and yang,” says Shanan. “That’s where companies really get the benefit from this. It’s not that we want to one-size-fits-all our organization. Rather, we're going to honor and understand that the different ways we approach things is where we hit home runs.” 

To learn more about the role of personality in hiring, retention, and performance, tune in to the episode. 


  • Managing employees according to their personalities 
  • Why personality is not a “warm and fuzzy” proposition but directly tied to growth
  • The stability of personality over a lifetime
  • Manager personality as it relates to attrition
  • Why pass/fail does not apply 

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Welcome to technically people, a community conversation by and for workplace futurists brought to you by the tech recruitment platform built in. The podcast features insights from leaders, thinkers and doers on the vanguard building human centered workplaces of the future. Along the way, you'll hear concepts that will stop you in your tracks, the concepts that inspire you to ask yourself, what's the most futureforward way to approach my people leadership? We all know the future of work isn't waiting around, so let's get on with the show. Hello and welcome to the show technically people. I am Tiffany Myers, hosting a conversation today about, of all things, personality. So how can an understanding of people's personalities, employees personalities, help you make better selection decisions, retain your people and improve communication? We're going to find out today because we're talking with Shannon Fenema, who is an executive advisor at Culture Index. Culture Index helps companies build successful teams and it does so through a measurement tool that assesses employee as well as candidate personality. So it helps organizations think pretty deeply about the qualities that people are bringing in or that employees already have and determine the roles that they will most shine in. And Shannon has said before, it's about putting round pegs and round holes. As a side note, built in has had the chance to work with Shannon and with culture index and it has had a impact on the way we operate and the shape of our culture. So, Hi Shannon, it's so lovely to see you again. Thanks, thanks for being here. Hi, Tiffany, thank you so much for having me. It's a pleasure to be here. So how about we start with a bit of a breakdown, and by that I mean if you could explain the assessments, the structure, what it's measuring and maybe even the experience of taking the assessment. Absolutely so, a culture anexts, we are measuring seven work related traits and individuals personalities. The traits that we measure our autonomy, social ability, patients, conformity, logic and ingenuity, and we actually measure these in two different ways. One is we're looking at what do we understand about an individual's core personality. Social scientists tells that our core personalities largely safe somewhere between the ages of ten and twelve. There are actually, for many people who believe that it's far younger than that, but for our purposes we know that personality is a fairly stable construct. The other thing that we measure is how does an individual perceive that they need to behave in their current role, in other words, how I'm modifying or changing not my personality in order to be successful in my current position and from a candidate experience standpoint or for an employee experience standpoint, because we have a huge footprint within the internal operations of an organization in terms of value add there are two questions and it takes an individual generally about ten minutes to complete the assessment. In the first question we ask individuals to describe their personality and in the second question we have some to describe how they need to behave in their role to be most successful. There's a number of ways that this gets utilized within organizations. The obvious one is on the hiring and selection front, and in that way we're able to create a benchmark for what kind of qualities are personality traits are really going to be helpful for someone to be a good fit in the dynamic of the team that we have, in the requirements of the position, what we want this person to be able to accomplish for us, and so marrying up the personality qualities of an individual who's coming in from a candidate standpoint to what we know we're looking for in the position. The other less obvious part work place where the fits in and actually where I spend most of the time with my clients as internally creating more powerful teams, helping improve communication, understanding the why behind behavior. It really can remove some judgment about why in individuals behaving in a certain way when there's deeper understanding about some of the drivers or motivators and that individual's personality. So I... spend quite a lot of time and the internal function of helping resolve conflict, helping create more dynamic teams, and it really is the diversity within that group that, I think, create some of the most dynamic and powerful teams. Yeah, you know, I just caught up with Jordan Libardo, who is a sales leader at Builton, and she is a huge fan. So just back up a little bit. When you take your culture indextually get a kind of a profile or a moniker. So you have the persuader, for instance, or the philosopher yeah, the technical expert. I came out as what you call the enterpriser. So when I was talking with Jordan, she uses these profiles and so many decisions that she makes. So over time, for instance, the Sales Team, they've identified specific profiles that they know will thrive in her account executive positions, and she actually told me I think without culture index I would be flying blind in terms of hiring. But, as you just mentioned, it's also very internal because she uses it to understand whether someone maybe uses deductive or inductive reasoning, which is part of what your assessment shows. What she does then and she can shape her one on one conversations accordingly. So just a multitude of uses. But I wanted to take a minute to recognize one of the most important things that culture index can support, which is retention. So tell me the relationship between culture index and retention. Well, Tiffany, I'm glad you brought that up because I've been spending a lot of my time in this place with my clients. There's varying statistics out there, but gallant recently reported that forty eight percent of Americans are currently looking for jobs. If you're a leader right now in an organization. Hearing that should make you feel really uneasy if you think about half of your people are actually open to new opportunities. So one of the most powerful things that we measure, I believe