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  • Published Mar 11, 2024

Leveraging Employee Assessment Tools: A Guide to DISC

Find out why the DISC assessment is an essential resource for leaders and HR professionals seeking to optimize team performance.

Megan Cook
Megan Cook

Happy Companies Cofounder & CAO

Picture this: You're leading a team on an important project with a fast-approaching deadline. Your team is made up of different personalities, each with their own way of working and seeing things. At first, everything seems to be progressing fine, but then you all hit a snag.

Suddenly, there's disagreement on what should be done first, people aren't talking as effectively as they should, and everyone's stress is through the roof. You're stuck, trying to figure out how to get everyone on the same page, clear up any confusion, and get the project moving forward again.

Challenges with team dynamics are often part and parcel of the workplace, especially when diverse personalities and working styles come into play. When stress levels spike and progress stalls in these moments of conflict and confusion, the true test of effective teamwork emerges. A deeper understanding of ourselves and our team members is the key to navigating these waters smoothly. Recognizing individual differences and learning to harness them effectively can transform potential roadblocks into opportunities for collaboration and success.

Enter the role of workplace assessments, which have become invaluable tools in these situations. More than just evaluations, these assessments guide the dynamics at play within your team. They provide insights into the preferences and motivations of each team member, shedding light on how they communicate and interact. With this knowledge, you can tailor your approach, smooth out communication issues, and align everyone toward common goals.

Workplace assessments have long been a staple in organizational development, helping leaders understand the diverse personalities that make up their teams. Historically, these tools have been used to identify the strengths and areas for improvement among employees, enhance team dynamics, improve communication, and drive strategic decision-making. As businesses strive to adapt to rapidly changing markets and increasingly diverse work environments, the importance of such assessments has only grown.

They offer a structured way to navigate the complexities of human behavior in professional settings, enabling organizations to harness the full potential of their workforce. With this in mind, the DISC assessment emerges as a particularly powerful tool, providing detailed insights into behavioral traits and how they influence workplace interactions.

Quote from Megan Cook, Co-Founder of Happy, "DISC is not just a tool for understanding individual personalities, but a gateway to building stronger, more cohesive teams"

The DISC assessment is a powerful tool designed to uncover individuals' varying communication styles, preferences, and behaviors within a team. Categorizing personalities into four primary types—Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness—it provides a clear framework for understanding the different ways people approach work, make decisions, and interact with others. This insight is invaluable for building stronger teams, enhancing leadership strategies, and improving workplace dynamics.

By understanding the unique mix of these behavioral styles within their teams, organizations can make more informed decisions about project leadership, team composition, and conflict resolution, ultimately leading to a more cohesive and productive work environment.

Taking a look at the leading companies who have adopted DISC, across a wide variety of business sectors, further highlight how powerful of a tool it can be. DISC is used by the US Army and Fortune 500 companies like General Electric, Boeing, Coca-Cola, IBM, and Microsoft. This widespread adoption, with over 1 million people taking DISC assessments annually, is a testament to its enduring relevance and effectiveness.

Happy Companies Cofounder Megan Cook describes DISC as "not just a tool for understanding individual personalities, but a gateway to building stronger, more cohesive teams." Imagine the potential of a workplace where a leader can tailor their approach to each team member and when coworkers understand each other's workstyles well enough to avoid unnecessary conflicts and collaborate efficiently.

This guide will unpack the DISC assessment and highlight how managers, leaders, and employees can effectively utilize it. We'll also explore the innovations behind the Happy Assessment, a contemporary tool inspired by the foundational principles of DISC. The Happy Assessment adds a fresh layer of understanding, adapting traditional concepts to modern workplaces' ever-evolving challenges and needs. From enhancing emotional intelligence to optimizing team performance, the synergy of DISC and the Happy Assessment can revolutionize your approach to work.

Understanding DISC Assessment

In 1928, Dr. William Moulton Marston, a Harvard scholar specializing in understanding human emotions and behaviors, categorized behavioral traits into four primary types: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness. From the assertive decision-makers (D) to the enthusiastic team players (I), from the dependable supporters (S) to the detail-oriented thinkers (C), the DISC model became the key to unlocking a deeper understanding of work personalities.

