Extended DISC to improve employee wellbeing

Extended DISC to improve employee wellbeing

Posted on 22 July 2022
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Improving employee wellbeing in the workplace is essential in creating a positive working environment. In pursuit of that goal, there are so many methods that experts might implement to conduct employee assessments. Over the years, there is one that has matured and come to the fore: the DISC model. More specifically Extended DISC.

As one of the most popular human behaviour models in psychology, the DISC model of human behaviour stretches back 100 years to Carl Jung and his early work on behavioural theories. In the 2020s, Talent Tools — a firm based in Brisbane, Australia, offering workplace accreditation, training and reports — has come to specialise in using the more sophisticated and multi-functional DISC product from Finland, Extended DISC, to help businesses and organisations of all sizes to be more effective using professional employee assessments. 

So, let’s take a closer look at the Extended DISC process. By the end of this article, you’ll have a clear picture of the approach Talent Tools uses in implementing the Extended DISC model in the workplace to improve employee wellbeing and performance at the same time. 

What is Extended DISC?

Building on Jung’s ideas, the original DISC model was created by William Moulton Marston around 1928, during his time at Harvard University. The model categorises people into four basic categories aligning with each of the letters in the acronym: Dominant, Interactive, Supportive and Conscientious.

Fast forward to 1994, when Jukka Sappinen, an MBA from the Helsinki School of Economics who’d spent his early professional years consulting clients in the use of psychological tools, developed a profound understanding of the gap between existing tools and corporate needs.

This insight enabled Sappinen to grasp what his clients were really looking for: an instrument that combines a range of valuable analyses, forming a simple, unified system that can be used to generate understandable, integrated information on an individual, team or entire organisation. He built on the DISC model to create Extended DISC with the goal to help people and businesses work more efficiently.

The new approach took what was great about the original version of DISC and expanded it horizontally and vertically. The horizontal expansion increases the number of identified styles. Meanwhile, the vertical expansion goes deeper, revealing the respondent's natural unconscious behavioural style, overriding social-desirability bias.

Further, the Extended DISC approach looks at what changes the respondent feels are necessary to be successful in their current role and environment. It even looks at the effect on the respondent that the attempts to implement these changes is having.

The Owner and Master Trainer at Talent Tools, Sharon Hudson, explains that Extended DISC is divided into 160 styles, and, more importantly, the system has a massive database from which to draw the results. It actually selects words, phrases, dot points and sentences independently of each other according to the results identified by the system’s algorithms. What this means is that even if two people have the same profile there will be variances in the content of their reports.

However, Hudson is careful to point out that Extended DISC is not a personality test. Extended DISC was developed specifically for the workplace environment. Of course, it has non-work implications and applications, but the rigour required of an effective workplace assessment is higher: Extended DISC is intended to assist in making important career and HR decisions such as hiring, coaching, development and work allocation. As such, it must be behaviourally based and far more accurate and precise than a simple gauge of “personality”.

Extended DISC also has built-in quality standards to ensure it does not provide results when the validity or reliability of the respondent's answers is questionable. 

This can occur for many reasons, a couple of examples are the respondent, consciously or unconsciously answers as they would prefer to be perceived rather than as they are; or possibly, the respondent is under a lot of stress at the time of completion and is simply incapable of answering accurately.

Providing results under these circumstances is simply misleading. Unlike other DISC assessments, which spit out the result of whatever is answered in the questionnaire, Extended DISC will not generate a report, it simply states the results were “invalid”. There is no charge for invalid results. Usually, a valid response is obtained when the respondent re-takes the questionnaire.

How the Extended DISC model works 

In the past, standard DISC assessments focused on an individual's conscious behavioural preferences. Today, Extended DISC assesses a person from within. It does this by examining their intrinsic behaviours to get closer to who they are as people and what drives them internally. This requires a complex questionnaire instrument, structured differently to most DISC products on the market.

“Simple versions of DISC often depict how we want others to perceive us, rather than our natural selves. Your Extended DISC report will reflect back to you how someone with your profile is typically seen by others, and your “default settings”, which we all revert to when we are under stress. These internal motivations are often different from those that are perceived externally,” Hudson says.

“To give you an idea of the capacity of Extended DISC and its superiority, know that it has 220 million possible text combinations to choose from when choosing what's going into your report. The results are very accurate because the questionnaire is built precisely to get to the natural unconscious behavioural style of the person filling it out and because of the capacity of its database.” 