that Culture Index, is this concept of fit. How am I changing up my personality to fit into my role? And when we see these really disparate, really different outcomes from WHO I am to how I have to behave in my job, it's not a red flag in my opinion. In other words, I don't know that person is feeling so much stressed that they might be looking for another job, but I definitely view it as a white flag. Huge opportunity as a people leader to have a conversation with that individual and say hey, are we pushing you outside of Your Comfort Zone? And in this year of the great resignation, this data point becomes more and more of an opportunity for individual leaders to take a look at their team, make sure they've got a good pulse on how their people are doing and pick up or identify if there's places where there may be some stress on people. I also think there's one other thing with regard to retension that we've talked about before, which is looking at managers. Can you elaborate a little bit on that? Absolutely specifically, if we look at we're having difficulty, if we've got a team or a department where there's too much turnover, generally we need to take a peek at the management style of that individual manager. Maybe there are some opportunities to provide some coaching. Maybe there are people that are being hired and put on to that team that really just aren't a good fit for what that managers looking for. And oftentimes, Tiffany, you know, we look at a resume and we're really excited about what we see on that resume and there's no discounting resume because experience and knowledge and expertise is critically important. Culture INEX is simply a portion of the equation. So at culture and next we don't buy any measure undervalue or undermine ones expertise or knowledge critically important, but understanding how an individual's personality is going to impact their knowledge and our expertise is very important. So helping those managers make sure that they're bringing the kind of people in that are going to work well within the dynamic of the team that they have and just being able to give some feedback in terms of where things might be going wrong, where their watch outs are, where their blind spots might be, so that we can improve the experience and retain those people. And I'm sure you're also looking at the profiles of the people that these managers are leading and saying where there's Yenyang and where there's absolutely none. It is truly the dynamic and that's why we don't really believe in any kind...

...of template. In other words, said we oh, we need to build a marketing team. What are all the kind of culturn x crafts that we're looking for? Going no clue. We need to look at what you're trying to accomplish, what each of these individual rules need? What's the style of the leader? Who are they going to work most effectively? What? So it really is a complex company by company platform from our perspective. Yeah, so you came in and gave a presentation at built in about what this new thing, at least new at the time it, was going to be about for us, and you said, okay, I want everyone to repeat after me, this is not a test. or it was maybe something like there is no pass fail. So it was kind of Hilarious to see a hundred forty people repeating and wrote like we were. I felt like I was back in school. But it's just emphasize is how very important portant it isn't how much you want to emphasize that this is an assessment, not a test. Yeah, and I'm glad you brought that up and I do feel really powerful when I can make a hundred and forty adults repeat something very silly like that. But the truth of the manner is the reason that I do that is because I want to pound home and because it's funny and it's embarrassing and it feels really preschoolish to do that exercise. I hope to really get people's attention on it because it matters to me so deeply to emphasize that this is not a pass fail. I really cringe when I hear that we're test and it gets applied to culture, index a here a lot and to my clients I say I would confind you if I hear you using that language, because it's very that creates a lot of stress for people because then there's some inherent I can do this wrong and when it's getting utilize that way it's really not well understood. In my opinion, and I think you know there's some statistics out there that say sixty to seventy five percent of companies are putting some sort of assessment on the front and of their hire in selection, and so the candidate experience people are familiar with having some of these and there are tests out there, and so I just think it's really important to differentiate culture index because for our clients we understand that we're going to look at that graph and say where, where are the blind spots of this kind of person? How would they fit into our team? This isn't a pass fail. There's no way for me to look at anyone single culture index outcome and say this one's better than that one, or this one was right and this one was wrong. It just doesn't work that way. Yeah, so anyone out there who has refer her to culture index as a test, we are putting you on blast right now. Shannon has promised that she'll come find you. So so tell me. I was wondering or kind of imagining that you probably come across the CEO who is skeptical. You know, I have so many competing priorities. I obviously need to think about bottom line why should I care about this warm and fuzzy aspect of personality? So what do you do to win that guy in? Well, I'm so glad you use the terms warm and fuzzy at Culture Index. That start really not our platform in any way, shape or form, and actually we believe that the deep knowledge and understanding of culture index should be in the hands and in the brains of the individual leaders within an organization. As soon as it is something that is given to a candidate and somebody says green light, red light, you're back to a test. And so where we create a lot of value for CEOS as we monetize this experience very quickly. If you look at the cost of turnover, there's varying statistics out there that it costs about three to five times someone's annual salary if they flip on you in the first year. Again, fifty percent of Americans looking for jobs. It's pretty easy for me to put a really big dollar sign on people's foreheads for CEOS. And then I've also got case studies that I can provide of companies where we can really quickly see the Roi in terms of retention rates of employees, turnover and just pure revenue growth. That is going to get the CEO's attention. The CFO's a tension and break through some of that skepticism. But a lot of time. So often and organization is going to launch a program it starts to gain momentum, it's popular within the organization,...

