Addressing Reason 4: “Profiling tools are fluff!”

level of accuracy of cliftonstrengths


In my previous article, I highlighted 6 potential reasons why people find it difficult to implement CliftonStrengths in their workplace: 

  1. Alternative tools
  2. Price
  3. Ease of understanding
  4. Level of accuracy
  5. Effectiveness of tool
  6. Commitment 

This list is not exhaustive, but it aims to capture the primary and most common reasons why people may question the necessity of CliftonStrengths. 

In this short article, I’ll address the fourth reason – Level of accuracy.

You may also choose to revisit the main article before this, or click on any of the other 5 reasons that speak to you. 

Addressing Accuracy

Another major concern is that CliftonStrengths is not accurate. Some would go so far to say that it is not backed with legitimate research. I understand the skepticism, as there are many profiling tools that overpromise (real and trustworthy results) yet underdeliver (based on pseudo-psychology). In such cases, such tools are almost merely as good as horoscope or tarot reading. 

However, applying such skepticism to CliftonStrengths is not well-founded. I’ll address the three main concerns.

“We often answer profiling questionnaires using self-report bias

To address the elephant in the room, yes, profiling tools are meant to capture what you think and feel about yourself, because at the end of the day, it is you who are making sense of the report. It is more important to reflect and ask yourself if the report accurately describes who you are, and why or why not?

Next, good profiling tools are never meant to be done in isolation. All profiling tools will only be useful if we use it in a community context. 360-feedback is also a huge buzzword in the corporate human resource dictionary today. To avoid self-report bias, we need to share our results with others, and ask for validation and/or feedback about our profiles. Similarly because at the end of the day, no man is an island. Receiving observations from others might be another step towards trust building and collaboration. 

Furthermore, CliftonStrengths specifically adds on a challenge against biases – you have only 20 seconds to answer each question. This limited time activates our system 1 thinking, pushing us to answer instinctively without the need to deliberate or complicate our answers based on contexts or circumstances (e.g., “I am like this in context A, but I am like that in context B, or I wish to be like this in context C instead…”).

“I doubt profiling tools are backed by research!”

Based on the Clifton StrengthsFinder® 2.0 Technical Report published by Gallup Inc, the test-retest reliability of this tool is greater than 0.7. For those unfamiliar with statistical analytics metrics, the Cronbach-Alpha Coefficient size of this number indicates that the questionnaire items are sufficiently consistent and reliable. This is to say that if an individual were to complete the assessment today, and then again in a few years time, the results will generally remain stable and unchanging. This can only be achieved with extensive research and big data available to Gallup.

To the critics, perhaps having a good read of the technical reports of each of the profiling tools in the market might give them better confidence in the tools.

“The results are too generic!”

As described in the previous article, CliftonStrengths is a measure of 34 different talent themes, each with its own unique definitions. With 1 in 33.4 million odds of finding someone with the same exact Top 5 results as you in the same order, the result of this tool is far from generic. Many learners in our workshops echo the same sentiment, and are genuinely surprised at how unique each of us can be!

We often start off our workshop with “What is natural to you, is simply amazing to others!”. This goes to show that many of us have taken our way of seeing the world for granted, thinking that everyone sees the world using the same lens as we do. 

To illustrate this with an example, people with #Relator talent enjoys close relationships with others and they find deep satisfaction in working hard with friends to achieve a goal. When I first read this description, I thought that it was only natural that everyone trusts and values our close friends more than others. A few months later, a colleague of mine who was about to get married, was highly troubled with the decision on who her bridesmaids are going to be. Here’s how our conversation went:

Her: “I’m torn between who to choose as my bridesmaids!”

Me: “Why don’t you just choose your closest few friends? That should be easy.”

Her: “But I don’t have a selection of closest friends… I am close to everyone!”

Me: “What do you mean? Just choose friends whom you have shared most of your struggles with.”

Her: “But well I share my struggles with anyone who happens to be around me at that time. I can’t choose!”

She is a bubbly and friendly individual who can easily make friends with anyone. While I use my #Relator talent to make friends and build relationships, she uses a completely different talent, her #Woo talent! Without the CliftonStrengths tool, perhaps I would have missed out on such differences in the way we think, feel and behave.