Differences between Extended DISC and standard DISC

The simple DISC tools out there are fine for what they are: helping a person understand that not everyone is the same as them, that there are different styles, what their style is and how their style may interact with other styles. Extended DISC goes much deeper, not just because it is more carefully calibrated and conducted, but also because it has been built specifically to improve job role and work environment fit.

Extended DISC identifies how a respondent’s strengths match their job-role requirements as well as the comfort level of the work environment for the person. Both of these contribute directly to job satisfaction, wellbeing at work, effectiveness and efficiency. These, in turn, affect performance and productivity at the individual, team and organisational levels.

“Extended DISC also gives the information you need about whether the respondent is feeling good and functioning effectively right now, or,it can indicate how someone who is not a great fit is being impacted by their attempts to adapt to and flourish in the current work role and environment,” Hudson says.

“It can identify this because it has more information about other factors that may influence who the respondent is as an individual, such as their adaptation preferences and timeline compatibility tendencies.”

One of the key results when someone completes their questionnaire is a plot of how their behavioural style and preferences map to the big four personality types. This goes far beyond the simple scores of a standard DISC to produce a unique profile shape that reveals a great deal of deep insight into who the participant is, and how they are feeling.

“The size and the relative positions of the data points in each of the two profiles tells us how the respondent is currently feeling, and among other things, what effect the adjustment from Profile II to Profile I is having on the employee.”

This information enables us to identify where role or environmental changes will allow the employee to more easily and often better achieve their performance outcomes. We use “job-crafting” to modify the way tasks and processes are completed so that the employee can apply their own natural work preferences and use their strengths to achieve the outcomes. Maybe not doing it in quite the same way that works for other or previous employees.. 

The Talent Tools Extended DISC method 

When you come to Talent Tools and Extended DISC is found to be a useful tool for your needs, the next step is an email that gives you an overview of what the process entails. If you continue, you’ll then receive a link to an online Extended DISC questionnaire and detailed instructions. Read them carefully.

When you are ready, it’s time to undertake the exercise. Remarkably it is only 24 questions, but once you go through it you’ll understand how subtle and incisive the tool can be in such a short time.

Hudson is careful to state that Extended DISC is neither a “test” in which you can achieve a high score, nor is it an “exam” that you can pass or fail. Whatever your results, they are perfect for you. The challenge is optimising your capability and improving your workplace wellbeing. 

“Just answer as honestly as you can, the tool does the rest. It’s set up with strong quality controls: the set of responses must meet a certain standard of consistency and statistical validity before they can be used to generate the report.

“If the set of responses doesn't meet those standards, it will be invalid. If this happens, we cannot give you a report and we will not charge you. We would rather give you no report than mislead the respondent with something that may not be an accurate reflection of who they are, and to optimise their strengths, traits and environmental preferences,” Hudson says.

“Globally, the rate of invalid results is around 2.1 percent. If an invalid result is returned, we simply ask the respondent to undertake the questionnaire again in a day or so, and usually we get a valid result.”

Extended DISC is Talent Tools’ most versatile and popular talent tool, however there are other speciality tools too. One of Sharon’s favourites is Strengthscope, drawing on the science of positive psychology and work-based strengths, this tool from the UK is an uplifting performance-enhancing experience whether it is used at the individual, team or organisation level; and particularly when applied as a leadership strategy. Over the “COVID Years,” Emotional Intelligence has become very popular; this is easily linked to the uptake in Workplace Wellbeing and improving people’s experience of life at work.

“If you want to concentrate on conflict competence, I would move to the Conflict Dynamics Profile. If they wanted to become more entrepreneurial, I would use the Entrepreneurial Mindset Profile,” Hudson says.

“Really, it is a case of knowing why you are thinking of using a talent tool and what you want to get out of the change or development process, then we can recommend the right tool and approach for you.”

Contact Talent Tools today 

For Talent Tools, Hudson has seen Extended DISC become ever more widely accepted as an essential element in workplace assessments that have real-world effectiveness in improving employees’ wellbeing. If it sounds like your workplace could benefit from improving performance at the same time as employee wellbeing, then perhaps it is time to think about Extended DISC. 

For more information, contact Talent Tools today on 0416 010 701 or 1800 768 569.

By:Martin Rusis