To illustrate DISC in action, let's enter the bustling world of a hypothetical company, Acme Corp, as a new project kicks off.

Meet John, the 'D' type, already outlining strategies, eager to dive in without delay. He's all about action and quick decisions. In the same room is Emma, with her 'I' style, bringing enthusiasm, keen to brainstorm and bounce ideas off everyone. She's the spark that lights up team interactions. Then there's Sam, embodying the 'S' style. He's the one who suggests they go through the project plan methodically, ensuring everyone's on the same page. Stability and support are his mantras. And lastly, there's Alice, the 'C' type, insisting on reviewing all the data and guidelines before making any decision. Her eye for detail is unmatched.

DISC personality types help us understand diverse work behaviors and appreciate the strengths of individuals like John, Emma, Sam, and Alice. It serves as a neutral language to observe and describe behaviors in the workplace without labeling them as good or bad. Each person has a unique blend of all four styles, with one or more styles standing out. Understanding and harnessing these differences can improve workplace communication and create healthier organizations.

So, Let's explore these different DISC styles and the traits they are known for.

4 different DISC workstyles and their common traits

Dominance (D)

People who score high in Dominance are driven by results and challenges. They are decisive and prefer to lead rather than follow. In a team setting, they push for quick decisions and often take the lead on projects. They can cut through chaos, driving the team forward with a bottom-line approach. However, this high confidence can sometimes manifest as assertiveness under stress, and they may come off as too direct or impatient.

  • Where they shine: They typically excel in roles that require strong leadership and where quick decision-making, risk-taking, and problem-solving are necessary.

Influence (I)

The Influence trait is characterized by enthusiasm, sociability, and persuasiveness. Individuals with a high Influence score thrive on interactions with others and often energize the team. They are great at communicating ideas and rallying the team around a common goal. They radiate positive energy and often serve as the heart of their group. Their approachable demeanor often makes them popular, though sometimes this overshadows a more results-focused approach, and they may need support to stay focused on the details over socializing.

  • Where they shine: They are often naturally good in networking, team motivation, and public speaking roles.

Steadiness (S)

Steadiness is marked by reliability, supportiveness, and a calm demeanor. People with a high score in Steadiness are the backbone of many teams, providing consistent performance and a stabilizing influence. They value harmony and teamwork and are excellent listeners. Their approach is characterized by a desire for harmony and cooperative interactions, often serving as a calming and rational presence on teams. However, they may struggle during times of change or when quick action is required to move things forward faster.

  • Where they shine: Teams can benefit from these individuals in roles that require methodical work and support for other team members.

Conscientiousness (C)

Conscientiousness-focused individuals are detail-oriented, organized, and systematic. They prioritize accuracy and quality, adhering closely to standards and procedures. Their analytical nature makes them excellent problem-solvers, though they may sometimes get bogged down in details. They tend to be meticulous and detail-oriented and highly emphasize precision and accuracy. Their analytical approach ensures high standards, but their focus on process can sometimes seem inflexible to others who want to think outside the box.

  • Where they shine: They are great at projects that must be completed thoroughly and require precision and careful planning.

Using DISC, we can see how different people might approach a task or how they might prefer to work together. It's like having a guide to better understand and navigate how people operate in the workplace, making it easier to work well as a team.

Outgoing vs Reserved / Task Oriented vs People Oriented

The DISC assessment measures Outgoing Approaches vs. Reserved Approaches and People Orientation vs. Task Orientation through understanding behavioral styles.

  • Outgoing vs. Reserved approaches are identified by how individuals draw their energy—either from external engagement (outgoing) or internal reflection (reserved), with D and I types often being more outgoing and S and C types more reserved.
  • People Orientation vs. Task Orientation is determined by where individuals focus—either on building relationships and facilitating team dynamics (People Oriented: I and S types) or achieving specific goals and managing tasks (Task Oriented: D and C types).

Thinking about DISC in terms of Outgoing Approaches vs. Reserved Approaches and People Orientation vs. Task Orientation is like having a shortcut to understanding people, offering a quick and effective way to grasp how individuals prefer to communicate, work, and interact with others in the workplace.