...there's laws about it, but then over time it's sort of it's sort of fizzles, whether it's the managerial level the executive level, people get pulled away and it loses traction. So yeah, I've known, you seen companies that have really integrated culture index into their culture. Tell me a little bit about what that can do. So you know the companies that get the most benefit from this really do invest in the leadership to go through this culture index training. What I've seen is when there's my pockets are not deep and I'm not going to invest in the knowledge transferred to my leadership team, limited usage, you start seeing it dwindle. When you've got individual leaders who really understand it, it's my job to stay connected with them so that they're able to apply this in a meaningful way. But to touch on the other benefits of this, it really does become a language. Much like you referred to with Jordan, becomes a language within organizations that they can speak and understand each other more effectively, and the output of that is generally employee satisfaction, because the more I feel understood, the more I feel like my manager really gets me and provides the guidance that I want, whether it's very little guidance or a lot more guidance based on some of the qualities of my personality. That's where, to me, there's a ton of intrinsic reward, is seeing companies that are just well oiled machines and people are having fun, because what I know is when you're having the most fun it's generally when your personality feels like it's in its sweet spot. You don't have to change yourself a whole lot. I have a little bit of a contrast to that, which I have thought about in terms of culture index. Right now, in the current climate, there's a ton of energy being poured into this idea of we're going to build workplaces where everyone can bring their whole selves to the office. How whever, I really cannot think of a job where you do not have to modify yourself or your personality to you know, at least some degree. What do you say to that? Yeah, so I completely agree with you, even me, and I feel like I live the dream pretty much every day because I absolutely love what I do. But my rule of thumb, and if this is a Shannon rule of thumb, this is not a culture and next rule of thumb, but my rule of thumb is that if eighty percent of the time I feel like I'm sitting in my sweet spot, my personality really seems to line up well with what my job requires of me, and twenty percent of the time I've got to do some Google guck that I don't like doing. Generally individuals are going to report them to live in the dream. So pretty good ratio. The problems really become when we start flipping that around. And eighty percent of the time I'm having an out about the experience because I'm a very friendly, gregarious person and every time I walk in the office my boss looks at me and gives me that stare down, like shut it, we don't want to hear any more talking. Put your head down and get to work. That's definitely the opposite of built in. I would like that. Oh my goodness, the first time that I walked into built in into that big open office area, I was like this is a place for fun people, because there was so much energy overflowing in that big office. I can honestly say I've never been in a company that had that obvious culture of engagement and community and connectivity and excitement. It was palpable and I will say I have a super clear memory of your coming in and we all took the assessment before you came in, during that same presentation I mentioned earlier, and you said, okay, this is a chatty bunch of people and of course we all you know, having lived it and knowing it. We all just were cracking up about that and also kind of mystify it as to how you knew that. But you also used it to point out, Hey, you know, you have a lot of philosopher types here, you have a lot of people who might be more introverted, and let's make sure that we're creating equitable opportunities for them to shine and to contribute as well. So it was both...