Outgoing vs Reserved and Task Vs People Orientation for 4 DISC Workstyles

These distinctions are helpful at work because they allow for tailored communication strategies, effective team composition, and aligning job roles with natural tendencies, enhancing productivity, job satisfaction, and team cohesion.

In this section, we will examine these categories and how they impact how teams approach workplace actions and interactions.

Outgoing vs. Reserved in DISC

DISC categorizes individuals into two broad categories of energy orientation: Outgoing and Reserved. This distinction is important, influencing everything from communication styles to decision-making processes.

When we talk about Outgoing Approaches vs. Reserved Approaches in the DISC framework, we look at how people get their energy and interact with the world around them. Outgoing individuals, identified as Dominance (D) and Influence (I) types in DISC, thrive on interaction with others. They love being in the thick of things, engaging with colleagues, and drawing their energy from these interactions. They're often the ones to speak up in meetings, lead discussions, and energize the group with their enthusiasm.

On the other hand, those who are Reserved, or the Steadiness (S) and Conscientiousness (C) types, find their strength in quiet reflection and deep thought. They prefer working behind the scenes or in smaller, more intimate groups. They might not always be the first to speak up, but they offer thoughtful insights and are crucial to the team's success. Their approach to work involves careful consideration and planning, which balances the extroverts' dynamism.

Task-Oriented vs. People-Oriented

DISC doesn't just stop at how we interact; it also looks at what drives us. Some of us, particularly those with Dominance (D) and Conscientiousness (C) traits, are focused on getting things done. They're all about setting goals, making lists, and checking off tasks. They're the ones who keep the team on track and ensure that projects meet their deadlines. Their approach is very much about the work that needs to be completed.

Conversely, the Influence (I) and Steadiness (S) types are driven by the people around them. They're the team members who ensure everyone gets along, feels heard, and stays motivated. They value relationships and harmony and are skilled at navigating team dynamics. Their focus on people helps to create a supportive and collaborative work environment, which is just as vital to achieving the team's objectives.

Understanding whether someone is more outgoing or reserved, and task-oriented or people-oriented, helps anyone tailor their interactions to align with others' strengths and preferences. This approach enhances communication and ensures smoother collaboration, making it easier for teams to work together effectively. It's about fostering a work environment where everyone feels valued and understood, contributing to greater satisfaction and improved outcomes for all involved.

The Happy Assessment - A Complementary Tool

At Happy, we're pioneering the future of workplace relationships with the innovative Happy Assessment.

Happy is designed to improve organizational culture, communication, and manager effectiveness across diverse work environments, whether on-site, remote, or hybrid. By combining the proven principles of behavioral science with advanced AI, the Happy Assessment offers a unique blend of linguistic adaptability and scientific accuracy, making it an excellent platform for modern organizations.

The Happy Assessment transforms workplace behavior analysis by improving the DISC model. It categorizes Workstyles into four core and four blended Workstyles, enhancing team dynamics and individual understanding.

All Happy Workstyles fall into eight Workstyle categories.

Four Primary Workstyles Reimagined

The Happy Assessment has reimagined the primary DISC styles to better suit the complexities and demands of today's work environment. Expanding and refining the traditional DISC framework offers a fresh perspective on understanding and leveraging individual workstyles for enhanced team dynamics and productivity. This innovative approach provides deeper insights into how we can all contribute to a more cohesive and effective workplace.

Drivers are energetic, assertive, and results-focused. They think strategically, tackle challenges directly, and motivate their teams to achieve ambitious goals. They thrive in competitive environments and are natural leaders, adept at overcoming obstacles.

Influencers are charismatic team motivators. Skilled in communication, they excel in roles requiring networking and public speaking. Adaptable and persuasive, they're vital in resolving conflicts and fostering team unity.

Stabilizers are the team's reliable backbone, bringing consistency and calm. Their methodical work approach is perfect for tasks needing precision. As team players, they contribute to a supportive and harmonious work environment.

Calculators are analytical thinkers, handling tasks with thoroughness and accuracy. They excel in roles requiring critical thinking and detailed analysis. Their systematic approach is vital in managing complex projects and strategic planning.

Four Blended Workstyles

Building on its innovative approach, the Happy Assessment further enriches our understanding of workplace dynamics by introducing four additional blended styles. These styles represent the nuanced combinations of the primary DISC traits, offering a more comprehensive view of individual behaviors and how they can intersect in the workplace. This expansion allows for a more personalized and accurate assessment of team members, facilitating even better collaboration and effectiveness within diverse teams.

Catalysts merge the Drivers' assertiveness with Influencers' sociability. They're visionary and innovative and excel in roles that require leading change and inspiring teams.

Relaters combine Influencers' people skills with Stabilizers' supportive nature. They excel in roles that involve interpersonal interaction and team harmony, acting as the uniting force in a team.

Coordinators blend Stabilizers' steadiness with Calculators' detail orientation. They're key in planning and executing projects precisely, ensuring smooth operations

Strategists combine Calculators' analytical skills with Drivers' goal-focused approach. They excel in long-term planning and navigating complex situations, guiding teams toward success with their strategic thinking.

The Happy Advantage

Happy takes the foundational elements of DISC and enhances them for today's working world. By blending the science of behavior with cutting-edge AI, Happy Assessment creates a detailed picture of team dynamics and individual strengths. It goes beyond the basics, organizing workstyles into four primary and four mixed categories, making DISC even more valuable and relevant.

With Happy Assessment, you get AI-powered insights tailored to the diverse ways people express themselves. This approach ensures everyone feels included and understood, regardless of background or Workstyle. It's more than just an assessment; it's a comprehensive guide that helps create a more unified, productive, and positive work environment.

This tool is part of Happy's broader mission to bring the benefits of coaching and assessments to everyone in an organization, not just the top executives. Happy's technology scales up the advantages of personal growth and team development, ensuring that every member of the organization has access to the tools they need to succeed. It's about empowering individuals and teams to reach their full potential, making your people your competitive advantage.

The workplace is constantly changing, and the tools we use to understand and improve our teams must evolve as well. DISC and the Happy Assessment stand out as critical resources for any organization looking beyond old working methods. They tap into the wide variety of individual workstyles, helping companies to work through the often complex nature of team interactions and collaboration.

Real-World Applications of The Happy Assessment & DISC

The Happy Assessment & DISC are powerful tools that change the game for building effective teams. It works by identifying how people work and communicate and then using this information to create teams that work well together.

Businesses can use the Happy Assessment, an enhanced version of DISC assessments, to improve their work culture, communication, and how teams get done.

Let's dive into how this works with some examples:

1. Enhancing Team Culture

  • Personal Understanding: The Happy Assessment deepens self-awareness by providing insights into individual behaviors and interactions, building a culture of respect and understanding.
  • Team Diversity: By acknowledging the unique blend of primary and blended DISC workstyles, the Happy Assessment identifies and champions diverse teams, emphasizing the value of all personality types in the company's success.

2. Improving Communication

  • Tailored Communication: Understanding the nuanced workstyles identified by the Happy Assessment allows teams to customize their communication, leading to more impactful conversations
  • Conflict Resolution: The detailed insights in the Happy Workstyles can uncover the underlying causes of conflicts, helping teams resolve issues by better understanding each other's perspectives.

3. Enhancing Leadership

  • Adaptive Leadership: Leaders can fine-tune their approach based on the diverse Happy Workstyles identified by the Happy Assessment, fostering a more engaged and motivated team.
  • Mentorship and Development: The Happy Assessment offers a framework for targeted development plans, aligning mentorship efforts with each employee's unique style.

4. Boosting Sales and Customer Success

  • Customer Interaction: Sales and customer success teams can apply insights from the DISC and the Happy Workstyles to better understand and engage with clients, customizing interactions to meet diverse customer needs.
  • Training and Development: Incorporating the Happy Assessment into training enhances team interpersonal skills, making employees more versatile.

5. Facilitating Change Management

  • Navigating Change: Happy Workstyles help leaders anticipate and address team members' varied responses to change, ensuring smoother transitions.
  • Building Resilience: Leveraging the strengths identified by the Happy Assessment fosters an adaptable and resilient culture, ready to face change confidently.