...funny and poignant. Yeah, and I think it's just to the beauty of this is understanding, and that's not a right or a wrong. It's not a good or a band and understanding and how other people think. Those very social people process information out loud, and you know you mentioned that philosopher. Their internal processors. They take some time to think things through, they think in their head, and so you hear more words from those social folks than you work for from the others, and often times when you do hear words from them, you want to lean in because they've given it a lot of thought. So yeah, I think it's the value really becomes not a good or a bad but just a different way of going about things. Not a pass fail, for sure. So I actually want to ask you that. You mentioned the philosopher and it makes me think of the fact that some of my best collaborations, some of them basically magical collaborations within built in are with people whose profiles could not be more different from mine. So Daniel Assan, who's our digital marketing directors, just one example. He's a philosopher. Couldn't be more different. I have a kind of rapid fire ideation approach and he said to me, you know, the first time we had a work session, he said, you know, I have to think about that, and I was like, Oh, wows that I was confused and then of course he came back with just, you know, something so amazing I couldn't have imagined it in my throws spaghett against the wall kind of approach. So tell me a bit about that. So that's for me. That's where this is fun. You know, we don't need to duplicate seven tiffanies. We may not get what we're looking for if we have seven of you. We need the diversity of personality within a team to really accomplish the goals. And so thinking about these complimentary teams, and shout out to Daniel Assan. He's philosophers. They do they pause, they take time to think things through, but they're incredible, really strategic, incredibly analytic and they can come up with some really amazing conceptual ideas. So it is that Yin and Yang that I think is the beauty, and we're companies really get the benefit from this. Is Not that we want a one size fit all in our organization, but rather we're going to honor and understand that the differing ways that we approach things is really going to be where we where we hit home runs. No one thing. If I can add it, tiffany, is that a culture. And next we have nineteen typified patterns, or the monikers that you're referring to in the beautiful news about this is that about five percent of the population is going to fall into each of these patterns. And so what that means, Tiffany, is there's about five percent of the people who have personality qualities similar to yours. The scary thing about that is ninety five percent of the population doesn't. Okay, and so when I look at this, I think about it in terms of so, how do I land the plane with someone who's polar opposite from me from a personality standpoint, because it's not going to be nearly as intuitive for me to understand how they process information, how they think about things, the risks they're willing to take, the environments that they want to work in, the way that they feel motivation. So the value really comes into how do I work really effectively with someone who's really different from me? So something I'm wondering are those traits going to change over time with life experience? Actually, it's very interesting. I did some work in China and the Chinese actually believe they said, if you want to know how someone's going to behave when they're eighty, meetum when they're free. That's like a it's just say saying in Chinese culture, and so we believe in that. Okay, so when we're measuring these seven work related traits and an individual's personality, we believe that these are going to remain very stable over the course of one's lifetime. But I think it's really important to honor that. We are not the same. If I think about twenty one year old me and fifty one year old me, thirty year time span in between. Not the same human and that's really because of the experiences that I've had, the things that I've learned, how I've under learned to understand myself better. But the qualities in my personality, if I look back to age twenty one, they were still there, those core tenants. But we do become wiser, we learn from our experiences, we fall down, we scrape our knees, have to put bandaids on go. That wasn't very fun. I think I'll choose not to do that again. So we definitely evolve and develop over time, but the core...

...tenets of our personality will remain quite stable. You know, I often look at my three year old nephew and I say, Yep, there he is. He's totally, fully himself already. His sense of humor, his intensity and focus. I just think yet he's fully baked. He's going to be this way and some manner for the rest of his life and now, I know, until he's eighty. So one thing that I think people should know that I'm curious about. Let's so here I am, I'm Jane Doe and I'm an employee and I'm good at my job, or actually, let's say that I'm really good, that I'm great at my job, but then I take my culture index assessments and it shows that my personality traits are not aligned to whatever degree with the traits that are needed for the job that I currently fill. So what would you tell me and what would you tell my boss? Well, first of all, performance trumps everything. So somebody's kicking but at their JAB. Leave it alone, do not touch past, go collect two hundred dollars. And then my other question mark would be did we have what we thought we were looking for right, because there's a benchmarking tool that we have within our platform called the CE job, which is the assessment of the position and what we should consider first and foremost, as if we have a rock star and a roll. That's our best data, as our best data that informs US more than anything in the world, because we're getting the performance that we want from that individual. So I would say when you're looking at the assessment, performance trumps all things, and so it becomes then a data point that helps us understand how to be more effective in communication. Much less about this is right or wrong or Gosh, this person is the wrong culture and next, no, they don't. Actually they're kicking but they're doing great. Leave that one alone. How does that benchmarking work? So the