Incorporating the Happy Assessment into strategic initiatives enables businesses to foster a more cohesive, communicative, and adaptive environment, significantly boosting operational efficiency and contributing to long-term success.

Using the Happy Assessment and DISC for Conflict Resolution

Perhaps one of the most important and sought-after uses of DISC assessments in the workplace is regarding conflict resolution.

Conflict resolution in the workplace can be complex, but understanding the Happy Workstyles of those involved can be a significant aid. Different Workstyles tend to have distinct approaches and reactions to conflict, and recognizing these tendencies can help de-escalate and resolve disputes more effectively.

Drivers - D in DISC

Driver personalities are decisive and focused on results. They tackle conflicts directly, preferring a straightforward approach. This can seem too aggressive to those who value harmony, like Stabilizers or Relaters, who may view Drivers' directness as lacking empathy.

  • Strategy for Resolution: Be clear, concise, and logical when discussing issues with Drivers. Present solutions and facts without beating around the bush, as they respect efficiency and directness.
  • Key Phrases: "Can you help me solve this?" / "Let's figure this out together." / "I need your help with something."

Influencers - I in DISC

Influencers are sociable and prefer to keep things positive, often trying to avoid conflict or downplay disagreements. This might come off as insincere to more straightforward types, like Drivers or Calculators, who value direct communication.

  • Strategy for Resolution: Keep the mood light and positive. Encourage open dialogue while steering the conversation to stay on track, avoiding digressions.
  • Key Phrases: "Let's work on this together" / "How can we improve this?" / "Your happiness is important to me."

Stabilizers - S in DISC

Stabilizers are empathetic and value harmony, often taking conflict to heart. They may need time to process and prefer a gentle approach, which can be challenging for more direct types like Drivers or Strategists.

  • Strategy for Resolution: Approach with kindness and patience. Allow them space to express their feelings and suggest solutions in a non-confrontational manner.
  • Key Phrases: "I understand where you're coming from" / "Let's find a middle ground" / "Let's take a break and talk about this later."

Calculators - C in DISC

Calculators approach conflicts with logic and detachment, focusing on facts over emotions. This can be perceived as cold by more people-oriented types like Influencers or Relaters, who value emotional connection.

  • Strategy for Resolution: Stick to facts and clear logic. Avoid emotional arguments and provide practical solutions or alternatives.
  • Key Phrases: "Here are the facts" / "Based on this information..." / "Let's analyze the options."

Catalysts - DI / ID in DISC

Catalysts, blending the assertiveness of Drivers with the sociability of Influencers, tackle conflicts energetically, aiming for innovative solutions. Their intensity might overwhelm more reserved types like Stabilizers or Calculators.

  • Strategy for Resolution: Engage with creativity and openness. Encourage them to channel their energy into collaborative problem-solving.
  • Key Phrases: "What's your creative take on this?" / "How can we innovate here?" / "Your enthusiasm can drive us to a solution."

Relaters - IS / SI in DISC

Relaters, combining the warmth of Influencers with the supportiveness of Stabilizers, seek to resolve conflicts through understanding and mutual respect. They might avoid direct confrontation, which can frustrate Drivers and Strategists who prefer to address issues head-on.

  • Strategy for Resolution: Foster an environment of trust and empathy. Encourage honest communication while maintaining a supportive and understanding tone.
  • Key Phrases: "I value your perspective" / "Let's understand each other better" / "How can we improve this situation together?"

Coordinators - SC / CS in DISC

Coordinators, merging the meticulousness of Calculators with the steadiness of Stabilizers, prefer structured approaches to conflict, valuing clarity and calm. Their methodical nature might clash with the dynamic methods of Catalysts or Influencers.

  • Strategy for Resolution: Offer clear, step-by-step solutions and emphasize the value of a systematic approach to problem-solving.
  • Key Phrases: "Let's break this down" / "Here's a step-by-step plan" / "Consistency is key to resolving this."

Strategists - CD / DC in DISC

Strategists, combining the analytical depth of Calculators with the goal-oriented focus of Drivers, approach conflicts with strategic planning and foresight. Their focus on the bigger picture might overlook the immediate emotional needs of types like Relaters or Stabilizers.

  • Strategy for Resolution: Present logical strategies and long-term benefits. Encourage them to consider the immediate emotional aspects as part of the overall solution.
  • Key Phrases: "What's the long-term solution?" / "How does this fit into the bigger picture?" / "Consider the immediate impact as well."

Each of these examples shows how different DISC Styles / Happy Workstyles, when combined, can complement each other and create a balanced, efficient, and more effective team. By understanding and applying the principles of DISC and the Happy Assessment, leaders can make smarter decisions about assembling their teams, leading to better communication, fewer conflicts, and improved overall performance.

Coaching with DISC

Many companies use employee assessment tools to assess their employees' primary behavioral style. While people enjoy learning about themselves, it is important to consider how long they remember their DISC results and how often managers apply this knowledge to enhance communication, conflict resolution, and overall effectiveness. This challenge is the "Knowledge-Action Gap." It refers to the discrepancy between what we learn from assessments and what we apply in our work.

After recognizing the diverse workstyles of team members through assessments like DISC or the Happy Assessment, bridging the "Knowledge-Action Gap" becomes crucial. This gap highlights the difference between understanding employees' behavioral styles and actively applying this knowledge to improve communication, conflict resolution, and team effectiveness. While assessments provide valuable insights, the real challenge lies in consistently using this information to make tangible improvements in the workplace.

This is where Happy Coach comes into play, offering a dynamic solution to the Knowledge-Action Gap. Happy Coach provides continuous, AI-powered coaching that is both confidential and personalized. Happy Coach delivers actionable insights directly to employees and managers, guiding them on applying this guidance in everyday work scenarios.

Whether it's enhancing team communication, navigating through conflicts, or boosting overall team performance, Happy Coach ensures that the valuable insights gained from assessments are not just remembered but actively used to foster a more collaborative and effective work environment. With the support of experienced leadership coaches, Happy Coach transforms assessment data into practical strategies for real-world application, closing the gap between knowledge and action.

Happy Assessment powers the Happy Workstyle, which helps you understand what makes each person tick and what might hold them back. With Happy Coach, you get this understanding turned into action. It's like having an expert by your side, guiding you on how to use these DISC insights to help your team grow. For example, suppose someone is stressed because they're not used to leading projects. Happy Coach can provide guidance on how to develop this in ways that aligns with an approach that resonates with them. Or suppose there's a miscommunication between two team members. In that case, Happy Coach can offer tips on bridging that gap based on their their natural communication styles and highlighting where there is synergy and where adapting may be helpful.

This combination of Happy Assessment, Happy Workstyles and Happy Coach means you're not just spotting problems but solving them. You get to know what motivates your team members and what challenges they might be facing. Then, Happy Coach offers customized, practical advice to help each person—and the whole team—perform at their best. It's about unlocking the potential within your team, making sure everyone's strengths are used and their areas of growth are supported. This way, you enhance team performance, encourage personal development, and steer your project toward success with everyone feeling more connected and understood.

Transforming Insights into Action: The Power of DISC in Enhancing Workplace Dynamics

Moving from simply understanding different personalities at work to using this knowledge can be tricky but very beneficial. The real benefit of tools like DISC assessments is when we start applying what we learn. These tools help us better know ourselves and our coworkers, leading to more empathy and teamwork. For managers, using what DISC teaches can improve leadership, solve conflicts more smoothly, and make the workplace nicer for everyone.

Happy Assessment updates DISC by paying attention to how people prefer to talk about their approach to work, making it more personal. The Happy platform uses what we learn from assessments and turns it into real changes in how we communicate, work together, and perform as a team.

As we use these tools, it's crucial to keep learning and adapting. Workplaces are constantly changing, so we need to keep applying these insights. For those interested in exploring more about employee assessments and how they can be used, here are some tools:

Understanding workplace assessments helps us build empathy, improve understanding, and boost productivity at work. It's a continuous journey that offers opportunities to learn and grow. By getting better at recognizing and responding to the complex behaviors and relationships in the workplace, we can strengthen our teams and create happier and more connected workplaces.

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