CE job is what we call our benchmarking tool, is fifty nine questions. Actually they're fifty nine statements, and they ask the hiring manager or anyone else who's in the role who really understands what this open position is going to require. In the individual interacts with these statements on a one to ten scale. One means this is not a critical quality, ten means it is a critical quality. So you'll see statements like building into personal relationships is and you're answering, you're responding to that on the one to ten scale. At the conclusion of that assessment, it kicks out for US data that says, according to said hiring manager or I also really like having a top performer participate in that, because that individual really knows what's required of the job. We can look at that data and that gives us some insight into the qualities that we're looking for. Now this isn't narrow. In other words, we don't look at that outcome and say, Oh, there's one configuration of dots that's going to work. When that's happening, if it's getting way too narrow in my opinion as an advisor, I believe that generally we need to look at what are some of the calm marks of this kind of pattern that we've come up with, and there's probably four or five similar type patterns. That would also be a really strong fit if we can find somebody who's really got an outstanding resume for the position, outstanding qualifications. You know, culture, N X is is also a management tool. So if I get someone who has knowledge and expertise that just knocks my sacks off, oh my gosh, if we could bring what they know to our company, huge value add then I look at their culture and next graph and if it's different than what we had set our benchmark for, okay. Well, why is it different? Because that's what I like about this not being a pass feel. It's not like aunt know, this person does not pass go. It can't operate that way because as a manager, I should be able to look at that and go, am I willing to manage to what I see here? Am I willing to make some management decisions? Because I really want this person's expertise. We're going to benefit imensely from it and I understand where I'm going to fill in the gaps as the leader of this individual so it really should be viewed as something that we still have the opportunity to make management decisions. The see job should always... current. In other words, we don't want to take the C job result and sit it in there and let it gain dust. We really want to think about when we're filling positions, position by position, because what we're looking for might change based on the circumstances of the job, the leader, what we need these folks to do, all these things influence the outcome of that see job. So we do really want these things to be very time sensitive. As we're filling roles. Okay, so, speaking of time, we've got a tight time frame for what we call the two minute take away. So this is when, Channon, I'd love you to share a few key ideas. Absolutely, I think right now there is so much value and having an opportunity to measure and assess how your people feel they're fitting into the job. I think, with so many people working in remote environments, this ability that we have to measure. What do we understand about someone's core personality? How much are they modifying in their role? It's a great way to be able to take a pulse check on your people and make sure that you don't have individuals work experiencing a lot of stress in the role, so that you can triact that before the person opts out and you have to replace them. So I think for me, that's the biggest opportunity that we present right now is just check in on your people make sure they're okay. Are the things that you can do to support them in a more effective way so that you attain and keep the folks you've currently got in your organization. Just said, what my takeaway that I have from talking to you about all of this, which is that personality matters. As you have said before, we've all been duped by a shiny resume. The person comes in and joins and doesn't turn out to be as successful as we thought. And you have said, people ask what did I miss and you've said, well, what you missed is personality. For me, the takeaway is not just that personality matters, but it's really predictive. So, Shannon, if our listeners want to reach out to you and learn more about you, about culture index, tell me a good way to reach you. Yeah, absolutely. I feel free to send me an email at s Phenema, at culture and Nextcom or certainly go to our website at culture and Nextcom and there is an opportunity on the website to participate in a demo and this gives you the opportunity to send surveys to individuals within your team and have a complimentary one hour follow up call with me where I can share some of the results of your team members with you. If you do go to the website and you request the Freedomo, just please funtion in there that you've heard about this on technically keep people with tiffany Myers. She's so awesome. So yeah, that's the best way. Fantastic. Yeah, go to that website and I can just tell you. I don't know if you remember, Shannon, but I was so geeked out on culture index that I just like ran up to you after the presentation. I heard that. It's like you gotta tell me more. So it's just so fantastic that we're now able to share this with the podcast sphere. So let me actually, I'm just it's occurring to me that people should watch out for your last name. So it's as Phenema, but a finema is spelled F like Frank e double n Ema. So, with that spelling out of the way, Shannon, thank you for joining us today. It was great to talk. It was great to be here, tiffany. So so just a final note to our listeners, go ahead and subscribe on your favorite podcast player, go to technically peoplecom and join us in the conversation that we're having on Linkedin. So thank you, listeners for taking the time to tune in and we'll talk to you next week. Whether you're looking to fill opportunities or find them built in hows you've covered. If you're seeking to meet aggressive hiring goals, will help you attract sought after tech talent you might not otherwise reach. And if you're on the market for a career change, visit our site to explore exciting dogs with our customers and even with built in find talent, find opportunities built incom.

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